Why Karim Masimov Went to the USА

On April 26, 2019, Chief of Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee Karim Masimov met with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Washington. This was reported in a short (eight-lines long) announcement made by Spokesperson for the US Department of State Ms. Ortagus.

Had it not been for Radio Azattyk that published an article called “The Department of State: Pompeo and Masimov discuss the presidential elections in Kazakhstan and the crisis in Xinjiang”, Karim Masimov’s oversees visit would have remained secret for most Kazakhstanis since neither Akorda and the NSC not the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not bother to inform the public about it, even post factum.

The reasons why the details of the negotiations between Karim Masimov and Michael Pompeo have been “leaked” to the American press are obvious. First, the White House is looking for an ally against both Moscow and Beijing in Akorda. Second, Washington has chosen to “troll” (colloquially speaking) both capitals with its activities in the region located between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.

To confirm this, let us quote the Radio Azattyk material (text in bold by kz.expert).

“As they say in the press-release, Pompeo and “Kazakhstani Presidential Special Envoy” Karim Masimov have discussed “the historic presidential transition” and the upcoming June presidential elections in Kazakhstan as well as “bilateral cooperation on counterterrorism”.

As stated by Morgan Ortagus, the US Secretary of State “has welcomed peace in Afghanistan” and “raised the ongoing human rights crisis in Western China, many of the victims of whom are ethnic Kazakhs living in Xinjiang”. The press-release states that Pompeo has expressed “support for those affected” by this crisis”.

Since the US is one of the countries that have a vital importance for Kazakhstan, then sending the Kazakhstani Presidential Special Envoy to Washington is quite logical. Someone has to inform the US authorities on the reasons and the mechanisms of Nursultan Nazarbayev’s resignation from the presidential post, the new configuration of the Kazakh power/state mechanism as well as becalm the White House in re preserving the country’s previous foreign policy and to answer some questions.

However, the choice of the Chief of the National Security Committee as the Presidential Special Envoy seems illogical. This agency is primarily responsible for sustaining the internal political stability as well as reacting against foreign intelligence and Kazakh dissidents. Therefore, the very fact that it was Karim Masimov who went to the US indicates that Nursultan Nazarbayev had serious reasons for that.

Let us try and “work them out”.

As part of its multi-vector policy, Kazakhstan is critically dependent on the actions of the three countries: Russia, China and the USA. Therefore, Akorda needs to maintain not only the official but the unofficial contacts with them, and at as high a level as possible. Not surprisingly, after Nursultan Nazarbayev’s resignation, his successor Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev’s first official visit was to Moscow where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and had the closed and open negotiations with him.  

As for China, the Leader of the Nation himself went there on the same mission (to inform the Chinese authorities on the reasons and the mechanisms of Nursultan Nazarbayev’s resignation from the presidential post, the new configuration of the Kazakh power/state mechanism as well as becalm Beijing in re preserving the country’s previous foreign policy and to answer some questions). 

Finally, Karim Masimov was chosen to go overseas, to the United States.

It is easy to see certain logic, both personal and political, in Nursultan Nazarbayev’s decision.

Let us start by saying that Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev was unable to go to Washington due to the fact that he has to participate in the presidential campaign, that is to go around to country, say the right words and demonstrate to his fellow citizens, in every way possible, that he is the Leader of the Nation’s loyal pupil and successor capable of giving the people a better life than that of today.

The three other officials that could have been sent overseas instead of Nursultan Nazarbayev and Tokayev would have completed this mission only nominally. We are talking about Prime Minister Askar Mamin, Secretary of State Marat Tazhin and Minister of Foreign Affairs Beybut Atamkulov. Besides, the first is now preoccupied with the economic everyday routine and the second – with the internal policy routine. As for the third, due to the little influence he has in Akorda (the fact that is probably known in the US Department of State), he would not have been received as a serious negotiator by the White House.

In contrast, Karim Masimov is well-known in the US (albeit among a narrow circle of people) since, in the past, he had visited this country repeatedly as Nursultan Nazarbayev’s special representative responsible for settling the Kazakhgate issue.

Another Masimov’s indisputable comparative advantage is the fact that he can speak English freely which is important if we are to assume that, in the course of his meeting with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, they had discussed some issues that were not mentioned in the official press-release. For instance, not imposing (lifting) the sanctions against Nursultan Nazarbayev and his family members as well as the immunity of his assets and properties.

If these issues had really been discussed, then Nursultan Nazarbayev’s choice of Karim Masimov who, in the Kazakh elite, is considered second to the Leader of the Nation in terms of his influence and who clearly enjoys the First President’s trust (the fact well-known in the US Department of State) is quite justified. It is too bad though that the details of the conversation with Michael Pompeo will not be known for quite some time as well what they have finally agreed upon and at whose expense.


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