Kazakhstan News Bulletin Released weekly by the Embassy of The Republic of Kazakhstan
Vol. 4, No. 53, December 18, 2001
Kazakhstan, striving for the future
Message from Kanat Saudabayev,
Kazakhstan's Ambassador to the USA
The vicious terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 made people around the globe understand ever more clearly that peace, democracy and security are not something given once and for all. We need to fight for them.
This week President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan visits the U.S. to meet and talk with President George Bush about further strengthening our strategic partnership in the struggle for a secure world.
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 were taken as a personal tragedy by the peoples of Kazakhstan. President Nazarbayev echoed our feelings and expressed unconditional support to the U.S. in the fight against international terrorism. This is why, visiting Ground Zero, our head of state not only pays respect to the memory of the deceased, among whom there was a citizen of Kazakhstan, but also reconfirms our solidarity with the American people. The American people were one of the first to recognize our independence, which is why President Nazarbayev also visited with President George H.W. Bush and Secretary James A. Baker III, who witnessed the dawn of our partnership.
As the world's attention is focused on global war against terrorism and the armed conflict in Afghanistan, we in Kazakhstan, one of the largest nations in the neighborhood, reflect upon our experience in the first decade of independence and would like to suggest that there might be lessons in it for others. Beyond that, Kazakhstan may serve as a driving force behind the economic development in a crucial part of the world famous for its potential for trouble.
When we regained our independence on December 16, 1991, we faced daunting challenges. Reforming a Communist society and a command economy were priorities as we moved to give our people a better chance of enjoying the newly acquired advantages of being back in the world community.
Ten years is but an instant in time. Yet in our "instant", led by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, we have built a peaceful democratic society and a thriving market economy showing progress every day.
The roots of democracy have grown deep in our soil. From a totalitarian regime ruled from beyond our borders we grew to a functioning democracy that Americans find familiar. Once the people of Kazakhstan had no political choices. There was one party, the Communists. Today we have 14 political parties of which 4 hold seats in our national Parliament. Unimaginable a decade ago, more than 2,000 non-governmental organizations and 1,500 independent news media outlets are taking an active part in shaping Kazakhstan's social and political agenda.
"All our successes could not have happened without the accord and unity of the people of Kazakhstan, different in ethnic and religious background", said President Nazarbayev on December 16, 2001. People of all of the 130 ethnic groups choose among the teachings of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and more than 40 other religious denominations. All live in our country in peace and harmony and see that as the only way to the future. The recent visit of Pope John Paul II drew the world's attention to the freedom of religious life in Kazakhstan today.
During the Soviet days many people who were perceived as enemies of the state were sent into exile and many Gulag camps here. Others came to work our virgin lands. The native Kazakhs welcomed everybody. Those not very distant days saw the near extinction of the Kazakhs, their language and culture because Moscow chose to use Kazakhstan for its own purposes. Today Kazakhs are again a proud people and the language is being reborn. That rebirth has become part of the basic color of life in Kazakhstan; it is a bright spot among the many as in the colorful rugs we are famous for.
Through deep reforms carried out across the board, including the privatization of more than 80 percent of economy, we have established an open and sustainable market economy welcoming foreign investment. The investors from all major nations have voted with their wallets, investing almost $15 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) in energy, industry, communications and other spheres and committing dozens of billions more for the next decade.
The U.S. was an early friend and one of the first nations to establish diplomatic relations. We live and work well together, and these days many thousands of American business people have become familiar figures in Kazakhstan who know and respect our culture and traditions.
Today the U.S. is the largest investor in our economy, accounting for more than one third of the total volume of FDI. U.S. companies play a major role in developing giant hydrocarbon reserves of Kazakhstan. With the recent discovery at Kashagan, reputed to be the largest oil find in the world since Alaska's Prudhoe Bay in 1968, Kazakhstan is well on its way to becoming a major global source of energy and the U.S. businesses are an important part of that success story. As Secretary of State Colin Powell said after a meeting with executives of American companies working in Kazakhstan on December 9 in Astana, he was "particularly impressed" with "the amount of money they are looking at investing in Kazakhstan, in the range of $200 billion over the next 5 to 10 years».
Kazakhstan and the United States have a unique experience of cooperation in the fight for security in the world. It is difficult to overestimate the significance of our cooperation in eliminating nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their infrastructure in Kazakhstan, - a horrible legacy of the Soviet empire. Today, they are part of the history of Kazakhstan, including what was the fourth largest nuclear arsenal in the world. We are committed to a world safe for all of our children where these threats will only be distant memories.
Today Kazakhstan stands shoulder to shoulder with the United States in this just war for the preservation of civilization and security of future generations.
Kazakhstan's unwavering support touched strings in the hearts of Americans. "Their heartfelt support for the American people in our greatest time of need has only served to strengthen United States-Kazakhstan relations", said Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), a member of the House International Relations Committee.
"With its strategic location, Kazakhstan's help is invaluable", believes another member of the House International Relations Committee Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA). "Kazakhstan plays an important role in maintaining and ensuring stability in the region of Central Asia, and is dedicated to playing a role in the fight against terrorism".
Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) declared that "in light of the direct threat to world freedom that we faced on September 11, 2001, Kazakhstan has emerged as one of the only ``silver-linings'' in Central Asia. I am very grateful for the outpouring of support from the President of Kazakhstan. I believe our Nation needs to continue to support the Government of Kazakhstan».
Those words of distinguished Americans are a convincing testimony to the successes of the 10 years of our partnership in the name of peace, democracy and progress. We are confident that the meeting of President Nursultan Nazarbayev and President George Bush will open a new chapter in relations between our two countries and our two peoples. Together we can make ours a better and safer world for all.
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News Bulletin of the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan
(Compiled from own sources and various agencies' reports)