By Natalia Konarzewska
March 22, 2019, the CACI Analyst
In February 2019, Kazakhstan saw a wave of protests triggered by various social and economic grievances. Rallies burst through the country in multiple locations, indicating that popular distress is strong and unlikely to fade soon. In an attempt to placate social discontent, President Nursultan Nazarbayev fired the government, citing its inability to improve living standards and announced his own plan to provide social relief for the families. Kazakhstan’s hydrocarbon-dependent economy is struggling to recover after the 2014 plunge in oil prices and the spillover effects of Western sanctions against its largest trade partner Russia. On March 19, president Nazarbayev announced his immediate resignation after ruling Kazakhstan for thirty years.
Regional Cooperation in Central Asia: Relevance of Foreign Models
A renewed spirit of regionalism is emerging in Central Asia, manifested most overtly in a summit of Central Asian leaders in Astana in March 2018, and the passage of a United Nations General Assembly resolution on the Central Asian region in June of the same year. This has important implications for the region, and will inevitably lead to efforts to institutionalize regional cooperation. As Central Asians ponder how to anchor regionalism in institutions, the experiences of countries as diverse as the Nordic countries, South America, and Southeast Asia may all be relevant. After all, these and other world regions offer a rich history of efforts to develop regional cooperation. They have achieved successes, endured failures, and grappled with challenges that are not dissimilar from those faced by Central Asian leaders today.
Questions range from the technical to the political. How should the freedom of movement of people, labor issues, or trade facilitation be handled? How is regional cooperation affected by the fact that regional countries do not share the same patterns of membership in international organizations? How deeply institutionalized should regional structures be? How do they relate to outside powers, particularly large ones and potential hegemons? These questions are the focus of the following sections.
By Tristan Kenderdine
January 23, 2019, the CACI Analyst
The Ob’-Irtysh is the sixth largest river in the world by drainage area and sixth longest in the world at 5,410 kilometers. It is a broad and deep river, easily navigable by river barge, and also by sea-going vessels deep into the Eurasian continent. Geographically, this river system connects Kazakhstan to the Arctic Ocean, and if sufficient river maritime infrastructure were present then Kazakhstan could avoid the endogenous trade tariff that comes with being landlocked. This has massive implications for Kazakhstan’s potential trade, industry, and wider economic development.
By Rafis Abazov
October 16, 2018, the CACI Analyst
During the Astana Financial Days event in July 2018, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan announced and personally endorsed the opening of the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC). He envisions that the AIFC will provide financial services “not only for Kazakhstan, but also for the whole world.” If successful, the AIFC can contribute to diversifying the financial resources for Kazakhstan’s national and international projects. Through its proper implementation, the government of Kazakhstan can develop a tool for improving collaboration with neighboring countries in Central Asia in the industrial, agricultural and tourism sectors, making the Central Asian section of the Silk Road more attractive for business and financial deals. In addition, the Center can become a real financial hub not only for Kazakhstan and Central Asia but also for the wider Eurasia region if it is capable of attracting enough financial resources from large international players.
By Ilgar Gurbanov
October 25, 2018, the CACI Analyst
On August 12, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Iran, and Turkmenistan signed the Convention on the Caspian Sea’s Legal Status in Astana. The Convention’s provision endorsing the construction of a subsea pipeline raised optimism regarding the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP) project, which has been stalled due to the Caspian’s uncertain status. Discussions on the TCGP have been ongoing since the 1990s, envisaging the export of 30 billion cubic meters/year (bcm/y) of Turkmen gas to Europe across the Caspian by integrating with the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC).
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.