On April 16, 2019, newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan William Moser held his first meeting with journalists. In the course of the meeting, Washington’s new envoy had commented on the political processes in the country, skeptically assessed the idea of introducing the visa-free regime between the countries and underscored that the U.S. had no intention to manipulate or control the independent Kazakhstan.
In our opinion, Mr. Moser’s statement does not go against his main task — to promote, defend and advocate the interests of his country always, everywhere and at every opportunity. The question how this task will be carried out.
On one hand, Kazakhstan and the Central Asian region have not been a U.S. priority in the past decades regardless of who was in charge, a Democrat or a Republican.
On the other hand, during recent years, the world has undergone the serious changes, and they have been to the worse. And given the open military/political confrontation with Russia and the trade/economic confrontation with China, the U.S. is simply bound to start paying more attention to Kazakhstan that is situated between these countries and has extended common borders with them. Such is the logic of any geopolitical conflict.
We at kz.expert believe that the White House must strive to intensify its influence on the region in general and on Kazakhstan in particular in order to turn the territory unifying its two main geopolitical opponents into a zone that will separate them. Therefore, Akorda will invariably find itself under the pressure from the U.S. authorities (albeit a seemingly soft one).
So far, it is hard to say what tactical goals the U.S. State Department will set or has already set before the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan and William Moser personally, but these goals will undoubtedly include the establishment of personal ties with the second President of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the members of his Administration, the maintaining of good relationships between the states and… the decreasing of Russia’s and China’s presence in Kazakhstan.
Indirectly, the fact that the decision on increasing the U.S. activities in Kazakhstan has already been made can be confirmed by the two news announced by Mr. Moser at the unofficial April 16 meeting with journalists: one was on the plans to build a new consulate building in Almaty and another was on increasing the number of the Embassy personnel.
Obviously, if, for almost three decades, the U.S. State Department had not been too concerned about the seismic stability of its two buildings in Almaty, then, when making the rather costly decision to build a new one, it was motivated by additional reasons. One of such reasons was vocalized by the U.S. Ambassador — the number of the Embassy employees already constitutes about 800 people 80% of whom are Kazakh citizens.
We do not have the data on the Embassy personnel increase in recent years but will remark that, in Russia, that is much more important to the U.S. than Kazakhstan, the U.S. Embassy and the three consulates employed about 1200 people not so long ago. In other words, the number of the people working for the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan is too excessive. The question is why.
There could be several reasons for that.
It is possible that the U.S. State Department has decided to tamp down its «losses» from the involuntary decrease of the U.S. Embassy personnel number in Russia via increasing it in Kazakhstan. For Kazakhstan is, de-facto, located in the Russian-speaking information space, the countries exist on the visa-free basis and there is no customs control which allows the U.S. authorities to solve multiple tasks of the diplomatic and non-diplomatic nature.
The latter may include, among other things, intelligence operations such as providing agents with money and equipment, keeping in touch with those who would want to escape the close attention of the Russian secret service, preparing the U.S. State Department employees for working in Russia and in the agency’s central office that deals with the Russia-related issues.
Apart from that, there is the intensifying of the contacts with those non-governmental organizations and individual citizens that can be engaged in the U.S. operations especially considering that the anti-Russian and anti-Chinese sentiment in Kazakhstan is growing.
Note that the increase of the number of U.S. Embassy employees in Kazakhstan has not escaped Russia’s attention. So far, the Kremlin has not responded to it, but a response will certainly happen. Since, in Kazakhstan, the internal political balance of power is changing, there is likelihood that the second President will not be able to pursue the multi-vector policy as effectively as his predecessor. Correspondingly, the Kremlin will have to resist the U.S.’ attempts to increase its presence in Kazakhstan and to turn it into an instrument for pressurizing China and Russia.
Amid all this, one of the weakest spots in the authoritarian political system have been, are and will be the country’s leaders. Currently represented by Nursultan Nazarbayev and Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev.
In this regard, the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan is more vulnerable as far as the relationships with the U.S. are concerned: he has just barely fixed the Kazakhgate issue and it is far from certain that it will not be revived again.
As for the second President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (who obtained his education in Moscow where his first family is residing at present), he perhaps should be more afraid of Russia: Tokayev’s persona is well-known at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so the Russians may try to use his weaknesses to their advantage.
There is little chance that Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev will be able to withstand the harsh pressure since, in such situations, he usually reels and surrenders. To prove it, we will just recall his famous «prolonged stay» in Anatoly Chubays’ outer office.