- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 22, 1999

Kazakhstan's progress toward strong democracy

As Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev winds up his official visit to Washington, political opponents have stepped up their campaign of negative assertions about him and his government. ("Dining with dictators," Op-Ed, Dec. 20).

This month marks the eighth anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence from the old Soviet Union. Under Mr. Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan's first elected president, this strategically important country has made important progress. For example:

m A free-market transition from central economic controls is under way. According to the State Department's Kazakhstani Country Report for 1998, released Feb. 26, "The (Nazarbayev) government has made significant progress toward a market-based economy since independence." Mr. Nazarbayev launched a privatization program in which investors have been able to buy or rent the assets of many state-owned industries without assuming their liabilities. The government has afforded farmers property rights on the land that they cultivate; some 75 percent of industrial production is now in private hands; and the country has attracted more foreign direct capital investment than any other nation in the Commonwealth of Independent States, the alliance formed after the Soviet Union collapsed. More than 100 American and many European, Japanese and Korean firms have offices and subsidiaries in Kazakhstan, where they are working to broaden its economic output. U.S. oil companies are developing its vast oil reserves, a potentially important source for the entire industrialized world.

m Global security has a true ally in Kazakhstan. In 1997, Mr. Nazarbayev declared Kazakhstan to be a nuclear-free zone. According to a Sept. 25 New York Times article, Mr. Nazarbayev transferred to Russia the last of 1,040 nuclear warheads from Soviet SS-18 Mirved intercontinental ballistic missiles, closed missile silos, converted biological-weapons manufacturing centers and removed more than 1,300 tons of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium from the country. Kazakhstan has blown up and collapsed 181 tunnels at a former nuclear testing ground under the Degelen Mountains in Eastern Kazakhstan as part of an agreement with the United States to dismantle silo-based missile launchers. The site formerly was the largest nuclear testing range in the world. There were 500 nuclear blasts there between 1949 and 1989.

m Democratic reform is under way. From the beginning of its democratic history in 1991, Kazakhstan has embraced democratic reform. In October of this year I visited Kazakhstan for the Majilis (lower house) elections. Not only did I find a robust election occurring under "free and fair" conditions in the area in and around Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city, but I found a refreshing commitment to democracy from the numerous citizens and election support staff with whom I visited. Some 565 candidates registered to run. Not a single candidate who sought to be registered was refused. More than 8 million voters participated in the election, a turnout of 60 percent, much higher than in the United States for similar elections.

m Human rights progress in Kazakhstan is moving quickly. A new criminal code was implemented Jan. 1. Human rights organizations praised it. Defendants have the right to be heard in court and call witnesses; they enjoy a presumption of innocence, are protected from self-incrimination and have the right to appeal a decision to a higher court. Proceedings also may be held in the language of the majority of the population in a particular area.

The people of the United States have much in common with the Kazakhstanis. The potential to build a true strategic partnership with Kazakhstan, Mr. Nazarbayev and future leaders is enormous.

JACK METCALF

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington

Judicial ruling recognizing Christmas holiday raises questions

In the Dec. 13 Op-Ed column "Santa Claus-es," Suzanne Fields informs us that U.S. District Judge Susan J. Diott wrote, "When the government decides to recognize Christmas Day as a public holiday, it does no more than accommodate the calendar of public activities to the plain fact that many Americans will expect on that day to spend time visiting with their families, attending religious services, and perhaps enjoying some respite from pre-holiday activities."

As a legalist, Judge Diott should know that words have meaning. According to my dictionary a holiday is defined as "a day on which regular business is suspended in commemoration of an event or person." The question for Judge Diott, then, is exactly what event or person does Christmas commemorate?

MICHAEL HEATH

Princeton, Ky.

Vice President Gore also took credit for the Superfund law

Your Dec. 7 editorial "Al Gore and the Love Canal" questions the vice president's fitness for office on the basis of his penchant for claiming to have inspired achievements both historical (the Internet) and not-so historical ("Love Story") in impact. As there always seems to be with this administration, there is more to this chapter of the unfolding story. It seems Mr. Gore does not come recently to his claim of environmental heroism. I direct you to Page 7 of his hysterical screed "Earth in the Balance," wherein he states: "I finally succeeded … in passing the Superfund Law." (The ellipses omit his crediting of select others.)

Leave aside for a moment the pomposity of a member of Congress' claiming to have passed a major piece of legislation. (Did he and the heroic few he claims joined him somehow constitute a "moral majority"?) One wonders if the supposed rift between Mr. Gore and "one of our greatest presidents" has to do with the fact that the president has labeled this law an "unmitigated disaster"? Such unenlightened opinions notwithstanding (that's why we have Mr. Gore), could it be we will hear in his nomination-acceptance speech that it is satisfaction over such accomplishment(s) hiding behind the enigmatic smile Mr. Gore offered when sitting for da Vinci's "Mona Lisa"?

CHRISTOPHER C. HORNER

Adjunct policy analyst

Competitive Enterprise Institute

Washington

Kosovo would not have been better off without NATO intervention

In venting her displeasure with U.S. policy on Kosovo, Arianna Huffington appears to have exceeded her depth ("A U.S. Kosovo Kiss-Off?", Dec. 15). Essentially, her criticism hinges on an assertion that the situation in Kosovo would be better had there been no NATO intervention, which she supports with some highly questionable data. While she bemoans the fact that the last 300 Croats left Kosovo recently because of the unrest, she glosses over the fact that more than 10,000 Kosovo Croats already had been forced out during the past decade by Serb authorities.

More to the point, she dismisses the estimated 10,000 Albanians killed (yes, sampling investigations and the factor of tampering with evidence by the Serbs support such estimates as appropriate) and more than 800,000 expelled (which would no doubt have mushroomed had Belgrade been assured there would be no NATO presence) and equates all that with the regrettable subsequent attacks by Albanian thugs on Serbs (of whom 140 have been killed).

While KFOR must indeed deal with such thugs more forcefully, Mrs. Huffington also neglects to recognize that Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic's regime continues to fuel Albanian rage by its own intransigent policies. For example, Belgrade continues to hold some 2,000 to 3,000 Albanian political prisoners who were dragged off when the Yugoslav Army left Kosovo; has engaged in mass expulsions of Albanians from the three southern provinces of Serbia proper that also have Albanian majorities; threatens to return its judges, police and army to Kosovo; has tried to prevent Albanians from returning to the jobs in the state-run sector from which they were ousted; and is working to cut off northern Kosovo, which contains most of the province's natural resources.

Whatever policy shortcomings and they are real can be laid at the U.S. doorstep, Mrs. Huffington's implied alternative status of a NATO-free Kosovo, a vision she seems to share with Mr. Milosevic, would be far worse and would entail even greater suffering and regional instability.

Norman Cigar

Vienna

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