Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 208

Kazakhstan is responding positively to U.S. proposals regarding the use of Kazakhstani bases by American-led antiterrorist forces. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev had, within days of September 11, offered the U.S. overflight rights and the use of land infrastructure in Kazakhstan. Nazarbaev made those offers publicly, at a time when Moscow was still opposing such steps.

In recent weeks, Foreign Affairs Minister Yerlan Idrisov twice traveled to Washington to discuss cooperation in the antiterrorist campaign. On September 8 in Astana, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lynn Pascoe, touring the region on a special mission, discussed the matter of bases with Nazarbaev. On November 6, the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s chief spokesman confirmed that discussions on bases were underway, and identified the Semipalatinsk airfield in eastern Kazakhstan as immediately available for American use. According to the spokesman, the U.S. would pay “tens of millions” of dollars to use Kazakhstani airfields, and would also finance their repair and overhaul. A day later, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem disclosed that talks are underway on American use of those Kazakhstani bases that had served to support the joint CentrasBat exercises in the mid-1990s.

On November 8, Nazarbaev held talks in Almaty with the visiting secretary general of the CIS Collective Security Council, Valery Nikolayenko, who happens to be the former ambassador of Russia in Kazakhstan. Nazarbaev chose that moment to announce publicly his intention to expand military cooperation with the United States. On his instructions, Security Council Secretary Altynbek Sarsenbaev told the press that Kazakhstan is ready to consider U.S. proposals on the use of military bases in the country. He went on to remark that “only through joint efforts can we vanquish international terrorism.”

With Nikolayenko still in Almaty, Nazarbaev received the fifty-five chiefs of missions of foreign countries and international organizations, accredited to Kazakhstan, in a prescheduled audience, during which he informed them that “Kazakhstan not only sides with the antiterrorist coalition, but is prepared to contribute to the fight.”

On November 9, Kazakhstan’s government approved a set of agreements with Turkey, a NATO member country, regarding military assistance to Kazakhstan. The documents include an intergovernmental agreement and one between Kazakhstan’s Defense Ministry and Turkey’s General Staff, with itemized equipment lists attached. Unlike Moscow, Kazakhstan takes the position that membership in the CIS Collective Security Treaty does not restrict the signatory countries’ latitude for military and security cooperation with other countries and groups of countries (Western news agencies, Habar, Kazakh Commercial Television, Interfax, November 5-9; see the Monitor, September 18, 26; Fortnight in Review, September 28).