Nursultan Nazarbayev's trip to Donald Trump brought Kazakhstan contracts worth several billion dollars. But first of all the first visit of the "Central Asian patriarch" to the 45-th US president was a kind of verification. Nazarbayev, who effectively fulfills the role of peacekeeper, is certainly interested in "hacking ice" in US-Russian relations. Will the peace mission succeed this time?
US-Russian relations have "gone to zero," which, of course, Kazakhstan is worried about, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said during a visit to the United States. Relations between Astana and Washington following the visit clearly "went to plus."
It was announced signing more than 20 agreements for the sum of 7 billion dollars (State Department, however, specified that the total amount of contracts is 2,5 billion dollars). Be that as it may, among the "signatories" appear, in particular, Boeing and Chevron. Cooperation was discussed in the field of energy, including oil and gas, as well as the implementation of projects in the field of aviation and space research.
Donald Trump, following a meeting with the Kazakh leader, as usual, gave an argument in the spirit of "America first": exports to Kazakhstan allow the US to increase the number of jobs. Nazarbayev, while meeting with the "captains" of American business, recalled the 11 special economic and 22 industrial zones of Kazakhstan and the visa-free regime (introduced in the country for citizens of 62 countries, including the US).
"America sees primarily its benefits," commented Yuri Solozobov, director of international projects at the Institute of National Strategy of Russia, in a comment to the newspaper VZGLYAD. Kazakhstan is a source of uranium, Canadian and American firms work there. It is a supplier of ferroalloys and titanium. Russia actively supplied the titanium of the US aerospace industry, and against the background of the sanctions, Washington is trying to somehow secure itself, "Solozobov explained. It should be noted that following the meeting of the two Presidents, the White House press service reported: Trump and Nazarbayev intend to "consult on sanctions issues in order to avoid any unintended consequences for the economy of Kazakhstan."
Certainly, the meeting of the patriarch of the Central Asian policy and the relatively new American president had not only an economic dimension.
It is reported that Washington and Astana "agreed to study Kazakhstan's interest in joining the Convention on Cybercrime." The sides discussed cooperation in the field of defense and, as usual in such cases, the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and the fight against terrorism. As for issues that are important for Astana, for example, nuclear non-proliferation, it is unlikely that the leadership of the republic will have any serious impact on the US, since Trump is a "hawkish advocate", commented Kazakh commentator Dosym Satpayev, director of the Institute for Risk Assessment, in a comment to the newspaper VZGLYAD.
But the topic of the fight against terrorism, perhaps, is far from protocol. Nazarbayev, as is known, is the "host of the site" of the inter-Syrian talks in Astana, which are clearly more successful than the Western-sponsored talks in Geneva. But the US is "left out" of the Astana process, at least for now.
It is equally important that the issue of Afghanistan, which is relevant not only for Kazakhstan, but also for all countries of Central Asia, was also raised at the talks between Trump and Nazarbayev, Satpayev said. Astana is important to receive from Trump at least some signals that indicate that Kazakhstan is an important partner in Central Asia, that this is one of the strategic regions of the United States in terms of cooperation in the field of security and investment. Trump, in turn, "very much praised" Kazakhstan in different directions, said that Afghanistan, Central Asia for the United States are also important regions.
The United States sees Central Asia as a very important strategic region, and Kazakhstan is seen as the leader of this region and is trying to establish relations with it, political analyst Yuri Solozobov points out. So, we can recall the existence of the "Five Plus" initiative (five Central Asian countries plus the US), which the Americans will continue to support.
At the same time, one should not forget Nazarbayev's lament over the "vanished" relations between Washington and Moscow.
The tensions of Russia and the West are disadvantageous for third countries
"The sanctioning war, although it does not directly affect Astana, affects the Eurasian Economic Union, of which Kazakhstan is an active member," Yury Solozobov believes. Relations between the West and Russia indirectly begin to strain other partners within the framework of the EEA, Dosym Satpayev points out.
He recalled - there were "tensions and conflicts" between Russia and Kazakhstan and Belarus in connection with accusations of re-export of prohibited goods. Kazakhstan has been calling for a solution to the sanctions issue for several years already, because "he also hit the other countries, especially those that are part of the EAPP, with a boomerang."
That is why Nazarbayev in recent years often raises issues related to these relations, and especially the issue of sanctions. However, all these statements "in a diplomatic language resemble a game of probing." Be that as it may, it is obvious that Nazarbayev is striving to act in the role of mediator and conciliator of the parties already familiar to him.
Communication channel through the Kazakh steppes
The President of Kazakhstan, as you know, has repeatedly played the role of moderator of various conflicts. Yuri Solozobov recalls:
"Let's recall the situation around Syria, which was facilitated by negotiations in Astana. Let us recall the start of the Minsk process, which was to continue in Astana with the participation of the US administration. A great contribution was made by Nazarbayev in the settlement of relations between Russia and Turkey, personally between Putin and Erdogan. "
And with the current level of Russian-American relations close to zero, we need to look for additional dialogue tools, and the participation of such an authoritative leader and an experienced negotiator like Nursultan Nazarbayev can be very useful, Solozobov said.
Dosym Satpayev also takes a similar view of the role of the Kazakh president as an intermediary. "For the western countries, Kazakhstan is an additional communication channel in relations with the Kremlin," the Kazakh political scientist noted. Kazakhstan "still has a more or less favorable foreign policy reputation as a state that is trying to be flexible in relations with both the West and the East."
At the same time, Satpayev notes, "Washington is well aware that if it is necessary to build relations with Russia, then directly". The role of Kazakhstan in the work on the warming of relations between Moscow and the West "I would not overestimate," the interlocutor said.
Solozobov stressed that Kazakhstan is trying to pursue a multi-vector policy. "He builds relations with China, with the United States, signed an agreement on partnership with the European Union, supports a strategic alliance with Russia. This allows Astana to balance in a very difficult situation in Central Asia, "the expert explained. Such a multi-vector nature can not but cause a certain concern of Russia, as Sergey Lavrov has already expressed, Solozobov said.
But, as experts say, the effect from the first meeting of the Kazakh president with the new US leader should not be overestimated. The parties are still only eyeing each other. Nazarbayev met practically with all American presidents after the collapse of the USSR. However, "Donald Trump is for him a kind of" black box ", Dosym Satpayev pointed out. The state of affairs and rhetoric of Donald Trump are constantly changing. He differs from former leaders in that he too often can contradict himself. "The president is unconventional and quite unpredictable," noted the Kazakh political scientist.