Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 220

"There are two things you can’t buy: Friendship and health," President Nursultan Nazarbaev declared — quoting a traditional Kazakh saying — in Houston during his trip last week to the U.S. (Reuter, November 20) During his visit, Nazarbaev signed fourteen agreements on cooperation in the fields of trade, defense, economy, and promotion of democracy. The principal results of the visit, however, were two production sharing agreements for the Karachaganak oil field in Western Kazakhstan and the Kashgan field in the Caspian Sea, which Nazarbaev stated would together generate a revenue of $600 billion over the next forty years.

Kazakhstan’s media gushed with unbounded confidence that the "oil contract of the century" had been signed. (Kazakhstanskaya pravda, November 19; Xabar TV, November 19) At last, they said, Kazakhstan had obtained the status of strategic partner to the U.S., and had assumed its deserved place as a regional leader. Nazarbaev himself had reached with these deals the apogee of his political career, other media said. (Kazakshstanskaya pravda, November 20; Delovaya nedelya, November 21; Panorama, November 21) The U.S. side praised the country’s economic and political reform program. Even the producer of the film Air Force One, which portrayed dictatorship and terrorism in Kazakhstan, publicly apologized for any misunderstanding that this "work of fiction" might have caused, and endorsed the opinion that Nazarbaev is one of the most democratic reformers in the NIS. (Panorama, November 21)

Indeed, American influence has never been stronger in the Republic’s short history of independence. Rejected by Russia in its overtures for a Euro-Asian Federation, Kazakhstan has simultaneously moved closer to its historical enemy, China, with the signing of oil deals in September worth nearly $9.5 billion — a move that the U.S. views as "complimentary" to its own relations. (Reuter, November 19) Nevertheless, Nazarbaev was not prepared to cease dialogue with Tehran despite Washington’s opposition to the construction of a pipeline through Iran. He did, however, give the U.S. until October 1998 to come up with the financing for an alternative pipeline to export oil from the former Soviet republic.

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