Kazakhstan, Russia - a partnership at ever-increasing rate

Azerbaijan, Baku, June 9 /Trend/

Elena Kosolapova, Trend commentator

Since gaining independence in 1991, Kazakhstan sees Russia as its main economic and political partner. Today this Central Asian country has close relations with its northern neighbor almost in all spheres of economy. From a political point of view, both countries also have quite similar views on major international issues and ways to address them.

Based on the results of the agreements reached on June 7 in the framework of the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Kazakhstan, as well as on the recent visit of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev to Russia and Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev to Kazakhstan, the relationship between the two countries will continue to develop and may come to a new level in the near future.

The fact that the two countries have developed a special relationship, and that Putin's visit to Kazakhstan was carried out among the first at the post of a president, has a special meaning, officials of both countries have repeatedly emphasized.

"I consider it my duty [to visit Kazakhstan], because a special relationship -a deep cooperation, uniting economic opportunities has developed between Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus," Putin said at a meeting with Nazarbayev in Astana.

Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters that the visit to Kazakhstan "is intended to emphasize the traditional fraternal relations with one of the leading strategic partners, with one of the leading Russia's allies in the former Soviet space."

Nazarbayev, in turn, regularly makes statements about the importance of maintaining friendly relations with Russia.

"We and Russia are strategic partners, our relations serve as a model," Kazakh President said during the meeting with his Russian counterpart.

According to many experts partnership between the two countries will be intensified after Putin's return to the presidency.

The main hopes in this direction are assigned to the Customs Union - a joint integrated union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, which has been operating since 2010 and single economic space created within its frame.

Despite all the arguments of opponents of these associations, the Customs Union has already proved its worth. The trade turnover increased by 40 percent between Kazakhstan and Russia for last year. In addition the two countries planned to increase bilateral trade from $24 billion (historical maximum) to $40 billion, Nursultan Nazarbayev said after the meeting with the president Vladimir Putin. Taking into account the positive trend observed to date, it is hoped that this goal will be achieved in the near future.

Of course, each country pursues its own interests engaging in integration associations like the customs union. Kazakhstan has a lot of them. To date, the main source of income for the budget of the Central Asian country is the export of minerals (including oil, gas, metals, coal, uranium) and agricultural products (mainly wheat) abroad. However, lack of access to seas and high transport costs for transit through the territory of other countries restrict Kazakhstan export markets. And the abolition of customs duties for transit of goods through the territory of Russia and Belarus, opens up such a promising market, as Europe for Kazakhstan,. It is not surprising that Kazakhstan was the initiator of the creation of such an integration association.

In addition, it became clear in the results of talks between Putin and Nazarbayev that Kazakhstan has opted for his longtime and reliable partner, which Russia is, in yet another major project of regional importance - the construction of nuclear power plants. Nazarbayev said Kazakhstan will begin the construction in cooperation with Russian specialists in 2013. Kazakhstan has large reserves of uranium. Some 35 percent of its global production fall on Kazakhstan in 2011. In addition it is planned to establish the bank of low concentrated uranium in Kazakhstan. All this gives grounds to believe that nuclear power plants, planned to be constructed in Kazakhstan, will be of the regional scale. And the agreements reached between Russia and Kazakhstan on cooperation in this area can be safely regarded as a major victory for the Russian leadership and expertise.

Of course, some disagreements happen between Kazakhstan and Russia. However, the experience of past years shows that the parties quickly come to a consensus. Thus, Putin's visit put an end to disagreements over missile launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which had been suspended because of disagreements over the areas where they fall.

Following the talks of the presidents, head of Russian Space Agency, Vladimir Popovkin told journalists that the launch will be resumed within a month.

Thus, the sides have reached mutually beneficial agreements in all major subjects. Given the long-term projects under discussion, there is a reason to believe that Kazakhstan and Russia, which this year celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship, plan to cooperate actively for many years.

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