This morning, January 16, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev arrived in the United States on a three-day official visit. During the talks with US President Donald Trump, issues of bilateral cooperation, the situation in Afghanistan and Central Asia, and global problems will be discussed. The visit coincided with the chairmanship of Kazakhstan on the UN Security Council, where the country received the status of a non-permanent member.
In Astana, Nazarbayev's visit to the United States was called "historic", but why? An EADaily correspondent addressed the director of the Center for Central Asian and Afghan Studies (CIPACA) at MGIMO Andrey Kazantsev with this question.
How do you assess Nursultan Nazarbayev's visit to the US? Is it really historic, as was announced in Astana, or is this epithet applicable to any visit to a superpower?
President Donald Trump is facing quite serious problems related to the situation in Afghanistan. In fact, now there is no US policy on Afghanistan. There is a policy pursued by the military to maintain a military presence. Otherwise, everything that they have built there in the years after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, will collapse. Therefore, of course, America is interested in contacts with Kazakhstan concerning Afghanistan. Moreover, during the meeting of the UN Security Council the situation in Afghanistan will be discussed. Kazakhstan, being a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, deals not only with the issues of Afghanistan at the UN Security Council, but also with the issues of extremism and terrorism in general.
Therefore, the discussions at the meeting with Trump and the UN Security Council will be the more general - not only on Afghanistan, but on the whole range of issues: on Syria, the concentration of the ISIS militants (a terrorist organization banned in Russia) and other extremist organizations in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Nazarbayev himself, as a political leader who has always had good relations with all American presidents and is at the same time a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, will continue to pursue a policy of mediation between Russia and the United States. Just as Kazakhstan mediated both on Syria, and in relations between Russia and Turkey, and on the Ukrainian conflict. As for the economic aspect of the visit, Kazakhstan is interested in new investments. Signing of agreements worth several billion dollars is expected.
Will China's initiatives to back the Chinese project "One Belt, One Way" be discussed?
I do not rule out that there will be discussions related to China, since Kazakhstan is an important US partner in Central Asia. At the same time, it is also China's closest partner. Therefore, the US has an interest in Kazakhstan. It is both economic and, above all, strategic, connected with the situation of the republic in the Greater Central Asia region, which includes Afghanistan, borders on China and occupies a central place in the post-Soviet territory. Kazakhstan can make the best of its advantages.
For example, to become a transit country on the conditional route US-Afghanistan?
The Americans used to rely on the northern route of cargo delivery to Afghanistan. But if earlier it ran through the territory of Russia, now, the Pentagon will most likely use the route through the South Caucasus to transfer equipment and materiel. And the United States is interested in this. The northern route always served as an additional route to the southern one, which passes through Pakistan, and was used to ensure that Islamabad did not put too stringent and "voluminous" requirements along the southern route. Pakistan has serious interests of its own, and when it becomes a monopolist, it starts having excessive financial and political demands. Therefore, Americans being proficient in doing business are interested in maximizing the diversification of routes. Moreover, the northern route works better for supplying US forces in Afghanistan.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on the eve that Washington could abuse the C5+1 partnership, which includes the United States, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. What could he mean by abuse? In fact, on the contrary, it has recently been noted that the Trump administration has lost interest in Central Asia.
Apparently, the head of the Russian foreign ministry meant general dynamics in the confrontation between Russia and the US in the context of a new cold war. As for the C5+1 format, we are talking about the fact that many countries, not only the US, but also, for example, Japan and others, are more comfortable dealing with Central Asia as a whole, rather than with individual countries, so they establish such formats. As for Trump's policy regarding Central Asia, American activity in the region has significantly decreased even compared to the period of Barack Obama. And the US has no special interest in the region at all, even in the context of Afghanistan. All current initiatives on Afghanistan come from the American military. Sergey Lavrov, speaking on this subject, had in mind the fact that there is a common geopolitical confrontation, there is a new cold war between Russia and the United States. At the same time, from the point of view of the Kremlin, the presence of Americans in Afghanistan is positive. In particular, the other day President Vladimir Putin said this himself.
EADaily Central Asian Bureau