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Russia Kazakhstan: «resetting relations». New trends and tasks

photo: akorda.kz
15 November 2023

On the 9th of November this year the RF President Vladimir Putin paid an official visit to the Republic of Kazakhstan (RK). It was already the fifth personal meeting in 2023 between the Russian and Kazakh leaders which this time was held with special solemnity. On the level of symbols and protocols both parties demonstrated their well-disposed attitude to every detail starting from the keynote interviews of the two presidents on strategic partnership to the grand meeting ceremony. As Kassym-Jomart Tokayev underlined, the current visit of the Russian leader is symbolic and has great political and historic significance. In his opinion, Kazakhstan-Russia relationship tested by time will remain unshakeable and immune to any political environment. K.J. Tokayev believes that the future of the two countries will be «brilliant». In his turn, V. Putin called Kazakhstan «the closest ally of Russia».

What is hidden behind the festive faade of the recent meeting in Astana and why has this particular visit become so important to both parties?

Relieving mutual tension

On the eve of arrival in Astana Vladimir Putin gave an interview to the newspaper Kazakhstanskaya Pravda [1], while Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to the Izvestia newspaper. [2] The topics the leaders of the two countries raised obviously had certain things in common: they spoke about cooperation in the energy, economic, cultural spheres, as well as about the status of the Russian language in Kazakhstan. Criss-cross interviews of the Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Jomart Tokayev became a sort of diplomatic artillery preparation which not only set the tone for future talks, but also vividly demonstrate strategic importance of our relations. It will be recalled that 10 years ago an agreement was signed in Ekaterinburg between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan on good-neighborly relations and alliance in the 21st century. During this time great changes in the world politics took place, problem areas appeared in the earlier established integration associations and bilateral relations that should be calmly resolved on the highest level.

By now there are a number systemic threats and new challenges to the stability of relations between Moscow and Astana which were recently outlined in the expert report of the Caspian Institute of Strategic Studies «Russia and Kazakhstan: road map up to 2030». The report dwelled on the interconnectedness of our countries, their political interests, as well as the role of social-cultural ties and integration processes. It was noted that in addition to foreign policy and sanctions risks, the processes of changing generations of the power elites now underway, as well as a break in the political and expert communications pose a threat to the Kazakhstani-Russian relations. The core message of the CISS report consists in developing fresh approaches and the need for a new «reset» in order to bolster interaction of the RF and RK in modern conditions. The primary objective is a gradual transition from the current system of leader diplomacy to a more flexible and robust institutional system. [3]

It should be admitted that the CISS expert report came in time and triggered great interest in the Russian and Kazakhstani politicum. On the eve of Vladimir Putins visit to Astana Mikhail Rostovsky, a political analyst of the newspaper Moskovskij Komsomolets, published a striking article where he cited the details of the said report in detail. [4] Our bilateral relationship has come across an alarm situation when the political and business agenda is determined by the distorted media optics of a number of Russian mass media outlets and nationalistically-inclined public figures. A dangerous situation of «recency bias» arose which did not allow adequate assessment of the events and trends of the closest neighbor or ally. All this called for urgent steps towards each other necessary to relieve tension that has built up between Moscow and Astana. Time has come to pass over from the bravura marches in diplomacy and absurd accusations in the mass media to regular practical efforts based on political realism and economic pragmatism.

During the official ceremony in the Ak Orda presidential palace and judging by the composition of the Russian delegation, it became clear that the forthcoming understandings will have the nature of expected «reset». Even before the meeting with K.J. Tokayev it was announced about the forthcoming «substantial Russian-Kazakhstani negotiations». The former purely economic agenda of the visit focused on the session of the 19th forum of interregional cooperation between the RK and RF in Kostanay found itself in the background. For example, the time of participation of the Presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan at the forum session was about one hour, while bilateral negotiations, both in the restricted and expanded format, took almost five hours. From the information that was coming in, it followed that Moscow and Astana are negotiating no only on the closer cooperation in the oil-and-gas sector and agriculture, but also in scientific and technical, cultural and humanitarian spheres. Much attention was also paid to the military and technical cooperation and joint repulsion of threats. [5]

Documents signed

Based upon the results of Vladimir Putins official visit to Kazakhstan a number of agreements were signed:

1. A Joint Statement on the 10th anniversary of the Agreement between Russia and Kazakhstan on Good-Neighbourly Relations and Alliance in the 21st century by the President of the Russian Federation and the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

2. A Joint Action Plan between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2024-2026.

3. Memorandum of understanding and cooperation on construction projects for the Kokshetau Thermal Power Plant, the Semey Thermal Power Plant and the Ust-Kamenogorsk Thermal Power Plant (Republic of Kazakhstan) between the RF Ministry of Energy and the RK Ministry of Energy.

4. Action Plan for Development of Cooperation in Athletics and Sports between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2024-2026.

5. Joint Action Plan on Interaction between the Federal Customs Service of Russia and the State Revenue Committee of the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Kazakhstan with participation of representative offices of the customs services of the RF and RK for 2024-2025.

6. Memorandum of understanding and cooperation on labour inspections between the  Federal Service for Labour and Employment (Russian Federation) and the Committee of Labour and Social Protection of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Population of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

7. Agreement on information partnership between the Information Telegraph Agency of Russia (ITAR-TASS) and the TV and Radio Complex of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

From the Joint Statement by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Vladimir Putin: «The sides intend to uphold strict compliance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Organization, contribute to the strengthening of the UNO role in resolving the entire complex of issues related to maintaining international peace and security, responding to global challenges and threats. Undertake steps to form a more representative, democratic and fair multipolar world order based on equal partnership of states in the interests of providing modern, comprehensive and stable security. In line with the allied foreign and defense policy support international architecture of peace, equal and indivisible security, as well as each other standing against attempts to undermine domestic political stability». [6]

Expert assessments

Following the results of Vladimir Putins visit to Astana analysts and experts of both countries note the most important agreements and place main emphasis on the their practical significance. For example, Russian representatives pay attention to a higher level of bilateral economic cooperation. In the past three years turnover between the RF and RK has increased by more than 30% and this positive trend remains intact. Based on the results of 8 months of 2023, the volume of mutual trade amounted to 17 bn dollars which is also a record figure. 20 thousand Russian companies operate in Kazakhstan. Direct investments of Russia into the economy of the RK amount to 20 bn dollars (according to Russian estimates) or 17-18 bn dollars according to President Tokayev. The reciprocal volume of Kazakhstani investments into Russia is 6 bn dollars and this figure is growing constantly. [7] Industrial cooperation is developing dynamically. 143 projects were presented to the amount exceeding 33 bn dollars of which 140 projects are implemented in the territory of Kazakhstan.

Cooperation in the energy industry is promoted especially vigorously. Kazakhstani analyst Marat Shibutov draws attention to the memorandum of understanding and cooperation on the planned construction of thermal power plant in Kokshetau, Semey and Ust-Kamenogorsk. He referred to that as excellent news «because the thermal power plants in Kokshetau and Semey are 100% worn out, in Ust-Kamenogorsk it is well worn; besides, the plant in Kokshetau meets a mere 25% of the citys demand». Wear of the old Soviet infrastructure and a growth of accidents in the public utilities become an acute problem for Kazakhstan. «The past heating season showed a drastic level of wear of our infrastructure and the advanced projects on renewable sources of energy with which western partners come are actually unable make up for the shortfall of capacity», Kazakhstani analyst Daniyar Ashimbayev noted in turn. Now Russian companies come to this deep market. These have the necessary construction experience, necessary resources and personnel for modernization.

Understandings on Russian oil transit to China, as well as of Russian gas to Uzbekistan via the territory of Kazakhstan elevate energy cooperation on a whole new level. Kazakhstani political analyst Eduard Poletayev believes that it is now profitable for Moscow to redirect gas supplies to other countries because of sanctions imposed by the EU. Given relatively big export volumes of the Russian gas and not so big domestic requirements of the RK, long-term gas transit via the territory of Kazakhstan to China is possible. Important agreements reached on gas will enable Kazakhstan not only to expand gasification of its northern and eastern areas (on account of Russian supplies), but also to build up its own export and gas processing. For example, construction of a Kazakhstani-Russian butadiene production plant with capacity up to 340 thousand tons per year was launched with participation of the Tatneft company. Also, talks were completed on the construction of a joint venture to produce polyethylene.

Construction of a nuclear power plant (NPP) in Kazakhstan is also an object of close attention on the part of Russia as, by the way, of other countries, too. Given Kazakhstans uranium reserves and development of joint ventures in the nuclear industry, the new NPP is a strategically important issue for Moscow. However, at this point of time Astana will not choose just between Russia and France; Kazakhstans short list for construction of the NPP also includes companies from the USA, China and South Korea. «Why do all want to participate in the construction? Because it is a profitable project. The NPP will cost several dozen billion dollars. Second, it is a very prestigious project for any country and company», said Talgat Kaliyev, Director of the Institute of Applied Ethnopolitical Research. According to the expert Eduard Poletayev, ROSATOM has a good working experience on the world level, but the French company is not less competent in this matter. When Kazakhstan arrives at a final decision on the NPP construction during a national referendum, Astana will demand that the tender participants offer most favorable conditions. On the Russian side is a great experience in building NPPs abroad, energy standards similar to those of Kazakhstan. However, the Russian side should step up its business efforts in this area and prevent excessive complacency. [8]

Kazakhstan as a «window into Europe»

Analysts note that President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is still trying to balance within the framework of his multi-vector policy and the recent weeks have been very saturated in terms of international meetings. First Astana was visited by the French President Emmanuel Macron, then by Prime Minister of Hungary Victor Orbán. Immediately after that it became the venue of the summit of the Organization of Turkic States attended by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan and the other day a session of the Kazakhstan-USA enhanced strategic partnership took place. Despite public statements by the Kremlins press service to the effect that Vladimir Putins visit to Astana is not related to the growing interest of European countries to Kazakhstan, regional experts believe that Moscow nevertheless feels a certain threat. «Of course, Russia does feel competition. It is related to both the visits by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to the USA, Germany and to the visits by foreign leaders to Kazakhstan. Here there is a lot criticism against the RF because it had not always paid attention to Central Asia preferring to build relations with other players. But now it turned out that it is here that Russia has many friends», said political analyst Eduard Poletayev in interview to Zakon.kz.

Kazakhstani analyst Marat Shibutov in a big interview to the BIZNESS Online edition consistently develops a similar idea. «The USA keeps on saying that Russia is in isolation, but Kazakhstan shows by example that this is not the case one can be on good terms both with the EU and with the RF. In the long run it works for Russias authority», Shibutov indicated. He is certain that the «level of cooperation between Moscow and Astana will tend to grow». Geographic proximity and socio-cultural affinity, as well as growing mutual connections in trade, logistics and industry also work to this end. «For example, in 2022 from the import at 50 billion dollars 17.3 billion dollars fell on supplies from Russia. It is necessary to bear in mind that the dependence is mutual. As per the 2022 data, Kazakhstan is the biggest importer of Russian pharmaceutical products, electrical machines and equipment, locomotives and rolling stock, automobiles, furniture, tools», the analyst noted. This publication also quoted extensively excerpts from the CISSs expert report on Kazakhstan. Marat Shibutov agrees with one of the key conclusions of this report that a possible conflict on our borders may be fraught with big problems for Siberia and Russian oil-and-gas regions. [9]

Russian expert Alexander Karavayev notes that Astana chose the only correct option to position itself. Kazakhstan keeps close ties with Russia and at the same time is open to European technologies and Chinese investments into the sector of raw materials (uranium and rare earth metals). It is noteworthy that the integration format of EAEU now begins to «sparkle with new colors» since European companies are well aware that access to the deep Russian market is kept via Kazakhstan. Today trade via the RK makes it possible to make much profit, particularly with regard to the aggravated deficit created by the sanctions barriers. There is one more thing for the future, expert A. Karavayev said: when a phase of another thaw commences in the relations between Moscow and Europe, it will turn out that many western and domestic companies that had earlier hastily «moved away» from Russia comfortably settled down in another part of the EAEU and from there will stage their comeback to Russia. It is sufficient to look at the list of Franco-European corporations planning their activities in Kazakhstan: TotalEnergies, Orano, Air Liquide, Airbus, Saint-Gobain, Alstom, Lactalis, Danone. So, the outwardly paradoxical thesis on Kazakhstan as a new «window into Europe» gains a new deeper meaning.

New trends and tasks

The most important outcome of the Russian President Vladimir Putins visit to Kazakhstan is an obvious willingness of both sides to positively «reset» the bilateral relations. The meeting in Astana was supposed to iron out the accumulated misunderstandings and to impart the inter-state cooperation a systemic and multi-dimensional nature. As was earlier stated in the CISSs expert report «Russia and Kazakhstan: road map up to 2030», up till recently the political and media environment of the RF and RK featured a temptation of «simple solutions» resorting to ultra-patriotic and confrontational rhetoric instead of building reliable allied relationship. In this connection, conclusion of the agreement on information partnership between the ITAR-TASS Agency and the TV and Radio Complex of the President of the RK was conspicuous. According to the available information, it was also decided to institute the positions of media curators on the level of Presidential Executive Offices of the RF and RK. Such steps make it possible to reduce the risk of a spontaneous crisis in the Russian-Kazakhstani relations which, triggered by the media hysterics, might grow into something serious. Hopefully, from now on priority will be given to the coverage of various aspects of strategic alliance between Russia and Kazakhstan, as well as to the topic of Eurasian integration which virtually disappeared from the mass media.

In the long-term perspective one can observe Russias turn from the former inertial policy towards active steps for softly keeping Kazakhstan within the orbit of its influence for many strategic interests converge there. These are not just above-mentioned energy and transport; Kazakhstan is the most important element of Russian security, as well as a tangible factor of domestic political stability and even geoeconomic connectivity. One of the new factors of our mutual connectedness is the common food security. For example, Russia is a key supplier to Kazakhstan of such commodity groups as wheat (98% of import), barley (same quantity), poultry meat (80-90%), sugar (up to 70%), fermented-milk products (60-70%). It is also important to keep Kazakhstan in the zone of Russian information influence, Russian language and culture. Today 61 thousand Kazakhstani nationals study at the Russian higher educational institutions, 30.4 thousand of them at the expense of the Russian budget. This involves building an institutional basis to exert influence through the international organization of the Russian language, cultural interaction on the level of schools and universities.

Vladimir Putins latest visit should only be viewed as the beginning of a new stage in the Russian-Kazakhstani relations. There is no place for complacency and presumption that all the problems have been resolved after one successful trip. We have yet to create an ongoing strategic mechanism Russia-Kazakhstan for regular exchange of opinions on bilateral connections, regional and international issues.

It should be done in to order to switch over the Russian-Kazakhstani relations from the manual mode to an automatic one. To enhance the level of confidence and understanding between Moscow and Astana it is essential to extend cooperation between the Security Councils, defense departments and security services of the RF and RK. Regular consultations between the defense and security agencies, conduct of joint military practical conferences and anti-terrorist exercises will make it possible to work out common responses to many external threats. Joint regional Air Defense system should be a corner stone of our common security. Generally, close coordination of actions of Russia and Kazakhstan in the sphere of foreign policy, defense and intelligence will create a radically new collective security system in Northern Eurasia.

At this stage of Russian-Kazakhstani relations expert diplomacy should play a very big role. Our strategic alliance will be long-term and sustainable only if it is exercised simultaneously in several segments political, economic and social. The farther we advance towards integration in politics and economy, the more important will be a social component of convergence of our two countries. To impart a steady and systemic nature to the relations between Russia and Kazakhstan it is necessary to establish ongoing social institutions building up a dialogue between the intellectual elites and think tanks of our countries. Analysts on the one and on the other side are destined to find unconventional solutions to difficult issues for politicians. But it is impossible without regular meetings and, as a result, without debunking negative stereotypes and myths that got stuck in the heads. It is known from the experience of expert diplomacy that such a slow process of mutual adaptation and «time check» takes a year and a half or two years. We have yet to set up a high level expert group that could objectively report to the presidents of both countries on the status of affairs and problems in bilateral relations twice a year, on the eve of inter-regional forums of the RF and RK. Definitely, allied relationship of Russia and Kazakhstan has considerable potential for further evolution, development and strengthening, by, inter alia, overcoming jointly accumulated problems and external challenges.

1. Interview to the Kazakhstanskaya Pravda newspaper. President of Russia official site, 08.11.2023. http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/72682

2. «Relations between Kazakhstan and Russia have the rich past and brilliant future». Izvestia, 08.11.2023. https://iz.ru/1601418/valentin-loginov/otnosheniia-mezhdu-kazakhstanom-i-rossiei-imeiut-bogatoe-proshloe-i-blestiashchee-budushchee

3. Russia and Kazakhstan: road map up to 2030. Caspian Institute of Strategic Studies, 12.10.2023. https://caspian.institute/product/sektor-kazahstana-kisi/rossiya-i-kazahstan-dorozhnaya-karta-do-2030-goda-38498.shtml

4. Putins tough trip: Vladimir Putins negotiations in Kazakhstan are doomed to be difficult. Moskovskij Komsomolets, 08.11.2023. https://www.mk.ru/politics/2023/11/08/trudnyy-voyazh-putina-peregovory-vvp-v-kazakhstane-obrecheny-byt-neprostymi.html

5. Putin restarts connections with Kazakhstan targeted by the West. URA.ru, 09.11.2023. https://ura.news/articles/1036287685

6. A Joint Statement on the 10th anniversary of the Agreement between Russia and Kazakhstan on Good-Neighbourly Relations and Alliance in the 21st century by the President of the Russian Federation and the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. President of Russia official site, 09.11.2023. http://www.kremlin.ru/supplement/6045

7. In Kazakhstan negotiations were held between Kassym Jomart Tokayev and Vladimir Putin. Vedomosti, 09.11.2023. https://www.vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2023/11/09/1004950-vladimir-putin-pribil-v

8. Why Putin had flown to Kazakhstan and what was achieved in talks with Tokayev. Zakon.kz, 09.11.2023. https://www.zakon.kz/stati/6413388-zachem-putin-priletal-v-kazakhstan-i-o-chem-udalos-dogovoritsya-s-tokaevym.html

9. Marat Shibutov: «USA says Russia is isolated, Kazakhstan says no». BIZNESS Online, 12.11.2023. https://www.business-gazeta.ru/article/613409

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Reports

Russia Kazakhstan: «resetting relations». New trends and tasks

photo: akorda.kz
15 2023

On the 9th of November this year the RF President Vladimir Putin paid an official visit to the Republic of Kazakhstan (RK). It was already the fifth personal meeting in 2023 between the Russian and Kazakh leaders which this time was held with special solemnity. On the level of symbols and protocols both parties demonstrated their well-disposed attitude to every detail starting from the keynote interviews of the two presidents on strategic partnership to the grand meeting ceremony. As Kassym-Jomart Tokayev underlined, the current visit of the Russian leader is symbolic and has great political and historic significance. In his opinion, Kazakhstan-Russia relationship tested by time will remain unshakeable and immune to any political environment. K.J. Tokayev believes that the future of the two countries will be «brilliant». In his turn, V. Putin called Kazakhstan «the closest ally of Russia».

What is hidden behind the festive faade of the recent meeting in Astana and why has this particular visit become so important to both parties?

Relieving mutual tension

On the eve of arrival in Astana Vladimir Putin gave an interview to the newspaper Kazakhstanskaya Pravda [1], while Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to the Izvestia newspaper. [2] The topics the leaders of the two countries raised obviously had certain things in common: they spoke about cooperation in the energy, economic, cultural spheres, as well as about the status of the Russian language in Kazakhstan. Criss-cross interviews of the Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Jomart Tokayev became a sort of diplomatic artillery preparation which not only set the tone for future talks, but also vividly demonstrate strategic importance of our relations. It will be recalled that 10 years ago an agreement was signed in Ekaterinburg between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan on good-neighborly relations and alliance in the 21st century. During this time great changes in the world politics took place, problem areas appeared in the earlier established integration associations and bilateral relations that should be calmly resolved on the highest level.

By now there are a number systemic threats and new challenges to the stability of relations between Moscow and Astana which were recently outlined in the expert report of the Caspian Institute of Strategic Studies «Russia and Kazakhstan: road map up to 2030». The report dwelled on the interconnectedness of our countries, their political interests, as well as the role of social-cultural ties and integration processes. It was noted that in addition to foreign policy and sanctions risks, the processes of changing generations of the power elites now underway, as well as a break in the political and expert communications pose a threat to the Kazakhstani-Russian relations. The core message of the CISS report consists in developing fresh approaches and the need for a new «reset» in order to bolster interaction of the RF and RK in modern conditions. The primary objective is a gradual transition from the current system of leader diplomacy to a more flexible and robust institutional system. [3]

It should be admitted that the CISS expert report came in time and triggered great interest in the Russian and Kazakhstani politicum. On the eve of Vladimir Putins visit to Astana Mikhail Rostovsky, a political analyst of the newspaper Moskovskij Komsomolets, published a striking article where he cited the details of the said report in detail. [4] Our bilateral relationship has come across an alarm situation when the political and business agenda is determined by the distorted media optics of a number of Russian mass media outlets and nationalistically-inclined public figures. A dangerous situation of «recency bias» arose which did not allow adequate assessment of the events and trends of the closest neighbor or ally. All this called for urgent steps towards each other necessary to relieve tension that has built up between Moscow and Astana. Time has come to pass over from the bravura marches in diplomacy and absurd accusations in the mass media to regular practical efforts based on political realism and economic pragmatism.

During the official ceremony in the Ak Orda presidential palace and judging by the composition of the Russian delegation, it became clear that the forthcoming understandings will have the nature of expected «reset». Even before the meeting with K.J. Tokayev it was announced about the forthcoming «substantial Russian-Kazakhstani negotiations». The former purely economic agenda of the visit focused on the session of the 19th forum of interregional cooperation between the RK and RF in Kostanay found itself in the background. For example, the time of participation of the Presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan at the forum session was about one hour, while bilateral negotiations, both in the restricted and expanded format, took almost five hours. From the information that was coming in, it followed that Moscow and Astana are negotiating no only on the closer cooperation in the oil-and-gas sector and agriculture, but also in scientific and technical, cultural and humanitarian spheres. Much attention was also paid to the military and technical cooperation and joint repulsion of threats. [5]

Documents signed

Based upon the results of Vladimir Putins official visit to Kazakhstan a number of agreements were signed:

1. A Joint Statement on the 10th anniversary of the Agreement between Russia and Kazakhstan on Good-Neighbourly Relations and Alliance in the 21st century by the President of the Russian Federation and the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

2. A Joint Action Plan between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2024-2026.

3. Memorandum of understanding and cooperation on construction projects for the Kokshetau Thermal Power Plant, the Semey Thermal Power Plant and the Ust-Kamenogorsk Thermal Power Plant (Republic of Kazakhstan) between the RF Ministry of Energy and the RK Ministry of Energy.

4. Action Plan for Development of Cooperation in Athletics and Sports between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2024-2026.

5. Joint Action Plan on Interaction between the Federal Customs Service of Russia and the State Revenue Committee of the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Kazakhstan with participation of representative offices of the customs services of the RF and RK for 2024-2025.

6. Memorandum of understanding and cooperation on labour inspections between the  Federal Service for Labour and Employment (Russian Federation) and the Committee of Labour and Social Protection of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Population of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

7. Agreement on information partnership between the Information Telegraph Agency of Russia (ITAR-TASS) and the TV and Radio Complex of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

From the Joint Statement by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Vladimir Putin: «The sides intend to uphold strict compliance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Organization, contribute to the strengthening of the UNO role in resolving the entire complex of issues related to maintaining international peace and security, responding to global challenges and threats. Undertake steps to form a more representative, democratic and fair multipolar world order based on equal partnership of states in the interests of providing modern, comprehensive and stable security. In line with the allied foreign and defense policy support international architecture of peace, equal and indivisible security, as well as each other standing against attempts to undermine domestic political stability». [6]

Expert assessments

Following the results of Vladimir Putins visit to Astana analysts and experts of both countries note the most important agreements and place main emphasis on the their practical significance. For example, Russian representatives pay attention to a higher level of bilateral economic cooperation. In the past three years turnover between the RF and RK has increased by more than 30% and this positive trend remains intact. Based on the results of 8 months of 2023, the volume of mutual trade amounted to 17 bn dollars which is also a record figure. 20 thousand Russian companies operate in Kazakhstan. Direct investments of Russia into the economy of the RK amount to 20 bn dollars (according to Russian estimates) or 17-18 bn dollars according to President Tokayev. The reciprocal volume of Kazakhstani investments into Russia is 6 bn dollars and this figure is growing constantly. [7] Industrial cooperation is developing dynamically. 143 projects were presented to the amount exceeding 33 bn dollars of which 140 projects are implemented in the territory of Kazakhstan.

Cooperation in the energy industry is promoted especially vigorously. Kazakhstani analyst Marat Shibutov draws attention to the memorandum of understanding and cooperation on the planned construction of thermal power plant in Kokshetau, Semey and Ust-Kamenogorsk. He referred to that as excellent news «because the thermal power plants in Kokshetau and Semey are 100% worn out, in Ust-Kamenogorsk it is well worn; besides, the plant in Kokshetau meets a mere 25% of the citys demand». Wear of the old Soviet infrastructure and a growth of accidents in the public utilities become an acute problem for Kazakhstan. «The past heating season showed a drastic level of wear of our infrastructure and the advanced projects on renewable sources of energy with which western partners come are actually unable make up for the shortfall of capacity», Kazakhstani analyst Daniyar Ashimbayev noted in turn. Now Russian companies come to this deep market. These have the necessary construction experience, necessary resources and personnel for modernization.

Understandings on Russian oil transit to China, as well as of Russian gas to Uzbekistan via the territory of Kazakhstan elevate energy cooperation on a whole new level. Kazakhstani political analyst Eduard Poletayev believes that it is now profitable for Moscow to redirect gas supplies to other countries because of sanctions imposed by the EU. Given relatively big export volumes of the Russian gas and not so big domestic requirements of the RK, long-term gas transit via the territory of Kazakhstan to China is possible. Important agreements reached on gas will enable Kazakhstan not only to expand gasification of its northern and eastern areas (on account of Russian supplies), but also to build up its own export and gas processing. For example, construction of a Kazakhstani-Russian butadiene production plant with capacity up to 340 thousand tons per year was launched with participation of the Tatneft company. Also, talks were completed on the construction of a joint venture to produce polyethylene.

Construction of a nuclear power plant (NPP) in Kazakhstan is also an object of close attention on the part of Russia as, by the way, of other countries, too. Given Kazakhstans uranium reserves and development of joint ventures in the nuclear industry, the new NPP is a strategically important issue for Moscow. However, at this point of time Astana will not choose just between Russia and France; Kazakhstans short list for construction of the NPP also includes companies from the USA, China and South Korea. «Why do all want to participate in the construction? Because it is a profitable project. The NPP will cost several dozen billion dollars. Second, it is a very prestigious project for any country and company», said Talgat Kaliyev, Director of the Institute of Applied Ethnopolitical Research. According to the expert Eduard Poletayev, ROSATOM has a good working experience on the world level, but the French company is not less competent in this matter. When Kazakhstan arrives at a final decision on the NPP construction during a national referendum, Astana will demand that the tender participants offer most favorable conditions. On the Russian side is a great experience in building NPPs abroad, energy standards similar to those of Kazakhstan. However, the Russian side should step up its business efforts in this area and prevent excessive complacency. [8]

Kazakhstan as a «window into Europe»

Analysts note that President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is still trying to balance within the framework of his multi-vector policy and the recent weeks have been very saturated in terms of international meetings. First Astana was visited by the French President Emmanuel Macron, then by Prime Minister of Hungary Victor Orbán. Immediately after that it became the venue of the summit of the Organization of Turkic States attended by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan and the other day a session of the Kazakhstan-USA enhanced strategic partnership took place. Despite public statements by the Kremlins press service to the effect that Vladimir Putins visit to Astana is not related to the growing interest of European countries to Kazakhstan, regional experts believe that Moscow nevertheless feels a certain threat. «Of course, Russia does feel competition. It is related to both the visits by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to the USA, Germany and to the visits by foreign leaders to Kazakhstan. Here there is a lot criticism against the RF because it had not always paid attention to Central Asia preferring to build relations with other players. But now it turned out that it is here that Russia has many friends», said political analyst Eduard Poletayev in interview to Zakon.kz.

Kazakhstani analyst Marat Shibutov in a big interview to the BIZNESS Online edition consistently develops a similar idea. «The USA keeps on saying that Russia is in isolation, but Kazakhstan shows by example that this is not the case one can be on good terms both with the EU and with the RF. In the long run it works for Russias authority», Shibutov indicated. He is certain that the «level of cooperation between Moscow and Astana will tend to grow». Geographic proximity and socio-cultural affinity, as well as growing mutual connections in trade, logistics and industry also work to this end. «For example, in 2022 from the import at 50 billion dollars 17.3 billion dollars fell on supplies from Russia. It is necessary to bear in mind that the dependence is mutual. As per the 2022 data, Kazakhstan is the biggest importer of Russian pharmaceutical products, electrical machines and equipment, locomotives and rolling stock, automobiles, furniture, tools», the analyst noted. This publication also quoted extensively excerpts from the CISSs expert report on Kazakhstan. Marat Shibutov agrees with one of the key conclusions of this report that a possible conflict on our borders may be fraught with big problems for Siberia and Russian oil-and-gas regions. [9]

Russian expert Alexander Karavayev notes that Astana chose the only correct option to position itself. Kazakhstan keeps close ties with Russia and at the same time is open to European technologies and Chinese investments into the sector of raw materials (uranium and rare earth metals). It is noteworthy that the integration format of EAEU now begins to «sparkle with new colors» since European companies are well aware that access to the deep Russian market is kept via Kazakhstan. Today trade via the RK makes it possible to make much profit, particularly with regard to the aggravated deficit created by the sanctions barriers. There is one more thing for the future, expert A. Karavayev said: when a phase of another thaw commences in the relations between Moscow and Europe, it will turn out that many western and domestic companies that had earlier hastily «moved away» from Russia comfortably settled down in another part of the EAEU and from there will stage their comeback to Russia. It is sufficient to look at the list of Franco-European corporations planning their activities in Kazakhstan: TotalEnergies, Orano, Air Liquide, Airbus, Saint-Gobain, Alstom, Lactalis, Danone. So, the outwardly paradoxical thesis on Kazakhstan as a new «window into Europe» gains a new deeper meaning.

New trends and tasks

The most important outcome of the Russian President Vladimir Putins visit to Kazakhstan is an obvious willingness of both sides to positively «reset» the bilateral relations. The meeting in Astana was supposed to iron out the accumulated misunderstandings and to impart the inter-state cooperation a systemic and multi-dimensional nature. As was earlier stated in the CISSs expert report «Russia and Kazakhstan: road map up to 2030», up till recently the political and media environment of the RF and RK featured a temptation of «simple solutions» resorting to ultra-patriotic and confrontational rhetoric instead of building reliable allied relationship. In this connection, conclusion of the agreement on information partnership between the ITAR-TASS Agency and the TV and Radio Complex of the President of the RK was conspicuous. According to the available information, it was also decided to institute the positions of media curators on the level of Presidential Executive Offices of the RF and RK. Such steps make it possible to reduce the risk of a spontaneous crisis in the Russian-Kazakhstani relations which, triggered by the media hysterics, might grow into something serious. Hopefully, from now on priority will be given to the coverage of various aspects of strategic alliance between Russia and Kazakhstan, as well as to the topic of Eurasian integration which virtually disappeared from the mass media.

In the long-term perspective one can observe Russias turn from the former inertial policy towards active steps for softly keeping Kazakhstan within the orbit of its influence for many strategic interests converge there. These are not just above-mentioned energy and transport; Kazakhstan is the most important element of Russian security, as well as a tangible factor of domestic political stability and even geoeconomic connectivity. One of the new factors of our mutual connectedness is the common food security. For example, Russia is a key supplier to Kazakhstan of such commodity groups as wheat (98% of import), barley (same quantity), poultry meat (80-90%), sugar (up to 70%), fermented-milk products (60-70%). It is also important to keep Kazakhstan in the zone of Russian information influence, Russian language and culture. Today 61 thousand Kazakhstani nationals study at the Russian higher educational institutions, 30.4 thousand of them at the expense of the Russian budget. This involves building an institutional basis to exert influence through the international organization of the Russian language, cultural interaction on the level of schools and universities.

Vladimir Putins latest visit should only be viewed as the beginning of a new stage in the Russian-Kazakhstani relations. There is no place for complacency and presumption that all the problems have been resolved after one successful trip. We have yet to create an ongoing strategic mechanism Russia-Kazakhstan for regular exchange of opinions on bilateral connections, regional and international issues.

It should be done in to order to switch over the Russian-Kazakhstani relations from the manual mode to an automatic one. To enhance the level of confidence and understanding between Moscow and Astana it is essential to extend cooperation between the Security Councils, defense departments and security services of the RF and RK. Regular consultations between the defense and security agencies, conduct of joint military practical conferences and anti-terrorist exercises will make it possible to work out common responses to many external threats. Joint regional Air Defense system should be a corner stone of our common security. Generally, close coordination of actions of Russia and Kazakhstan in the sphere of foreign policy, defense and intelligence will create a radically new collective security system in Northern Eurasia.

At this stage of Russian-Kazakhstani relations expert diplomacy should play a very big role. Our strategic alliance will be long-term and sustainable only if it is exercised simultaneously in several segments political, economic and social. The farther we advance towards integration in politics and economy, the more important will be a social component of convergence of our two countries. To impart a steady and systemic nature to the relations between Russia and Kazakhstan it is necessary to establish ongoing social institutions building up a dialogue between the intellectual elites and think tanks of our countries. Analysts on the one and on the other side are destined to find unconventional solutions to difficult issues for politicians. But it is impossible without regular meetings and, as a result, without debunking negative stereotypes and myths that got stuck in the heads. It is known from the experience of expert diplomacy that such a slow process of mutual adaptation and «time check» takes a year and a half or two years. We have yet to set up a high level expert group that could objectively report to the presidents of both countries on the status of affairs and problems in bilateral relations twice a year, on the eve of inter-regional forums of the RF and RK. Definitely, allied relationship of Russia and Kazakhstan has considerable potential for further evolution, development and strengthening, by, inter alia, overcoming jointly accumulated problems and external challenges.

1. Interview to the Kazakhstanskaya Pravda newspaper. President of Russia official site, 08.11.2023. http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/72682

2. «Relations between Kazakhstan and Russia have the rich past and brilliant future». Izvestia, 08.11.2023. https://iz.ru/1601418/valentin-loginov/otnosheniia-mezhdu-kazakhstanom-i-rossiei-imeiut-bogatoe-proshloe-i-blestiashchee-budushchee

3. Russia and Kazakhstan: road map up to 2030. Caspian Institute of Strategic Studies, 12.10.2023. https://caspian.institute/product/sektor-kazahstana-kisi/rossiya-i-kazahstan-dorozhnaya-karta-do-2030-goda-38498.shtml

4. Putins tough trip: Vladimir Putins negotiations in Kazakhstan are doomed to be difficult. Moskovskij Komsomolets, 08.11.2023. https://www.mk.ru/politics/2023/11/08/trudnyy-voyazh-putina-peregovory-vvp-v-kazakhstane-obrecheny-byt-neprostymi.html

5. Putin restarts connections with Kazakhstan targeted by the West. URA.ru, 09.11.2023. https://ura.news/articles/1036287685

6. A Joint Statement on the 10th anniversary of the Agreement between Russia and Kazakhstan on Good-Neighbourly Relations and Alliance in the 21st century by the President of the Russian Federation and the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. President of Russia official site, 09.11.2023. http://www.kremlin.ru/supplement/6045

7. In Kazakhstan negotiations were held between Kassym Jomart Tokayev and Vladimir Putin. Vedomosti, 09.11.2023. https://www.vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2023/11/09/1004950-vladimir-putin-pribil-v

8. Why Putin had flown to Kazakhstan and what was achieved in talks with Tokayev. Zakon.kz, 09.11.2023. https://www.zakon.kz/stati/6413388-zachem-putin-priletal-v-kazakhstan-i-o-chem-udalos-dogovoritsya-s-tokaevym.html

9. Marat Shibutov: «USA says Russia is isolated, Kazakhstan says no». BIZNESS Online, 12.11.2023. https://www.business-gazeta.ru/article/613409