On June 28, Kazakhstan’s parliament voted to ratify a set of bilateral intergovernmental agreements on the lease and use of military testing ranges in Kazakhstan by Russia. The ranges are: Sary-Shagan in the south of the country, Emba in the west, the “929th Flight-Testing Center” at Vladimirovka, and the “Fourth Testing Grounds” at Kapustin Yar. The aggregate area of these sites–excluding the Baikonur Space Center and enclave, the use of which is governed by separate agreements–amounts to no less than 4 percent of Kazakhstan’s total land area. The ranges are being used by Russia’s strategic missile forces, air force and air defense.
Russia has been using Kazakhstan’s military testing ranges throughout the post-Soviet era in the absence of any clear contractual arrangements. Intergovernmental agreements, signed in 1995, were not ratified until 1998 by Russia. Kazakhstan’s parliament, objecting to some of the terms, delayed ratification, even deciding as recently as June 14 to postpone it. Instead, the parliament created a commission to study the agreements further and to consider possible changes in Kazakhstan’s favor. However, the legislature gave way following President Nursultan Nazarbaev’s June 20 meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow, where the test ranges figured prominently on the agenda.
The agreements are valid for a ten-year period from the moment of ratification. Kazakhstan will receive the equivalent of US$27.5 million in rental payments annually for Russia’s use of all four ranges. Of that meager sum, a mere US$3.2 million will be paid in cash. The bulk of the sum will be paid in the form of Russian supplies for Kazakhstan’s military and training of Kazakh cadets and officers in Russian military academies. A total of 916 Kazakhs are currently being trained in those academies. Kazakhstan’s defense minister, Lieutenant-General Sat Tokpakbaev, swayed the deputies into approving these terms. Tokpakbaev argued that Kazakhstan is in no position to maintain the ranges through its own means, nor can it count on a foreign user other than Russia. (Khabar, Itar-Tass, June 28; Panorama (Almaty), Vremya novosti, June 20; see the Monitor, June 21).
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