Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Republic of Kosovo, Kyrgyz Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, FYR Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan

Search Penny Hill Blogs

Friday, October 15, 2010

Kazakhstan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

Jim Nichol
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

Kazakhstan is an important power in Central Asia by virtue of its geographic location, large territory, ample natural resources, and economic growth, but it faces ethnic, political, and other challenges to stability. Kazakhstan gained independence at the end of 1991 after the break-up of the former Soviet Union. Kazakhstan’s president at the time, Nursultan Nazarbayev, was one of the top leaders of the former Soviet Union and was instrumental in forming the successor Commonwealth of Independent States. He has been reelected President of Kazakhstan several times and in June 2010 was proclaimed the “Leader of the Nation” with lifetime ruling responsibilities and privileges. Kazakhstan’s economy is the strongest in Central Asia, buoyed by oil exports. Its progress in democratization and respect for human rights has been halting, according to most observers. Nonetheless, Kazakhstan’s pledges to reform convinced the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to select the country as its 2010 chairman.

According to the Obama, the United States’ strategic aim in Kazakhstan is to help the country develop into a stable, secure, and democratic country that embraces free market competition and rule of law, and is a respected regional leader. Cumulative U.S. aid budgeted for Kazakhstan in fiscal years 1992 through 2008 was $1.67 billion (FREEDOM Support Act and agency funds), with Kazakhstan ranking fifth in aid among the twelve Soviet successor states. A large part of U.S. aid has supported Comprehensive Threat Reduction (CTR) programs to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Budgeted aid for FY2009 was $22.4 million, estimated aid for FY2010 was $18.9 million, and requested aid for FY2011 is $18.3 million (FREEDOM Support Act and other foreign aid, excluding Defense and Energy Department funds). The Administration request for FY2011 emphasizes aid for peace and security ($7.2 million, including funding for Foreign Military Financing and International Military Education and Training, and Non-Proliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining, and Related Programs), health ($4.6 million), and democratization ($4.2 million). Among congressional actions, foreign operations appropriations since FY2003 have forbade assistance to the government of Kazakhstan unless the Secretary of State determines and reports that Kazakhstan has significantly improved its human rights record. A waiver on national security grounds has been exercised in recent years.

Reportedly responding to a U.S. appeal, the Kazakh legislature in May 2003 approved sending military engineers to assist in coalition operations in Iraq. The 27 troops trained Iraqis in demining and water purification. They pulled out of Iraq in late 2008. Since 2009, Kazakhstan has permitted air and land transit for U.S. and NATO troops and equipment—as part of the Northern Distribution Network—to support stabilization operations in Afghanistan. 

Date of Report: October 5, 2010
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: 97-1058
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail
Penny Hill Press  or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.