Astana Chess

Serik Maleev

Yegemen Kazakhstan newspaper writes in its front page article “Collective Security Treaty Proved Its Viability”: “Four issues were reviewed during an extended Session of the Leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization member-states in Moscow last week. The first issue referred to the establishment of Collective Rapid Reaction Force …”

Reminding: during the session the decision was made to join three airborne divisions of Russia and Kazakhstan into united 15 000 military group which objective was to react rapidly on emerging threats to CSTO member-states. Here we are especially interested in the position of Uzbekistan in this issue. It seems that the Uzbeks are not that enthusiastic over the situation.

Let me explain. The US military commitment in Afghanistan has faced the difficulties of delivering its military loads to this country. The way from Pakistan to Afghanistan has become insecure. That is why the USA counted greatly on its Manas  military airbase in Kyrgyzstan and on its unilateral agreement with Uzbekistan on transportation of American armament, ammunition and food supplies.

In its turn Uzbekistan hoped for reestablishment of former relations with the USA. That would give it a slight chance on leadership within Central Asia region. In this respect the withdrawal of Uzbekistan from EurAsEC wasn’t a coincidence. The Government of this country started tearing between the USA and Russia, demonstrating the inconsistency of its foreign policy.

And now the situation will change greatly due to the oncoming withdrawal of Manas military airbase from Kyrgyzstan provoked by Russia and Kazakhstan and due to the establishment of collective Russian-Kazakh Rapid Reaction Forces within Central Asia region. From now on Russia and Kazakhstan take over the control of Central Asia, demonstrating the USA who is the master here and who makes all the decisions.

The Ajkyn newspaper political observer Kamshat Tasbulatova comments on the situation in her article “The USA Out of the Region for Good?” as follows: “Bishkek looks back on Moscow in order not to irritate the Russian “bear”(Russian – “medved’”). Obviously obstacles can arise within the relations of Moscow and Tashkent”.

For Americans the loss of Manas airbase is a crushing defeat, as beforehand they have already lost the Uzbekistani airbase in Khanabad. And meanwhile the positions of Russia in region have strengthened remarkably. Native political analysts assume that the decision of Kyrgyz Government to shut down the airbase in Manas will greatly disturb the promotion of American military commitment in Afghanistan”.

And it’s quite evident who stands behind this complicated and smart combination. Let’s recall the Summit of CIS Presidents in December 2008 in Borovaya city who were invited to Kazakhstan personally by our President. During that memorable meeting of the leaders of Kazakhstan, Russia, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev first aired the suggestions that today are discussed in practice. In addition, Kazakhstan has proved to be a reliable ally of Russia, having supported it in this difficult period.

This however shouldn’t impede Astana and Moscow to develop friendly relations with West, being aware of that political friendship is in general the subject of political bargaining on the principle “we’ll secure the free transit of loads to Afghanistan, supposing that you will also give us something in exchange”.

And naturally the meeting of the State Secretary of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kanat Saudbayev and the US State Secretary Hillary Clinton in Washington that took place the next day after the conclusion of agreements in Moscow wasn’t a plain coincidence. The informational communiqué published in “Yegemen Kazakhstan” newspaper on February 7th, 2009 states: “During the meeting Hillary Clinton underlined, that the cooperation between our states will be more fruitful regarding new Administration of the White House.”


The next meeting of Kanat Saudbayev with the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns was also promising. W.Burns specified that the US President Barack Obama lays special emphasis to the further promotion of strategic partnership between the USA and Kazakhstan. He explained, that the phone call of Barack Obama to Nursultan Nazarbayev right after the election was planned long before. The USA greatly underlines the importance of Kazakhstan within the establishment of peace in Afghanistan, nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, struggle against international terrorism. Moreover, the USA sincerely welcomes the oncoming presidency of Kazakhstan in OSCE.”

To Conclude

Kazakhs say: “If the time is a wolf, then you should be a fox”. At the same time an old political axiom is still topical: political and economic race will always be headed by the countries that have intellectual elite that deals easily with intricacies of political game and that is able to develop multiple political combinations. This is not a field to be defeated, as those who lose become a “meat”. A cow can’t rebel against being milked – these are the unwritten rules of this game. That’s why it’s vitally important for us to avoid total defeats.
For several years, Kazakhstan has proved to be a significant competitor within a great geopolitical chess set. That’s why there is no doubt that Europe and America will find our friendship beneficial. And this fully corresponds with our long-term strategic interests.

Translated from  “Liter”,  Almaty