On Rakishev and the Clintons

On June 19, 2021, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty released a material that, owing to its title alone, should attract attention of the Kazakh audience. We are talking about the article called «Ablyazov, Nazarbayeva and the Fear of «the Chinese Expansion».

We are not going to calculate how many publications directed, overtly or covertly, against Akorda and the Library, Nursultan Nazarbayev and his closest relatives and allies, the entire Kazakh «super-presidential» vertical and the authoritarian political practices have been released since the start of the year. But there is quite a few of them. 

And even though the website of the aforementioned media resource states that it is «independent from any government, political party, opposition group, émigré a organisation, commercial or other special-interest organisation or religious body», let us be sceptical of that: we have been reading the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty materials for almost three decades now, we are following this media closely and registering how the editorial policy is changing. 

Now then, in the course of the past several years, its editorial policy has made a hard turn; it looks like Washington’s policy regarding Kazakhstan is changing. And quite radically so.

In view of this, the question arises — what can Akorda and the Library set against this development? In our opinion, almost nothing. There can be no talk about Kazakhstan imposing economic and political sanctions against the United States. The Kazakh authorities would never risk taking such step, even under a strong pressure from Russia and China.

The same is true for restricting the activities of the U.S. embassy in Kazakhstan, for instance, reducing the number of its staff or operations, imposing restrictions on investments from the U.S. or on the outflow of returns to the said country.

Under these conditions, Akorda and the Library may only try and take a stand against Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty but even this will not be effective. Why? Because it would be nonsensical to try and launch the Kazakh media broadcasting on the U.S. territory especially given that the Russian state media are already doing it vigorously and that the Kazakh-speaking audience in the U.S. is much smaller than the Russian-speaking one. Of course, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan may try and protest against individual publications but it isn’t going to make any difference.

Nonetheless, Akorda and the Library do have an instrument that has already been employed before (we cannot say how effectively though).

We are talking about the direct unofficial contacts with the U.S. politicians and statesmen for the purpose of lobbying the interests of not only the people engaged in such contacts but of the Kazakh authorities as well.

Case in point — famous Kazakh entrepreneur Kenes Rakishev and his wife Asel Tasmagambetova.

Why have we chosen them as an example? The thing is that Mr. Rakishev is one of the major figures in the Kazakh business. And not only because he holds the 9th and the 6th positions on the Forbes.kz list of the richest and the most influential people in the country. But also due to the fact that he has always been quite active in the Kazakh media space (albeit right now he is more visible in Russia than in Kazakhstan).

Apart from that, it is he who controls BTA Bank JSC now and is directly linked to the shadowy business of cleaning BTA’s and Kazkommertsbank’s balance-sheets off the non-performing loans before Kazkommertsbank was gifted by the Kazakh state to the Halyk Bank of Kazakhstan, in other words, to Timur and Dinara Kulibayevs, Nursultan Nazarbayev’s son-in-law and daughter. 

The correspondence leaked on the Internet several years ago (we are talking about the body of documents known as kazaword — learn more about it here — texts available in Russian) shows that, prior to 2014 or perhaps even later, Kenes Rakishev and Asel Tasmagambetova had been in direct contact with Hillary Clinton and her aides.

This contact was part of the Clinton Global Initiative project. The website of the organisation states that it raises money to implement solutions to the most pressing global challenges. However, we have been unable to find a list of the members who, by the looks of it, are paying even greater sums of money for their membership.

Now then, prior to 2014, Kenes Rakishev and Asel Tasmagambetova were esteemed members of CGI. To confirm this, let us present here two emails sent to them from the USA. 

In the first email dated March 1, 2013, the daughter and the son-in-law of Imangali Tasmagambetov are invited to participate in the meetings on behalf of President Clinton. The email informs on when and where these meetings will take place.

The content of the second email dated January 16, 2014, is the same but, this time, the invitation is sent on behalf of President Clinton and Secretary of Ctate Clinton (you will recall that, by that time, both had already resigned).

Of course, one should not automatically assume that, because of their CGI memerbship, Kenes Rakishev and Asel Tasmagambetova were involved in some illegal activities (just like one should not automatically assume that about other Kazakhs who are members of the same kind of organisations).

However, the very fact that such unofficial communication channels between the members of the Kazakh ruling elite and the representatives of the U.S. ruling elite exist (in the case of Kenes Rakishev, not only of the U.S. ruling elite) is worthy of attention and must be taken into consideration when forecasting further development of Kazakhstan’s relationships with the USA and other Western countries.


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