- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

Kazakh security

The foreign minister of Kazakhstan left Washington after assuring U.S. officials that his country will prevent a regional group led by Russia and China from adopting anti-American policies.

Kassymzhomart Tokaev reminded an audience at Johns Hopkins University that his Central Asian nation is a strong U.S. ally and that its membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will provide Washington with a voice in the economic and security forum.

“I would like to indicate, contrary to some media misperceptions, that SCO is not an anti-Western club,” he told the university’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies last week.

“It is a unique organization with a universal agenda ranging from security issues to economic cooperation. As an active member, Kazakhstan would work to keep the SCO a universal and well-balanced organization.”

Mr. Tokaev touted Kazakhstan’s transformation from an economic basket case as part of the Soviet Union to a prosperous society. He said that Kazakhstan’s gross domestic product was nearly $30 billion, and that it was bigger than the GDPs of all nations of Central Asia combined.

He said the United States recognizes Kazakhstan’s importance as a major energy producer, a strategic ally and a geostrategic nation that borders Russia and China. He met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on his visit. Vice President Dick Cheney recently traveled to Kazakhstan, and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev is planning a trip to Washington in the fall for talks with President Bush.

Mr. Tokaev insisted that Kazakhstan’s economic prosperity is building a strong middle class, which would allow the government to undertake democratic reforms. However, most Western observers blame the government for a poor human rights record and for flawed elections.

“We believe it is very important to achieve success in the economic area and then to build up a solid middle class, which will serve as a pillar of democracy in my country,” he said.

Mr. Tokaev said Kazakhstan learned from the collapse of the Soviet Union, after it lifted political restrictions but failed to adopt economic reforms.

“We’ve been witnessing the lesson of the Soviet Union when … political liberalization was proclaimed with no efforts in the economic area, and the whole country, the whole empire collapsed,” he said.

“So, first of all, the economic basis must be solid; then we will go ahead with political reforms.”

Mr. Tokaev said his country provides security in Central Asia, calling the region a “source of instability.” He listed “drug trafficking, religious fundamentalism, international terrorism, separatism, interethnic tensions, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, conflicts over scare water resources, illegal migration” as some of the threats to regional development.

“Problems of Central Asian nations have great repercussions, not only for the neighboring regions, but globally,” he said.

Armitage at CSIS

Richard L. Armitage, a former deputy secretary of state, has joined the board of trustees of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Both as a statesman and a soldier, Richard Armitage has served our country with skill and courage,” said board Chairman Sam Nunn, a former Democratic senator from Georgia.

Mr. Armitage served as the No. 2 diplomat at the State Department from 2001 to 2005, when he left to form the Armitage International LC consulting firm.

Mr. Armitage has been a Washington insider since 1978, when he served as administrative assistant to Sen. Robert Dole, Kansas Republican. Mr. Armitage was a senior foreign policy adviser on the White House transition team for President Reagan and served as the envoy to King Hussein of Jordan during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

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