U.S. not decided yet its strategy on Kazakhstan: expert
Vitali Volkov, Deutsche Welle
Kazakhstan will chair the OSCE in 2010. The U.S. and Europe have different hopes and fears which were disclosed at a meeting in Washington attended by American, European and Kazakh experts.
A conference held was held under the patronage of two American expert institutions - the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Institute for New Democracies in Washington. CSIS is one of the leading centers in the United States generating ideas in the field of foreign policy and strategic planning.
The topic of the meeting was the presidency of Kazakhstan in one of the largest international organizations - the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which includes 56 states in Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and North America. In fact, the so-called zone of responsibility of the OSCE applies to the whole northern half of the globe. Kazakhstan will become the chairman of the organization from January 2010.
In his interview with Deutsche Welle German expert on Central Asia Michael Laubsch divulged details of the conference.
Deutsche Welle: What were the major points of clash of views?
Michael Laubsch: To put it short, focus of the discussions was the same as for similar events in Europe. On one hand, optimistic expectations of the work in Kazakhstan over the strategic planning of the Organization, as well as improving cooperation in the economic sphere must be noted. The question is geopolitics and a possible reform of the OSCE. The only negative consideration was shortcomings in the field of human rights and especially in relation to restrictions on freedom of press in Kazakhstan.
This raises questions about the effectiveness of Kazakhstan's work in the OSCE in this regard. Participants from the U.S. administration insisted on major improvements in these areas. Head of the International Republican Institute (IRI) Lorne Kreyner and famous American expert and former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski spoke about these issues. There are fears in the U.S. that Russia will increase influence to Kazakhstan and through it to the OSCE next year. Therefore, Washington hopes that Kazakhstan will prevent this trend by closer cooperation with America.
What is the reason for optimistic expectations?
First of all, that line of the Kazakhstan policy during the presidency of the OSCE will be more directed towards the West. It is hoped that Kazakhstan will use its geo-strategic position to act as a mediator between different interests in the region. There is expectation that Kazakhstan is more than ever before will represent Western interests. There is another view which I would apply to pragmatists. They understand that Kazakhstan will give a special role to relations with Russia and China to in future as well.
I think American position on this issue has not yet emerged. The conference stated that the current U.S. administration to decide it this fall or at least until the end of the year. Senior official of the U.S. Department of State who attended the event also confirmed it.
Is there considerable difference between Western Europe and U.S. approach to Kazakhstan's OSCE chairmanship?
Clearly, U.S. interests are different from European. The EU is not a geopolitical player in the region unlike the United States, Russia and China. It is therefore difficult to compare the political line of the U.S. and the EU. The United States has three prerogatives: energy, geopolitical importance of the region in terms of problem in Afghanistan and further in Iran, Iraq and the Middle East. Thirdly, Central Asia is a competitive platform for influence between United States, Russia and China. Europeans are only interested in energy issues and general economic cooperation in the Central Asia without the geopolitical dimension.
Will conference's results have any impact on America's position?
I think that the working group at CSIS has enough members who have direct access to the U.S. administration. This conference will be followed by a series of activities that will help the U.S. to decide how to build relations with Kazakhstan. The purpose of my involvement was make European point of view clearer and closer to the U.S. I was assured by CSIS that the cooperation between the U.S. and European experts in this regard will be strengthened.
Press reports said CSIS has been allocated funds by the Kazakh government for projects related to 2010. The organization does not deny it. Was this issue discussed at the conference?
This question was not discussed at the conference, but I must say it is clear that for European ears it will sound strange, but in America it is seem perfectly normal. I had the opportunity to talk about this topic with several members of CSIS, who noted they take the money quietly, for example, from the government of Saudi Arabia. However they claim this does not mean that in exchange for financial support they refuse impartiality in favor of those who pay for the project.
Although Kazakh government partially funded the event, this did not prevent a sharp debate on the shortcomings of Kazakhstan in the sphere of human rights.
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