Tokayev's visit to Russia to confirm Kazakhstan's stable policy

Victoria Panfilova, columnist of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, specially for Vestnik Kavkaza
Tokayev's visit to Russia to confirm Kazakhstan's stable policy

Today, Moscow will host talks between the leaders of Russia and Kazakhstan. Russia will be the first country to be visited by new Kazakh President Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev. It is important for the Kremlin to understand if he plans to follow the agreements reached earlier.

It's been only two weeks since Tokayev was appointed president of Kazakhstan. The leader of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, resigned on March 19, and already on March 20, Tokayev was sworn in. He began his presidency with personnel changes in the administration, "acquaintance with the country' in a new capacity, and even managed to attend a Kazakh-Russia football match in Nur-Sultan (Astana). And now a visit to Russia. On the eve, in an interview with local media, Tokayev noted that Kazakhstan will continue a multi-vector policy and will develop cooperation with Russia, China, the EU, the U.S., its Central Asian neighbors and the Islamic world. He also stressed that integration processes have began in Kazakhstan after gaining independence. "This tradition remains unchanged; our policy does not change. The multi-vector strategy will remain a priority for Kazakh diplomacy," Tokayev said in his first interview in a new position to the Kazakh newspapers.

According to him, "a multi-vector foreign policy approach, chosen by first president of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, helped the country to avoid participation in interstate and regional conflicts." "Thanks to this policy, the world recognized Kazakhstan as a peacekeeping state. Today, the peacekeeping mission is a priority of the country's foreign policy. Kazakhstan is a peace platform in Asia," the president said.

The Deputy Director of Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Sanat Kushkumbayev, believes that multi-vector diplomacy is the tool and strategy chosen by Kazakhstan at the dawn of independence. In his opinion, this strategy has certain costs, but its benefits are much greater. For Kazakhstan and countries comparable in potential with it (for example, Central Asian neighbors), probably there will not be a better strategy, considering all geopolitical processes and the geo-economic environment. These are Russia and China, the Muslim world, and the United States, which seem to be far beyond the ocean, but at the same time, given the global weight, are in fact a neighbor for all countries. Therefore, it is clear that adhering to this strategy for Kazakhstan is the best and compromise way of development. Multi-vector diplomacy rejects such a classic approach in geopolitics as a "zero-sum game." Kazakhstan has always adhered to the win-win policy. This quality has secured a proper reputation for Kazakhstan. Now Kazakhstan is a consistent, predictable partner in the international arena, even if we talk about countries that are in conflict or in confrontation. Kazakhstan is not the object of these contradictions. "Our strategy is not supporting an 'either-or' approach. Only 'win-win'. Despite the fact that a number of our key partners are in difficult relations with each other, whether these are the West or Russia, or the U.S. and China, we have always managed to find a compromise. I think that this line will be preserved during Tokayev's presidency," Sanat Kushkumbayev noted.

Experts note that Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev's first steps as president were quite decisive and refute the thesis that he is not an independent political figure, but a "transit" president, whose role is limited to transferring power to a certain successor. Tokayev conducted personnel changes in the presidential administration, and in addition to the head of the administration and his first deputy, the head of the presidential office and two assistants in foreign policy and economic issues were appointed. After that, the president said it was inappropriate to spend state budget funds on pompous events, which have been abundant in the past decade. Tokayev’s statement that the quality of the work of major officials will be judged by the results of their activities is also indicative. In addition, the president unexpectedly expressed his opinion on introducing trilingualism in the republic: "This is a very complex and important issue. My position: first, there must be Kazakh language and Russian language. They are very important for our children. And only then teach English."

And on the eve of his visit to Moscow, Tokayev clarified details of the Kazakh foreign policy. Therefore, as head of the Center for Central Asia and Caucasus Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences Stanislav Pritchin told Vestnik Kavkaza, we should not expect a serious change in the Kazakh foreign policy in the next year or two. "First, the current president Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev is not an elected president, and if he intends to run in the next election, he will be interested in supporting all the most important partners. Therefore, the current foreign policy for close strategic cooperation with Russia, close economic cooperation and political dialogue with China, economic and political cooperation with Western countries will continue," the expert noted. The second important aspect, according to Pritchin, is that Tokayev, by virtue of his career and rich work experience in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic, representing Kazakhstan in international organizations, is one of the founders of the current foreign policy model. "This is another argument that does not allow us to expect fundamental changes in Kazakhstan’s diplomacy. But at the same time, there can be some new tactical moments. Due to personal preferences and views of the new Kazakh leader," Pritchin noted.

Doctor of Political Sciences, Director of the East-West International Center for Geopolitical Forecasting Karlygash Nugmanova believes that Russia will remain the main partner in the configuration of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy. "Only together these two neighboring countries may become a big player in the international arena," Nugmanova told Vestnik Kavkaza. According to the expert, Tokayev will continue diplomatic relations between Russia and Kazakhstan, according to the Declaration on Eternal Friendship and Alliance signed in 1998, and the Treaty on Good-Neighbourliness and Alliance in the 21st Century, signed in 2013.

"I believe that the agenda of the meeting of the two presidents will include preparations for the meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, which will be held in late May in Astana. It will coincide with two anniversaries - the 5th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union and the 25th anniversary of the expression of this idea of an economic union. In addition to the signing of a number of bilateral documents, they will discuss issues on the main trends in the further development of political relations, economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation, topical regional and international issues, as well as problems of partnership in the CSTO and the EEU," Nugmanova noted.