The Airbus Scandal and the Risks for Akorda

The people in Kazakhstan have partially forgotten about the international scandal around the Airbus company and how it is tied to the high-rank Kazakh officials. However, the scandal may soon be reanimated, this time, by the US authorities.

By the looks of it, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan and Minister of the Defense and Aerospace Industry Askar Zhumagaliyev will soon be facing big problems related to the development of the Earth remote sensing space system.

Here is a note published on the website of ‘NC Kazakhstan Gharysh Sapary’.

“The Earth Remote Sensing Space System of the Republic of Kazakhstan (ERS SS RK) has been in operation from 2015. ERS SS includes two spacecrafts (SC): KazEOSat-1 and KazEOSat-2 (high and medium spatial resolution), and a ground special-purpose complex for the remote sensing of the Earth.

The ground special-purpose complex is designed for receiving, processing and distributing the space images as well as for setting up the tasks of the SC flight missions according to the customers’ requests related to the surveying of the surface of the Earth. 

ERS SS RK is designed to ensure the independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan in conducting the efficient monitoring of the territory of the country as well as receiving the ERS data for solving the problems of the economy, defense capabilities and national security of the Republic of Kazakhstan.    

The Project is being implemented together with the leading European company, Airbus Defense and Space Company.

ERS SS includes two optic-electronic spacecrafts (SC): high spatial resolution (1m) KazEOSat-1, medium spatial resolution (6,5 m) KazEOSat-2, a ground control complex for satellites and a ground specific-purpose complex for accepting, processing and distributing the ERS data for end users”.    

Now, according to our insiders, Kazakhstan is considering increasing the ERS satellite constellation by 10 items; with that, the total cost of the project is estimated at US $1.5 bln. So, now, in the quiet of the governmental offices, a tough fighting for this contract is going on. This fighting includes, among its participants, the American suppliers of the software for the ERS satellites. They are interested not only in the money but in gaining access to a new market as well.

The Russian authorities oppose the American participation. Amid the growing confrontation with the US, they fear that the information gathered from the Kazakh ERS system will end up in the hands of the American intelligence service.

According to the insiders, the scandal surrounding Airbus has become one of the main arguments of the potential American subcontractors.

The thing is that, if the Kazakh authorities will not accommodate the requests of the USA, the latter will start its own investigation of the case which they have every right to do since the transfers of the money used, among other things, for bribing the Kazakh officials were made in the US dollars. As a result, the said officials may end up among those against whom they will enforce the so-called “Magnitsky Act” and the sanctions akin to those that are being actively imposed against the Russian statesmen and business leaders.

In our opinion, the precariousness of Askar Zhumagaliyev’s position is being enhanced by the fact that, wishing or not, he will be among the very first Kazakh state officials upon whom such sanctions will be imposed, but, with that, he does not have at his disposal the instruments for deconflicting the situation.

In theory, of course, it is possible that Akorda will budge and the American sub-contractors get what they desire but, for this to happen, it is necessary for Nursultan Nazarbayev to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin that the new Kazakh ERS satellites equipped with the American software do not pose a threat for Russia.


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