REMARKS BY AMBASSADOR KANAT SAUDABAYEV OF KAZAKHSTAN
ON THE OCCASION OF FORMAL PRESENTATION OF THE ORDER OF DOSTYK TO SEN. SAM NUNN (RET.), AT UGA'S SYMPOSIUM "THREAT OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION TO AMERICAN HOMELAND",
OCTOBER 20, 2003, ATHENS, GEORGIA
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
It is difficult to overestimate
the pressing urgency of
today's symposium, for
weapons of mass
destruction and the desire
of international terrorists to
use it have become the
most dangerous threat to
The people of Kazakhstan
have experienced first-hand
the devastating force of
nuclear weapons. During 40 years, the Soviet Union conducted 456 nuclear explosions at the world's largest nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk in eastern Kazakhstan. The cumulative power output of these explosions equaled to 2,500 Hiroshima-size bombs. More than 1.5 million people suffered from these tests in Kazakhstan, and vast territories became absolutely useless.
This is why Kazakhstan made an unprecedented step in the history of the world, and became the first country in the world to shut down the nuclear test sites, renouncing the world's fourth largest nuclear arsenal inherited from the Soviet Union. This arsenal was bigger than nuclear weapons stockpiles of Great Britain, France and China combined. Kazakhstan had 1,216 nuclear warheads for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and nuclear weapons for heavy bombers. The complex of strategic nuclear forces consisted of the most up-to-date means of mass destruction and of delivery of nuclear devices, including strategic multipurpose bombers such as TU-95 as well as SS-18 ICBMs.
Today there is no single nuclear weapon in Kazakhstan, and the infrastructure of the test site has been demolished. This has become possible due to the close cooperation between our two nations during the past decade under the Nunn-Lugar program.
Everything could have turned out differently, however. In the first days of independence, there was no shortage of all kinds of foreign emissaries asking the President to keep the nuclear weapons, saying that you are going to be the first and only Muslim nation with nukes You are going to be respected by the whole world.
I must say that a significant portion of Kazakhstan's elite of that time was also in favor of keeping the nuclear arsenal.
So, today it would be fair to note that the renunciation of nuclear weapons was a courageous choice of historic significance by the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. He tells the story of what was behind that choice in his book, Epicenter of Peace, which became an invitation to dialogue and cooperation among all the people who treasure the peace on the planet.
We strongly urge the world to follow our example and engage in further reduction and elimination of nuclear arsenals as well as other weapons of mass destruction. We must prevent terrorists from laying their hands on them.
This is the reason why Kazakhstan is such a strong partner of the United States and the international coalition in the fight against terrorism. We provide assistance to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and have supported the freeing of Iraq from Saddam Hussein's regime. Today our troops take part in the postwar stabilization and restoration of Iraq.
I believe Kazakhstan's experience and the experience of our cooperation with the United States in non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and supporting infrastructure may provide worthy answers to some of the questions raised here today.
We are eager to continue close cooperation with the U.S. and other nations that are interested in prevention of further spreading of WMD.
In this room today there are people who have a call of duty and a call of heart committed to the ideals of nonproliferation. They do everything they can to free mankind of the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Despite the complex situation on the planet, we are optimistic about the future and believe that together we can make our world a better and a safer place.
In our fast-paced times, the ink of memory is also fading fast. People tend to forget groundbreaking and heroic actions by outstanding personalities. But what senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar did and continue to do today for the world is a heroic deed. For at the break-up of the Soviet Union they were able to foresee the consequences of the spreading of Soviet nuclear legacy and established the Cooperative Threat Reduction program.
The world has yet to fully comprehend their outstanding leadership. But their names are already inscribed in the history of Kazakhstan in golden letters.
In August 2003, President Nazarbayev awarded to senators Nunn and Lugar the orders of Dostyk of the first degree. This is the expression of infinite gratitude of my people to them for their significant contribution in strengthening the international security and their helping Kazakhstan get rid of the horrific legacy of the Soviet past. The Order of Dostyk is Kazakhstan's highest award to foreigners.
I have a great honor and privilege, on behalf of and on instructions from President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan and in front of such a distinguished audience, to present the Order of Dostyk of the 1st degree to an outstanding statesman, a wise politician and a true leader, Senator Sam Nunn.
Please accept our wishes of strong health and new successes in your noble endeavors, Mr. Senator.