Cozying up to Kazakhstan ignores state's undemocratic tendencies
The U.S. would destroy its credibility as a beacon of freedom in the world

The Washington Times, 2 August 2001

The Washington Times A18

In his July 30 Op-ed piece, "Crazy for Kazakhstan," former Clinton administration Energy Secretary Bill Richardson makes the case that the United States should cozy up to the government of this former Soviet republic to gain oil concessions. By prostrating ourselves before a regime as corrupt and undemocratic as that of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the United States would destroy its credibility as a beacon of freedom in the world.

Mr. Nazarbayev, who ruled Kazakhstan in the Soviet era, has shown little interest in creating the "modern, market-based economy" that Mr. Richardson claims already exists. In fact, the state sector in Kazakhstan produces about half of the country's total output. While the Kazakh economy has grown in recent years, this growth has been the result of high prices for Kazakh oil and gas, not any deep- seated reform of Kazakhstan's corrupt state sector.

Kazakhstan also has an abysmal human rights record, including a rigged 1999 presidential election that Mr. Nazarbayev claimed showed that Kazakhstan had only "allowed democracy to progress by 20 percent." The government of Kazakhstan has stoked extremism by arresting peaceful opponents and silencing independent media. It has joined China, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to form the "Shanghai Six," a quasimilitary alliance. These are hardly policies that will produce the stability that Mr. Richardson so highly values.

Senior fellow
National Defense Council Foundation