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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 29,749 24,205 22,400 60
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,780 1,510 1,350 119
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Kazakstan


Update No: 358 - (26/12/10)

Astana to host key summit
The upcoming summit in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), to be held December 1st and 2nd, is a key event for the country and for Eurasia as a whole. Kazakhstan has a cornucopia of mineral resources, at least 60% of all the former Soviet Union’s such assets.

In fact, Kazakhstan is the world’s fastest growing energy economy. Its oil, natural gas and uranium resources are vast and new discoveries are adding to known reserves all the time.

The OSCE, as its name implies, is also concerned with security in Eurasia. Central Asia is the very hub of the matter, where Afghanistan is in such turmoil. Vitally important issues are on the agenda, how to deal with the Taleban and the vast heroin trade out of the turbulent country, which fuels arms trafficking and much else besides.

President Obama declines to go
It is highly unfortunate, therefore, that US President Barack Obama has declined to attend the crucial summit. He has received a rocky reception at international summits in recent days, so it’s understandable that he decided to duck possible criticism and declined to go to the meeting. But that decision is a very bad one for both world security and cooperation and U.S. national interest. The president should reconsider it.

The United States has significant interests and a lot going for it in Central Asia. Kazakhstan has attracted $120 billion in foreign direct investment since becoming independent of the disintegrating Soviet Union at the end of 1991, and $15 billion of that is invested by major U.S. energy corporations.

Right now China and major continental European nations like Germany, France and Italy are running rings around the United States in nailing down hugely lucrative export orders for the enormous construction and hi-tech industrial development projects that are transforming the vast Central Asian nation, which at 1 million square miles is the ninth largest in the world.

President Obama got off on the right foot with the Kazakhs when he gave them a prominent place in his Washington nuclear non-proliferation summit this spring. Kazakhstan, a Muslim nation, was also the first nation in history, back in the early 1990s, unilaterally to scrap completely the vast nuclear arsenal and delivery systems it inherited from the Soviet Union – 176 nuclear weapons -that had made it the fourth most powerful nuclear state in the world, far exceeding Britain and France.

But since the April summit in Washington, senior Kazakh officials have privately worried that though they are eager to expand their energy cooperation and trade deals with the United States, the Obama administration and the State Department have shown no interest in pursuing that agenda.

US diplomats have in recent months marked up significant and welcome improvements in US relations with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, the two other energy-rich nations of former Soviet Central Asia. Yet Kazakhstan officials visiting Washington are repeatedly subjected to a relentless barrage of lectures and pressures on advancing human rights and democratic issues, even though Kazakhstan is incomparably freer, more open and more prosperous than its two energy-rich neighbours, and vastly more stable than supposedly democratic Kyrgyzstan, which in reality is sliding relentlessly into total anarchy and chaos.

Rather than attend the OSCE summit himself, Obama is sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in his place. If the president does not go, then Secretary Clinton, undoubtedly the only other foreign policy heavy-hitter in the current administration, is the right choice to go.

But the president’s personal presence is critical for U.S. national interests in Astana at a summit billed as a gathering of over 50 heads of state – and U.S. diplomats have been eager to build up the OSCE as a major structure for resolving security, human rights and economic issues across Eurasia.

Sane and experienced figures (increasingly few on the Washington foreign policy scene) recognize that a rejuvenated OSCE offers the United States a rare avenue to exert multilateral influence across Eurasia to counter the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Russian- and Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), or Shanghai Pact. A thoughtful and comprehensive Atlantic Council report on US policy towards Central Asia earlier this year made that very point.

The president’s refusal to attend the OSCE summit will signal, more loudly than any of Secretary Clinton’s assurances to the contrary, that the current administration does not take the OSCE seriously and that it lacks the fortitude and focus to bring significant influence to bear on exerting US influence in the area.

It will certainly be taken by the Kazakhs in particular as a real rebuff, and it will make it far more difficult for American companies competing for major industrial, infrastructure and agricultural contracts, as well as export opportunities in Kazakhstan. And it certainly won’t strengthen the hand of the US energy majors as they try to stave off ambitious challengers from around the world, especially China, to develop new energy opportunities there.

President Obama repeatedly talks the talk about America’s continued global leadership and commitment to regaining prosperity and economic security for its people through taking advantage of the opportunities of free trade but it’s time for him to walk the walk. 

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