Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 76

On April 7 Kazakhstan published its new military doctrine, outlining both its strategic interests and priorities for future military cooperation. The doctrine advocates intensified cooperation within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), as well as broadening Astana’s strategic partnership with Russia and China. Consequently, Kazakhstan will develop military cooperation and invigorate military-technological cooperation with the other CSTO members, “proceeding from the need to consolidate efforts toward building a unified defense area and providing collective military security.” Kazakhstan will pursue a deeper strategic partnership with Russia and China “based on common military-political interests in the region,” according to the doctrine endorsed by President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The new military doctrine refers to the emerging relationship that Kazakhstan has fostered with the West, stressing its bilateral military cooperation with the United States, in particular. Therefore, Kazakhstan plans to deepen its military cooperation with Washington but only in specific areas: technological modernization of Kazakhstan’s armed forces, transfer of military technology, training, and helping to construct and consolidate key military infrastructure in order to promote regional security.

Cooperation with NATO, through the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program, will continue with the clear aim of participating in joint military exercises and gaining experience in planning, conducting, and providing comprehensive support to anti-terrorist and Peace Support Operations under NATO command. The doctrine anticipates the creation of NATO PfP regional centers in Kazakhstan as well as the training of verification officers (Interfax-Kazakhstan, April 9).

What the doctrine appears to clarify is that despite the “multi-vectored” foreign policy in which Kazakhstan gives no preference to its relations with any one state, in practical terms it sees its military and security interests firmly rooted in the Russian-led CSTO and its strategic partnership with Russia and China. Yet, it wants more than this, appealing to foreign investors and seeking security assistance from the West, Kazakhstan will cooperate with Western countries and NATO. This, however, is predicated on a secondary basis. In other words, if the regime faced a serious security crisis, Nazarbayev has confirmed that Kazakhstan would first look toward Russia for help.

In order to upgrade the armed forces, Kazakhstan will have to spend more money to meet the demands of an ambitious military reform plan. Defense Minister Daniyal Akhmetov has confirmed that significantly more money has been allocated to the armed forces in 2007 than last year, an increase of around 74%. Official figures indicate that the 2007 military budget is 142.56 billion tenge ($1.17 billion) or 1.2% of the year’s expected GDP. Akhmetov explains the increase in terms of increasing expenditure on modernizing or buying weapons. He believes this trend will continue and that allocations for combat training would show “a substantial increase” in 2007, and the 2008 draft budget would propose “considerable growth of the volume of financing” (Interfax, April 9).

Nazarbayev expresses great confidence in the wisdom and consistency of Kazakhstan’s pursuit of a “multi-vectored” foreign policy, “Our cooperation with the USA never runs counter to Russian interests. By working together with Russia or China, we never go against the USA or Europe. Over the past 15 years Kazakhstan has always had a consistent, clear-cut policy in relations with others. That is why our neighbors as well as the rest of the world respect our policies,” he stated during a recent television interview (Khabar Television, April 9). Nonetheless, his public statements regarding the nature of Kazakhstan’s relations with the West are influenced by his goal of achieving the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This can be seen in his seeking additional Western support for the armed forces, most notably through recent talks with Spain.

On April 10 Miguel Angel Moratinos, Spain’s foreign minister and currently OSCE chairman-in-office, discussed cooperation with Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Marat Tazhin. Moratinos discussed Kazakhstan’s bid for the OSCE presidency in 2009, and offered general support for economic, social, and political reform. Moratinos held talks with Nazarbayev, after which he expressed support for Nazarbayev’s OSCE ambitions, “I hope that a consensus on this issue will be reached during a session of the OSCE’s foreign ministers in November this year in Madrid,” he said (Interfax-Kazakhstan, April 10).

Akhmetov’s meeting with Moratinos yielded Spanish support for Kazakhstan’s military reform. According to the Ministry of Defense press service, “The defense minister described cooperation between the two countries in the defense sphere as promising. The parties are now considering issues related to an integrated system of management and control over Kazakhstan’s air space, as well as the possibility of supplying radio electronic warfare systems to Kazakhstan’s armed forces.” Reportedly, Akhmetov is also interested in the potential help that could be given by Spain to Kazakhstan’s navy as it endeavors to bolster security in the Caspian, in addition to training military personnel. The significant feature of these bilateral talks is that Kazakhstan wants to present itself as pursuing its security cooperation through the OSCE, as well as on a bilateral footing with individual Western countries. (Interfax-Kazakhstan, April 10).

Nazarbayev’s new military doctrine makes perfectly clear that the main security priority for Kazakhstan is the CSTO and cooperating with Russia and China. Although he still places high regard on what the Kazakh armed forces may gain from cooperation with NATO and individual members of the Alliance, he wants to utilize this in a political way in order to muster support for his OSCE ambitions. Meanwhile, as many within the upper echelons of the Kazakh military recognize, successful reform will entail something other than simply throwing money at the system.