- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2007

Kazakh promotion

The former ambassador of Kazakhstan proved what a skilled diplomat can do in Washington, representing an authoritarian government that dangled vast oil supplies at the United States while gaining favor as a reliable ally in the war on terrorism and a pro-American voice in Central Asia.

Ambassador Kanat Saudabayev helped arrange two White House meetings between President Bush and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, promoted massive U.S. investment in his country and even turned a satirical movie about Kazakhstan into a promotional vehicle to attract tourists.

Mr. Saudabayev last week received his reward with his promotion to Kazakhstan’s secretary of state, a top position with both domestic and foreign responsibilities.

“I will always remember with special fondness my years in the United States,” Mr. Saudabayev told The Washington Times this week in an e-mail from Kazakhstan’s most populous city, Almaty.

“Many of my sincere and kind friends remain there whose support helped me bring my modest contribution to strengthening Kazakhstan-U.S. relations. Today, these relations are at a level of true strategic partnership.”

He called Mr. Nazarbayev’s trip to Washington in September a “landmark visit” that “showed the firmness and scope of this partnership into the future.”

In a joint press conference, Mr. Bush praised Mr. Nazarbayev for his “commitment to institutions that will enable liberty to flourish.” Mr. Bush made no public mention about the authoritarian nature of Mr. Nazarbayev’s regime, nor of his repeated elections that foreign observers have criticized for fraud and intimidation of political opponents.

Mr. Bush thanked Mr. Nazarbayev for supporting the U.S. invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mr. Nazarbayev first met Mr. Bush in December 2001, three months after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and 10 months after Mr. Saudabayev arrived in Washington.

Mr. Saudabayev also helped establish Kazakhstan as an alternative energy source to volatile oil supplies in the Middle East. Kazakhstan is already exporting 1 million barrels of oil a day out of 1.2 million pumped and hopes to produce 3.5 million barrels of oil a day by 2015.

One of the former ambassador’s biggest challenges was the movie, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” It was a box-office smash for its star, British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, and a major headache for the ambassador.

He first set off on a cross-country college tour to defend the honor of his country in audiences of university students who flocked to the film. Later, Mr. Saudabayev realized that the film actually spurred curiosity about his country and created a tourism boom.

Missile talks

U.S. and Polish officials yesterday opened formal talks about Washington’s plans for a missile-defense system to help protect Europe from attacks from rogue nations like Iran, the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw said.

John C. Rood, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, led the U.S. team of negotiators, the embassy said. The United States wants to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland with a missile-defense radar tracking station in the Czech Republic.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has repeatedly denounced the proposal, yesterday warned, “It will lead to nothing else than a new arms race, as we find this completely counterproductive.”

So far, his complaints have not affected the negotiations.

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who visited Washington last month, told Embassy Row, “Russia is a great country, but we are not afraid of Russia.”

After the Group of Eight Summit in Germany next month, President Bush is expected to meet with Polish President Lech Kaczynski on June 8 at the Polish seaside resort of Jurata. Mr. Kaczynski is scheduled to visit the White House July 16.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]


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