Russia uses Kazakhstan’s Baikonur space center for both civilian and military rocket launches in accordance with two intergovernmental agreements signed in 1994 for a twenty-year period. The agreements require Russia to pay US$115 million in annual rent and to prenotify Kazakhstan of each launch. Moscow is more than US$300 million in arrears despite oft-repeated promises to settle the debt. The Russian side, moreover, ignores Kazakhstani objections to ecological devastation from rocket launches.
Reacting to the latest accident, Kazakhstani officials are calling for substantial revisions to the 1994 agreements with Russia. Prime Minister Nurlan Balgymbaev, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Pavlov, Tokhtar Aubakirov (former Soviet cosmonaut and now adviser to Nazarbaev on space issues), Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Minister Serikbek Daukeev, and a number of Milli Majlis deputies have all thrown their weight behind these calls.
The officials point out that the five-year-old rental agreement had not anticipated Russia’s profits from commercial space launches at Baikonur. The number of such Russian launches at the space center has grown from zero in 1995 to thirty-six scheduled in 1999, with a projected revenue of US$90 million this year. The officials in Astana suggest three main changes to the agreements. First, Kazakhstan should be empowered to authorize Russian space launches from Baikonur on a case by case basis, rather than being merely prenotified of them. Second, the “ecologically dirty rockets”–such as the Proton–should be banned. And, third, Kazakhstan should charge a fee for each Russian launch, in effect sharing in the commercial profit (Habar news agency, Kazakhstani Television, Kazakhstanskaya pravda, AP, Reuters, Itar-Tass, Russian TV, ORT, July 7-11).
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