OPINION | Kazakhstan needs us and we need Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan has clearly and unambiguously voiced a commitment to closely cooperate with the West and strictly comply with the sanctions imposed on Russia. This is why the country has commenced a cautious democratisation process.
The Kazakh political elite understand that in the western society, the former «pragmatic» tolerance of blatant or disguised authoritarian regimes and other «sovereign democracies» is waning.
This is why for the West, Latvia included, it is vitally important for Kazakhstan and countries of this region to preserve their true independence.

Otherwise its natural and economic resources will only strengthen Russia and its militarism (or China).

Last week US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Kazakhstan’s capital city Astana with a strategic visit. His message is vitally important not only to its direct addressee – countries of Central Asia. It is also important to Latvia’s international and security policy and, of course, our economic contacts.
Perhaps in our information deafness, the reason why we didn’t notice and evaluate this important event was that the Kremlin viewed this «invasion of its zone of interests» and decided to keep in quiet, rather than engage the propaganda machine. Is it because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine our country decided to almost completely turn away from the east?
The message from the US Secretary of State (read here) was clear –

Washington and Astana are strategic partners, US Administration fully trusts Kazakhstan’s government

and will provide it with support. Against what? Well, polite society doesn’t ask such questions, especially if the answer is clear.
This is why our politicians’ undisguised relief there is no longer any reason to organise visits of the head of state or prime minister to Central Asian leaders is untimely. We, too, have to present our own political – and economic – support to the partnership suggested by the US with this region. Especially because the region is undergoing changes.
Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who has publicly and diplomatically condemned his influential neighbour’s aggression in Ukraine (and by refusing Vladimir Putin’s presented Order of Aleksandr Nevsky), has earned the true respect of Latvian people and the state.
Kazakhstan shares a very long border with Russia (6 846 km). Ethnic Russians also compose a large portion of the country’s residents (15.5%). Cross-border private commerce is not exactly kept hidden. However, Washington with its affirmation of trust has made a clear distinction between the consistency of the Kazakh government and large companies their compliance with sanctions and the activities of shady businesses. It should be more than a clear signal to Latvian officials and institutions that are eager to do a complete make-over here in Latvia and in regards to economic contacts in Kazakhstan.
Blinken’s visit to Astana is another one of loss for Kremlin’s international policy. Putin explained that the «special operation» in Ukraine is necessary to push NATO away from Russia’s borders. Now this country’s border with the alliance will increase by another 1 269 km once Finland joins. Kazakhstan is also paving the way for other Central Asian countries and motivates them to «move away from the big brother».
Also read: US to strengthen strategic cooperation with Kazakhstan and Central Asia