Kazakhstan’s Multi-vector Foreign Policy: Diminishing Returns in an Era of Great Power “Pivots”?


Since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia in 2011, the other most consequential powers—China, Russia, India, and Japan—have constructed their own versions of the “pivot.” Each ultimately seeks to make itself central to the reordering of strategic and economic power in Asia in the twenty-first century. China’s rise has been the driver of this reordering and is the common denominator of these pivots. This is no less true for less powerful states in Asia. Kazakhstan has from its birth as an independent state been compelled to pursue a foreign policy characterized by constant rebalancing between traditional ties to Russia and the gravitational pull of the rising economic and strategic weight of China in Central Asia.

The Kazakh government responded by leveraging its geopolitical position as both an organizing principle for its foreign policy and a potent domestic political symbol of the independent Kazakhstan that it sought to build. President Nazarbayev has often explicitly defined his country as a “Eurasian” nation straddling East and West with the implication that it is uniquely positioned to be a “bridge” between Europe and Asia. This has been at the root of the regime’s construction of a multi-vector foreign policy that, in Nazarbayev’s words, seeks “mutually advantageous” and “good neighborly relations of confidence on the whole of the Eurasian continent.” It is concerned with ensuring Kazakhstan’s independence and sovereignty by offsetting traditional Russian hegemony through the diversification of political and economic ties with other major power centers—China, the United States and the European Union.

This article argues that such a strategy promises to generate diminishing returns in the context of the US, Chinese, and Russian pivots to Asia. The US pivot, focused on the Asia-Pacific, has, in effect, signalled a decline of interest in Central Asia, leaving the region open to the reinvigorated designs of Moscow and Beijing. This carries with it challenges for Kazakhstan, particularly in light of recent Russian belligerence in Ukraine, Chinese ambitions for a sinocentric “Silk Road Economic Belt,” and concerns surrounding the longevity of Nazarbayev’s grip on power. Kazakhstan’s “multi-vectorism” is in danger of becoming irrelevant in a strategic environment of only two realistic vectors—alignment with Moscow or Beijing. Such concerns are linked to the political legitimacy of the ruling regime, which has, to a significant extent, rested on international recognition of Kazakhstan as a respected actor in international affairs. The potential dominance of the Eurasian geopolitical environment by Russia and/or China, thus, not only threatens to constrain Astana’s foreign policy choices but to also undermine the stability of Nazarbayev’s regime.

In this context, Astana’s foreign policy can be best understood through the lens of neoclassical realism as it not only emphasizes structural factors (neorealism) but also domestic-level variables in shaping foreign policy. Neoclassical realism suggests that key domestic level variables such as regime-type or intra-elite politics are important in influencing how state-elites respond to the constraints and incentives for foreign policy action in conditions of international anarchy. It argues that “the scope and ambition of a country’s foreign policy is driven first and foremost by its place in the international system and specifically by its relative material power capabilities,” but “the impact of such power capabilities on foreign policy is indirect and complex, because systemic pressures must be translated through intervening variables at the unit level.”1 In the Kazakh case, the predominant concern of balancing Russian and Chinese is refracted through the core domestic-level concern of regime survival and legitimation.

Kazakhstan’s Multi-vector Diplomacy in Theory: Foreign Policy and Regime Legitimation

Of the Central Asian states, Kazakhstan has, arguably, been the most successful in crafting a foreign policy that has ensured security and contributed to the legitimacy of its authoritarian government—the result of manipulating Central Asia’s strategic environment, characterized by the predominance of three, often competing, powers: Russia, China, and the United States. This environment has been conducive for foreign policy, enabling Astana to triangulate to its benefit.2 Neo-realist international relations theory would suggest that a secondary state, faced with such great power interlocutors, would adopt strategies of balancing or bandwagoning—opposite behavior prompted by the desire for security. Randall Schweller’s position is that they are, in fact, motivated by fundamentally different goals—balancing motivated by “self-preservation and the protection of values already possessed” and bandwagoning as “self-extension to obtain values coveted.” In this interpretation, the presence of a significant external threat is required for effective balancing but not for band-wagoning. Schweller argues, “positive sanctions are the most effective means to induce bandwagoning behavior”; external threats explain balancing behavior.3

Secondary state responses to great or rising powers are not necessarily limited to such pure balancing or bandwagoning strategies. Many states have responded to China’s growing power by adopting a variety of strategies from “soft balancing,” to “accommodation,” to “hedging.”4 Drawing on neo-classical realist insights, some analysts have drawn attention to domestic-level variables in explaining secondary state behavior. Cheng-Chwee Kuik has argued that political elites in secondary states have responded to great and rising powers “by an internal process of regime legitimation in which the ruling elite evaluate—and then utilize—the opportunities and challenges of the rising power for their ultimate goal of consolidating their legitimacy at home.”5 How political elites perceive the threat or opportunity emerges as a crucial factor in explaining their behavior. Ultimately, “what states want,” as David Kang has argued, “is more important than how powerful they are.”6

The Kazakhstan political elite’s perception of great and rising powers has been shaped by four major factors: the country’s geopolitical position, natural resource endowment, ethnic demography, and regime type. Its position at the center of the Eurasian continent has conditioned its foreign policy choices.7 Landlocked and sharing extensive borders with both Russia and China, it viewed establishing relations with regional and global partners as essential for development. This desire to overcome the constraints of its geopolitical position was reinforced by the Kazakh economy’s reliance on natural resource exports, particularly oil and natural gas. For Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s “lack of direct outlet to the open seas and communicative resources” required that it develop cooperative relations with contiguous states, notably Russia and China, “which, for us, are the gates to world lines of communication.”8 For an economy in which oil accounts for 70 percent of total exports and delivers up to 40 percent of government revenue, diversifying access to markets is an abiding concern.9

Kazakhstan had its independence thrust upon it in December 1991, and the Soviet-era political elite led by Nazarbayev had little nationalist legitimacy with which to undergird its rule.10 Nazarbayev remained a supporter of a reformed Soviet Union even after the failed anti-Gorbachev coup of August 1991, concerned over the ethnic demography of the new state that saw non-Kazakhs outnumber Kazakhs.11 A substantial ethnic Russian population concentrated in the north of the country, contiguous with the new Russian Federation and Kazakhstan’s major industrial centers, also raised concerns about Russian irredentism. The new state was also confronted with unresolved territorial disputes on its 1,533 kilometer frontier with China.

Finally, the nature of the authoritarian regime constructed by Nazarbayev since 1991 has significantly shaped the modality of the country’s foreign policy. Freedom House’s 2014 “Nations in Transit” report ranked Kazakhstan as “Not Free” and 6.61 on its “Democracy Score,” describing its system of governance as “hyper-centralized,” characterized by “widespread patronage” emanating from the president, his family, and close supporters, and marginalizing institutions outside of the presidency.12 There is also a consensus that the regime is not only authoritarian but also neo-patrimonial in nature. Power and authority are derived not only from “traditional” informal networks formed along kinship lines but also from more “rationally” derived networks based on economic and/or bureaucratic interests rather than from the outcomes of electoral processes.13

In Kazakhstan the political elite consists of several concentric circles, including the president, his family, and a small group of oligarchs and technocrats, formed on the basis of shared familial or clan links and/or origins in the Soviet-era bureaucracy or security services.14 Neo-patrimonialism blurs the line between public and private interests with senior members of the political elite utilizing their positions to pursue economic gains primarily through the country’s oil and gas industries.15 The regime enhances its survival by enabling Nazarbayev to reward allies with economic gains and, more recently, by increasing public spending on education, pensions, and infrastructure.16 The neo-patrimonial nature of the regime profoundly affects the rhetoric and goals of Astana’s foreign policy.17 Edward Schatz and Sally N. Cummings have persuasively argued the elite has used foreign policy to legitimate its rule. Lacking “a single, reliable frame based on domestic aspects of legitimacy,” it turned abroad to construct an image of a state elite that was “engaged internationally and therefore deserving of support domestically,” with foreign policy actions “that were high profile, relatively low cost, and rife with symbolic importance.”18 Astana’s multi-vector foreign policy focused, particularly in the 1990s, on the integration of “a reconstructed Kazakhstani identity—pacified, economically liberal and internationalist—” with “regional and multilateral institutions and identities” to assuage the country’s ethnic Russians, maintain a necessary and “special” relationship with Moscow, and “anchor” sovereignty vis-à-vis Russia and China.19

Kazakhstan’s Multi-vector Foreign Policy in Practice: “Opportunistic Multi-
alignment” under “Multi-levelled” Hegemony

Central to Kazakhstan’s multi-vector policy has been the elite’s desire to balance through activist diplomacy the perceived need for political and economic integration with the former Soviet space with the desire to prevent a return of Russian predominance. Reul Hanks has suggested its multi-vector foreign policy has at its core two broad goals—state security and economic development—and has permitted Nazarbayev to pursue “all available options…to secure both of these objectives.”20 This has led to “integration” with a variety of regional and extra-regional actors (e.g. China and the United States), organizations, and multilateral institutions.

Kazakhstan’s foreign policy appears to be well tailored to the geopolitical environment of post-Soviet Central Asia, which as Ruth Deyermond has argued, is characterized by “multi-levelled regional hegemonic competition” between, on one level, Russia, the United States and China, and, on a lower level, between “sub-regional hegemonic aspirants” Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. She suggests, “in the same way that Russian matrioshka dolls…can be accommodated within one another, hegemons—functionally similar but operating at global, regional, and sub-regional levels—appear to coexist.”21 Under these conditions, states such as Kazakhstan can engage in what Parag Khanna has termed “opportunistic multi-alignment,” “in which they simultaneously pursue positive relations and advantage vis-à-vis greater powers” and “play greater powers against each other” in pursuit of their own, largely “sub-regional” interests.22 Kazakhstan’s foreign policy since independence largely conforms to this view.

Nazarbayev from the onset of independence was an enthusiastic promoter of extensive integration with the CIS, while simultaneously engaging in an almost hyperactive effort to raise Kazakhstan’s diplomatic profile beyond the CIS.23 Integration with the CIS was perceived as of vital importance to the economic future of Kazakhstan with Nazarbayev noting in May 1992 that the creation and maintenance of the CIS ultimately meant the “assurance of the transit of our freight to Europe and the Near East.”24 Kazakhstan’s quest for security within the “post-Soviet space” has also been demonstrated through its charter membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the CIS’ core security mechanism, formed in May 2002. The CSTO’s “collective protection of independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of the member states mainly by political means” sits well with Nazarbayev’s core concerns.25 On the economic front, he was also an early supporter of the development of a “common economic space” encompassing the CIS, although when this was rebuffed by Moscow, Kazakhstan shifted its focus to developing regional economic integration within Central Asia.26 This led to the creation of the Central Asian Economic Community (CAEC) in 1998 among Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, and Nazarbayev was also a driving force behind another attempt at a CIS customs union in 2000—the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC)—with Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

Nazarbayev also actively pursued ties with the West (the United States in particular) and China to balance Russia’s influence. He pushed from independence until the late 1990s a pro-Western agenda, including cooperation with Washington on controlling and dismantling the Soviet-bequeathed nuclear arsenal, and active pursuit of foreign investment in the Kazakh economy, particularly the oil and gas sector. Kazakhstan also engaged in the security sphere with NATO, via the Partnership for Peace Program (PfP) and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).27

Kazakhstan’s engagement with Beijing in the 1990s was based on a number of factors including: unresolved territorial disputes along their shared border; Chinese concerns with the activities of Kazakhstan’s significant Uyghur population; and complementarities between the Kazakh and Chinese economies. These factors encouraged the development of close bilateral ties and Kazakhstan’s engagement in the Chinese-led precursor to the SCO, the “Shanghai Five” (S5) to resolve Soviet-era territorial disputes and develop security and military confidence-building measures. Nazarbayev was also active in promoting other multilateral initiatives including the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (CCTSS), the Central Asian Nuclear Free Zone (CANFZ) and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) throughout the 1990s28 that satisfied the political elite’s quest for regime legitimation—activities that were “high profile, relatively low cost, and rife with symbolic importance.”

Kazakhstan’s room for maneuver was increased by the retrenchment of Russian dominance after the Soviet collapse and the declining importance that Moscow attached to Central Asia as a whole, exacerbated by its “Atlanticist” proclivities in the early 1990s.29 However, while a “declining hegemon” for much of the 1990s in Central Asia, Russia remained the most consequential extra-regional actor due to its recent dominance of the region and the acceptance by Central Asian elites of its residual position.30 In the security sphere, the Russian military by dint of size, capability, and deployment was unchallenged in the region. Russia’s military presence and capabilities remained prominent after the mid-1990s through the deployment of its forces in Tajikistan as peacekeepers after the end of the country’s civil war in 1997, the leasing of bases in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and Russian bilateral military cooperation with all of the Central Asian states bar Turkmenistan.31

After the stalling of the “Atlanticist” orientation, Russia’s trajectory reoriented toward its “near abroad” (i.e. former Soviet republics) under the stewardship of foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov from 1996. Moscow reconceptualized Central Asia as a core part of its security zone, developments in which (including the emergence of Islamic radicalism) were conceived of as of vital importance to Russia’s own security. Primakov’s foreign policy amounted to a quest for Russia to reassert its position as a power of global significance in the face of US predominance through the reinvigoration of ties to Asia’s emerging powers, China and India. Central Asia, at once a geopolitical “bridge” to these powers and part of the “soft underbelly” of Russia’s security zone, required a more assertive Russian foreign policy. This “Eurasianist” tendency, whereby Central Asia is viewed as a “natural” part of Russia’s sphere of influence, has been reinforced under Vladimir Putin’s leadership.32

Under Putin’s leadership, Russia significantly reengaged with Central Asia prior to 9/11. This was based on the convergence of a number of factors including: greater economic capabilities derived from increased revenue from oil and gas exports; a clearer assessment of the threats (Islamic radicalism, drug trafficking) and opportunities (natural resources, transport networks, and geographic contiguity to South and East Asia); and the consolidation of the ruling authoritarian regimes in each republic.33 Post-9/11 Central Asia entered, by some analysts’ reckoning, a “New Great Game” for geopolitical influence among Russia, China, and the United States with the rapid and successful insertion of American military forces into Afghanistan.34 Despite substantial US gains in 2001-2003 in the security sphere, including conclusion of military cooperation agreements with each of the Central Asian states (with the exception of Turkmenistan) and the lease of bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, the setbacks to both Russian and Chinese long-term interests were overstated.

Moscow and Beijing reinvigorated their bilateral relationships with the Central Asian states and their security-oriented multilateralism in the region via the SCO’s and the CSTO’s focus on combating “extremism” and “terrorism.” In the SCO context, this led to the development of joint military exercises and the establishment of a Regional Anti-Terrorism Center (RATS) in Tashkent, while the CSTO focused on developing a rapid reaction force to be based in the region. Astana, much like the other Central Asian capitals, engaged in a game of “mutual entrapment” with Russia, China, and the United States, whereby it successfully leveraged each great power’s concerns regarding counterterrorism to extract various concessions.35 Astana was able to leverage its cooperation on counterterrorism (including permitting US military use of its airspace) for a five-year military cooperation agreement in September 2003, while simultaneously obtaining counterterrorism-related military aid from Beijing.36 Its assistance to the US-led “War on Terror” led to direct praise from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, bringing “prestige and international acknowledgment.”37 This tendency peaked with the US-Uzbek and US-Kyrgyz wrangling over the US leasing of the Karshi-Khanabad (K2) and Manas air bases between 2005 and 2007.38

For the ruling regimes in Central Asia playing this particular game carried some unwanted costs as increased engagement with the West, and the United States in particular, resulted in critical assessments of their governance and human rights records. The “tulip revolution” in Kyrgyzstan of March 2005 that overthrew President Askar Akaev and the Andijan incident of May 2005 in Uzbekistan turned the majority of Central Asian capitals into the arms of Russia and China.39 They soured perceptions of the US role in the region, with Uzbek president Islam Karimov and other leaders severely criticizing the US promotion of democracy and human rights as opposed to “stability.”40 Russia and China’s contrasting emphasis on “non-interference” in domestic affairs, economic development, stability, and counter-terrorism repositioned them as reliable partners for the region’s authoritarian leaders.41 As Kazakh analyst Murat Laumilin noted, the SCO served Kazakhstan’s interests: it permitted Astana to engage directly with, and play off against each other, China and Russia; it guaranteed the inviolability and security of member states’ borders; and the SCO RATS committed the organization to protect member states from the threat of radical Islamism.42 The CSTO too, at its 2004 summit in Astana, by committing its members to assist each other in dealing with potential internal threats arising from “political, economic, ethno-religious, territorial and other contradictions” played to the Nazarbayev regime’s domestic political and security concerns.43

The global financial crisis also increased Russian and Chinese influence in Central Asia and Kazakhstan in particular, but for different reasons. While Russia’s economy grew between 1999 and 2007 from USD 200 billion to USD 1.3 trillion and per capita GDP to USD 7,000, it had remained reliant on the export of its energy resources to Western Europe.44 The crisis not only “exposed the limits of this strategy,” but the consequent decline in Russia’s economic growth prompted it to seek the reinvigoration of integration in the “post-Soviet space” to weather the fallout from the crisis.45 Russian trade with Central Asia had begun to decline by 2007, with China overtaking Russia as the region’s major foreign trade partner.46 Russia had by the mid-2000s also begun to refocus on its major advantage—its dominant role in the energy sector—as a means of buttressing its traditional position in the region and its domestic energy demand. Russia was keen to maintain its control of export routes from Central Asia so that it could use these cheaper sources to sustain the Russian market, while exporting its own oil and gas to Europe at higher prices.47 Falling European demand, however, ultimately undermined this strategy.48

Kazakhstan, Central Asia’s best performing economy, was not immune from Russia’s leverage of its dominant role in the Central Asian energy sector. While Kazakhstan had achieved annual economic growth rates of nearly 10 percent since 2000, much of this derived from exports of oil and gas. The country’s mid-2000s oil boom—based on the discovery of the massive Kashagan oil fields in the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea—ultimately depended on pipeline routes controlled by Russia or exports to Russia itself.49 While this remained a bone of contention, the Nazarbayev regime benefited from increased revenues from oil and gas exports (from USD 6 billion in 2000 to USD 41.5 billion in 2007), enabling it to consolidate its grip on power through the entrenchment of patronage and “clientelism” within the political and bureaucratic elite.50 The global crisis, however, provided Kazakhstan with incentives to diversify export routes for its oil and gas.

China’s growing economic presence loomed as a major opportunity. Its economic ties with Kazakhstan had grown rapidly from a paltry two-way trade of USD 512 million in 1993 to USD 25 billion by 201051 largely due to the complementarity between their economies. By the mid-2000s 80 percent of China’s exports were comprised of finished consumer items, while 85 percent of Kazakh exports consisted of raw materials and minerals.52 Beijing upgraded its relationship to an “all round strategic relationship” during President Hu Jintao’s June 2011 visit to the Kazakh capital.53 “Recognizing the huge potential in bilateral economic and trade cooperation,” Hu and Nazarbayev set a target for bilateral trade of USD 40 billion by 2015.54

The economic relationship rests on Chinese investment in the Kazakh resource sector. Two major state-owned oil companies, Sinopec and CNPC, have invested heavily in oil and gas fields and related infrastructure as a contribution to alleviating Beijing’s energy security concerns. This complementarity was cemented with the development of China’s first direct oil import project, the 2,238 kilometer Atyrau-Alashankou pipeline between China and Kazakhstan, which came online in December 2005. This pipeline transports 200,000 barrels of oil per day and is projected to increase to 500,000 by 2020.55 Symptomatic of China’s strategic approach was CNPC’s acquisition of PetroKazakhstan, whose holdings produced an estimated 7 million tons of oil per year, in 2005 for USD 4.18 billion.56

Investments were aided by the willingness of Chinese companies to meet Kazakh conditions, particularly the proviso that the largest Kazakh state-owned company, KazMunaiGas (KMG), be involved in all projects. After CNPC’s acquisition of PetroKazakhstan, it transferred 33 percent of its shares in the company to KMG. China offered loans to the Kazakh government to purchase stakes in Chinese investments in the oil and gas sector. In 2009, CNPC and KMG embarked on a joint purchase of another Kazakh oil company, MangistauMunaiGas, in an “oil for loans” deal in which CNPC provided KMG with a USd 5 billion loan for it to secure a 51 percent share, while CNPC retained a 49 percent share in the company. Simultaneously, the Import and Export Bank of China provided the Kazakhstan Development Bank with a USD 10 billion loan.57 China’s strategy of overpaying for Kazakh assets and providing other inducements (e.g. loans) gained it a stake in Kazakhstan’s oil and gas sector to the degree that its state-owned companies controlled nearly a quarter of Kazakh oil production by 2011.58

Astana, consistent with the logic of “multi-vectorism,” also sought to further build its relationship with Washington after the boost in the aftermath of 9/11 through increased bilateral security/military cooperation. Kazakhstan contributed a de-mining brigade to US-led “peace support operations” in Iraq from 2003 to 2008 and undertook annual trilateral military exercises (dubbed “Steppe Eagle”) with US and UK militaries.59 Through the remainder of the decade both capitals built on two complementary interests: energy issues and Afghanistan. As Annette Bohr has noted, the two major US interests with respect to energy in Central Asia were: to gain access for US oil companies; and to encourage the fullest possible development of oil and gas as a means of moderating global energy security pressures.60 These interests intersected with Kazakhstan’s desire for diversification of export routes and for foreign investment. Both were generally supportive of initiatives that sought to break Russia’s monopoly of export routes for the region’s oil and gas such as the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline and the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline (TAPI) to link Turkmenistan’s natural gas fields with burgeoning markets in South Asia.61

For Washington, Kazakhstan also emerged as a major Central Asian partner in the stabilization of Afghanistan after the souring of US-Uzbek relations in 2005 and instability in Kyrgyzstan. Kazakhstan’s membership in NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) program in particular was utilized by Washington to more deeply engage Astana in its stabilization efforts in Afghanistan. In January 2006, for instance, Kazakhstan signed an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) through the PfP, which permits NATO to “provide focused country-specific advice” on areas of mutual interest/concern.62 After the withdrawal of Kazakh forces from Iraq in 2008, US and NATO officials opened discussions with Astana on contributing to ISAF efforts in Afghanistan. This led to a NATO-Kazakhstan agreement in May 2011 for four Kazakh officers to be deployed to ISAF headquarters in Kabul.63 Kazakhstan thus became the first Central Asian state to contribute to ISAF efforts in Afghanistan. Of greater weight however was Kazakhstan’s role from 2008-2009 as an important link in the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), an alternative “Baltic-to-Afghanistan” ground supply line to the increasingly threatened “Pakistan Ground Line of Communication” for ISAF forces in Afghanistan.64 Astana also contributed USD 3 million for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance to the Karzai government in 2008.

US ambassador to Kazakhstan, Richard Hoagland, reported to the incoming Obama administration in March 2009 that such cooperation derived from two major sources: Nazarbayev’s concern for his country’s own security should ISAF fail in Afghanistan and a desire to play the role of regional “mediator” between the interests of the United States, Russia, and other players in Afghanistan.65 Furthermore, these discussions highlighted Nazarbayev’s continuing desire to balance Russian and Chinese influence in Central Asia through the development of what he called “stronger, more visible relations with the United States.” He stated, according to Hoagland’s cable, that he required “fullest political support by regular high level visits including Congressional delegations,” as “Moscow is always breathing down my neck.” Moreover, Nazarbayev noted that while “I will always be respectful to Moscow,” he wanted Washington “to be a bigger and more equal player” in the region and “if Secretary of State Clinton could visit relatively soon, that would make a most powerful regional statement” vis-a-vis Moscow and Beijing.66 While Clinton did not visit in 2009, there were a number of high-level visits, including a delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs, William Burns, on July 9-10.67

The Future of Multi-vectorism in an Era of ‘Pivots’: From a “World of Choices”
to a “World of Constraints?”

By the close of the 2000s, Kazakhstan’s “multi-vectorism” had been successful: managing relations with Central Asia’s “traditional” hegemon Russia; developing a burgeoning relationship with Central Asia’s emerging great power China; and developing a generally positive relationship with the global hegemon, the United States. Since the global financial crisis, however, Kazakhstan has found itself buffeted by dynamics generated by the divergent integration projects sponsored by these great powers. Russia has attempted to foster a Moscow-led reintegration of a large part of the “post-Soviet space,” especially in the economic domain. Beijing has begun to develop a China-centric “Silk Road Economic Belt,” while Washington unveiled its “New Silk Road Initiative” in 2011. As former British ambassador to Belarus Nigel Gould-Davies found, for Kazakhstan, and Central Asia more broadly, “a world of choices is giving way to one of constraints.”68

The Obama administration’s approach to Central Asia became captive to its dilemma in Afghanistan with problematic implications for Astana. Obama’s “surge” of 30,000 extra US troops from July 2009 and planned withdrawal of US and NATO forces by 2014 meant that Central Asian states that had benefitted from the US arrival on the regional stage after 9/11 faced declining US attention that presaged a restriction of the possible “vectors” for their diplomacy. An outgrowth of Washington’s Afghan-centric approach was its explicit broadening of the definition of Central Asia to an amorphous “Greater Central Asia” that encompassed not only the five post-Soviet states but also Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran’s Khorasan province, and China’s Xinjiang province.69 For many policy-makers and commentators in Washington, Central Asia’s apparent instability was due to a perceived lack of integration with the liberal global order (understood in both political and economic terms).

The Obama administration’s “New Silk Road Initiative” in 2011 aimed to redress this.70 It was driven by the desire to create conditions for the consolidation of an independent and stable Afghanistan after withdrawal with Undersecretary of State for Economic, Agricultural, and Energy Affairs Robert Hormats noting that the “basis for the ‘New Silk Road” vision is that if Afghanistan is firmly embedded in the economic life of the region, it will be better able to attract new investment, benefit from its resource potential, and provide increasing economic opportunity and hope for its people.” Vital to this vision would be US assistance to countries to reorient their key infrastructure (such as highways, railways, and telecommunications networks) southward and assist in “removing the bureaucratic barriers and other impediments to the free flow of goods and people.” Success would ultimately serve the consolidation of an amenable regime in Afghanistan. North-south linkages between Central and South Asia (such as the TAPI) could compete against the west-east linkages being developed by China and Russia, contributing to an enduring American geopolitical interest—to ensure that no one power or group of powers would dominate Eurasia.71 The US initiative, however, has been undermined by the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, the lack of economic integration among the Central Asian states, and the administration’s broader “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific, which signals to Central Asia’s elites a decline in US commitment to the region from the high point of the early 2000s.72

Russia has focused its efforts on reviving economic integration in the post-Soviet space. Compared to its earlier efforts, Russia has been in the driver’s seat with Moscow playing a major role in reviving the customs union, first floated by Nazarbayev in 1994. Echoing the goals of EurAsEC (established in 2000), Putin’s October 2011 op-ed in Izvestia envisioned the realization of a “supra-national body” that would “coordinate economic and currency policy” as a means of providing a “new post-crisis” development model.73

Putin’s push for the “Eurasian Union” to encompass Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine has jeopardized this project. President Yanukovych’s decision to reject a trade deal with the EU in favor of joining the Eurasian Union precipitated the domestic upheaval that toppled him. The fallout of the crisis has been damaging for Russia’s partners in the Eurasian Union. The West’s imposition of sanctions on Russia has undoubtedly harmed the Belarusian and Kazakhstani economies. In January 2015, for example, the Kazakh government cut its GDP growth forecast to 1.5 percent from 4.8 percent, acknowledging the effects from Western sanctions on Russia and a decline in oil prices.74

Kazakhstan has begun to doubt the economic viability of the Eurasian Union and has questioned Moscow’s desire to woo Armenia, Kyrgystan, and Tajikistan into the group. One Kazakh analyst suggested that Moscow is more intent on making a political statement by making the Eurasian Union into “an ‘umbrella’ brand to bring together a large number of states in the post-Soviet space” as a means of demonstrating its power and sway over its weaker neighbors rather than forge an effective economic grouping75. Questions have also been raised as to whether the Eurasian Union has brought tangible economic benefits to Kazakhstan. While the value of its exports to Russia in 2012 were almost exactly the same as four years prior, Kazakhstan has emerged under the union as “an increasingly important sales market for Russia and Belarus.”76

The Ukrainian crisis has given rise to misgivings in both Minsk and Astana as to Putin’s agenda. His invocation of Moscow’s “duty” to defend ethnic Russians as a justification for the annexation of Crimea has revived concern in Kazakhstan about irredentism in the country’s northern reaches. This has hardly been allayed by Russian rhetoric, e.g. Putin arguing in August 2014 that before 1991 “Kazakhs had never had statehood” and that ultimately Kazakhstan is part of the Russkii mir (Russian world).77 This prompted an immediate rebuke from Nazarbayev on state television that, “Kazakhstan has a right to withdraw from the Eurasian Economic Union,” and that “Kazakhstan will not be part of organizations that pose a threat to our independence.”78 This also prompted him to announce plans to officially celebrate the founding of Kazakh statehood in 1465 by the Kazakh khans Kerey and Janybek, while the Astana Times editorialised on the legitimate history of the statehood of the Kazakh people.79 These factors, combined with a long-standing desire to be seen as a constructive international actor drove Nazarbayev’s to date largely unsuccessful diplomatic attempts to resolve the crisis.80

Xi Jinping’s leadership has signalled its intention to further entrench its growing influence through the development of the “One Belt, One Road” strategy. The former refers to Xi’s announcement at Nazarbayev University during his state visit to Kazakhstan on September 7, 2013 of plans to construct a “Silk Road Economic Belt” to “open the strategic regional thoroughfare from the Pacific Ocean to the Baltic Sea,” while the latter refers to a “Maritime Silk Road.”81 Although the “One Belt” strategy has to do with imperatives for greater economic interconnectivity between Xinjiang and the economies of Central Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East, it also has an important function in the context of Obama’s “pivot to Asia.”

For Wang Jisi, China’s “march westward” is a “strategic necessity” as the eastward shift in strategic focus of the Obama administration otherwise threatens to lock Sino-US relations into a zero-sum game in East Asia.82 If China successfully “marches westwards,” Wang continues, “the potential for US-China cooperation” across a variety of fields will increase and “there will be almost no risk of military confrontation between the two.”83 Central Asia emerges as a strategic “safety valve” for the expansion of Chinese influence given the perceived decline of US influence in the region after its withdrawal from Afghanistan.84 A crucial commonality between both the “land” and “maritime” silk roads is their potential to deliver greater access (and security of supply) to the oil and gas of both Central Asia and the Middle East.85

The motives behind Beijing’s desire to build the “Silk Road Economic Belt” are in some ways complementary to Astana’s interests. China’s focus on greater economic interconnectivity through the improvement of critical infrastructure such as oil and gas pipelines, highways, railways, and telecommunications networks gels with Astana’s desire to diversify export routes for its oil and gas. The national development strategy detailed in Nazarbayev’s January 17, 2014 “State of the Nation” address identifies diversification of the economy beyond resource exports as a core priority.86 China’s contribution of USD 40 billion to a “Silk Road Fund” to assist in infrastructural development for the “Silk Road Economic Belt” has been seen by Central Asian states as a token of the seriousness of its commitment to the project.87 Beijing has also intensified its bilateral economic engagement with Kazakhstan with, for example, Xi signing 22 trade and commercial agreements during his September 2013 state visit valued at USD 30 billion, while Premier Li Keqiang signed deals during his state visit of December 2014 worth USD 14 billion.88

The “Silk Road Economic Belt” and burgeoning bilateral economic relationship with Beijing are not unproblematic for Kazakhstan. The former, despite recent Russian protestations to the contrary, runs counter to Moscow’s protectionist agenda within the rubric of the Eurasian Union, as Beijing is focused on facilitating freer economic interaction throughout Central Asia. As one observer remarked, “the real concern” for Russia with respect to Xi’s “Silk Road Economic Belt” is “China’s business-is-business approach with others, which differs from both the West’s political strings for economic intercourse and Russia’s heavy doses of geopolitics.”89 In Kazakhstan, the perception of increasing Chinese influence in the economic realm has produced public disquiet regarding possible future dependence on Beijing.90 Russia’s agenda in Central Asia under Putin, which has focused on retaining its dominant position in the energy sector and in maintaining its foothold in the strategic/military sphere, has been challenged or eroded by Chinese gains.91 The SCO and China’s insistence on such principles as sovereign equality and non-interference in internal affairs as the basis for multilateral security cooperation is also more favorably viewed in Central Asian capitals than the alternative presented by the Kremlin in Ukraine. On balance, the possible “vectors” for Kazakhstan’s foreign policy in the coming years will be limited to a choice between a declining yet assertive Russia and a rising and increasingly confident China.

1. Gideon Rose, “Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy,” World Politics 51, no. 1 (1998), 144-172; and Norrin M. Ripsman, “Neoclassical Realism and Domestic Interest Groups,” in Steven E. Lobell, Norrin M. Ripsman, and Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, eds., Neoclassical Realism, the State and Foreign Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 170-193, 152.

2. Charles Ziegler, “Russia in Central Asia: The Dynamics of Great-Power Politics in a Volatile Region,”,Asian Perspective 38 (2014), 590.

3. Randall L. Schweller, “Bandwagoning for Profit: Bringing the Revisionist State Back In,” International Security 19, no. 1 (1994), 74, 88-89.

4. Evelyn Goh, “Great Powers and Hierarchical Order in Southeast Asia,” International Security 32, no. 3 (2007/2008), 113-157; Derek McDougall, “Responses to ‘Rising China’ in the East Asian Region: Soft Balancing with Accommodation,” Journal of Contemporary China 21, no. 73 (2012), 1-18; and James Manicom and Andrew O’Neil, “Accommodation, Realignment, or Business as Usual? Australia’s Response to a Rising China,” The Pacific Review 23, no. 1 (2010), 23-44.

5. Cheng-Chwee Kuik, “The Essence of Hedging: Malaysia and Singapore’s Response to a Rising China,” Contemporary Southeast Asia 30, no. 2 (2008), 161. See also Alistair Ian Johnson, “Legitimation, Foreign Policy and the Sources of Realpolitik,” (Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, November 1999), http://www.wcfia.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/legitimacy.pdf.

6. David C. Kang, “Between Balancing and Bandwagoning: South Korea’s Response to China,” Journal of East Asian Studies, no. 9 (2009), 8.

7. Avinoam Idan and Brenda Shaffer, “The Foreign Policies of Post-Soviet Landlocked States,”, Post-Soviet Affairs 27, no. 3 (2011), 241-268.

8. Nursultan Nazarbayev, “Strategiia stanovleniia i razvitiia Kazakhstan kak suverennogo gosudarstva,” Kazakhstanskaya Pravda, May 16, 1992. Nazarbayev identified five strategic regions (the CIS, Europe, Asia, North American, and the Pacific Basin) and three “vital partners” (Russia, the United States, and China) that would be the focus of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy strategy.

9. Pinar Ipek, “The Role of Oil and Gas in Kazakhstan’s Foreign Policy: Looking East or West?” Europe-Asia Studies 59, no. 7 (2007), 1188; and Natalie Koch, “Kazakhstan’s Changing Geopolitics: The Resource Economy and Popular Attitudes about China’s Growing Regional Influence,” Eurasian Geography and Economics 54, no. 1 (2013), 112 and 115.

10. Martha Brill Olcott, “Kazakhstan’s Catapult to Independence,”, Foreign Affairs 71, no. 3 (1992), 108-130.

11. At independence the country’s population was comprised of 40 percent Kazakh, 38 percent Russian, 6 percent Ukrainian, and 5 percent German.

12. Joanna Lillis, “Nations in Transit: Kazakhstan,” Freedom House, 2014, 295. https://freedomhouse.org/report/nations-transit/2014/kazakhstan#.VOKTD1O5-X0. The Democracy Score is based on a scale of 1 to 7 with 1 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 7 the lowest.

13. F. Guliyev, “Personal Rule, Neopatrimonialism, and Regime Typologies: Integrating Dahlian and Weberian Approaches to Regime Studies,” Democratization 18, no. 3 (2011), 575-601; and G. Erdmann and U. Engel, “Neopatrimonialism Reconsidered: Critical Review and Elaboration of an Elusive Concept,” Commonwealth and Comparative Politics 45, no. 1 (2007), 95-119.

14. Edward Schatz, Modern Clan Politics: The Power of ‘Blood’ in Kazakhstan and Beyond (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004); and Sally N. Cummings, Kazakhstan: Power and the Elite (London: Routledge, 2005).

15. Tibor Bukkvoll, “Astana’s Privatised Independence: Private and National Interests in the Foreign Policy of Nursultan Nazarbayev,” Nationalities Papers 32, no. 3 (2004), 631-650; and Sebastien Peyrouse, “The Kazakh Neopatrimonial Regime: Balancing Uncertainties among the ‘Family’, Oligarchs and Technocrats,” Demokratizatsiya: Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization 20, no. 4, 345-370.

16. Peyrouse, “The Kazakh Neopatrimonial Regime”; and W. Ostrowski, Politics and Oil in Kazakhstan (London: Routledge, 2010), 15-19.

17. Sally N. Cummings, “Eurasian Bridge or Murky Waters between East and West? Ideas, Identity and Output in Kazakhstan’s Foreign Policy,” Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics 19, no. 3, 139-155; and Edward Schatz, “Access by Accident: Legitimacy Claims and Democracy Promotion in Authoritarian Central Asia,” International Political Science Review 27, no. 3 (2006).

18. Schatz, “Access by Accident,” 270.

19. Cummings, “Eurasian Bridge,” 150-151. She notes “Ethnic Kazakhs view integration as a way of anchoring Kazakhstani sovereignty vis-à-vis China, Russians of securing their identity vis-à-vis ethnic Kazakhs.”

20. Reul Hanks, ‘“Multi-Vector Politics’ and Kazakhstan’s Emerging Role as a Geopolitical Player in Central Asia,” Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies 11, no. 3 (2009), 257-267.

21. Ruth Deyermond, “Matrioshka Hegemony? Multi-Levelled Hegemonic Competition and Security in Post-Soviet Central Asia,” Review of International Studies 35, no. 1 (2009), 151-173.

22. Parag Khanna, “Surge of the ‘Second World,’” The National Interest 119 (May/June 2012), 64.

23. Shirin Akiner, “Evolution of Kazakhstan’s Foreign Policy: 1991-2001,” OAKA 6, no. 12 (2011), 3. Between 1992 and 1995, for example, Nazarbayev made official state visits to the United States, Belgium, Austria, France, Egypt, Turkey, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, China, Mongolia, and India.

24. Nazarbayev, “Strategiia stanovleniia i razvitiia Kazakhstan kak suverennogo gosudarstva.”

25. Akbarsho Iskandarov, “Security and Integration in Central Asia: The CSTO and SCO,” Central Asia and the Caucasus 14, no. 2 (2013), http://www.ca-c.org/online/2013/journal_eng/cac-02/02.shtml.

26. Paul Kubicek, “Regionalism, Nationalism and Realpolitik in Central Asia,” Europe-Asia Studies 49, no. 4 (1997), 643.

27. Sean R. Roberts, “Kazakhstan and the United States: Twenty Years of Ambiguous Partnership,” Atlantic Council Issue Brief (January 2012), 1-3.

28. Akiner, “Evolution of Kazakhstan’s Foreign Policy,” 7-9.

29. Kirill Nourzhanov, “Central Asia’s Domestic Stability in Official Russian Security Thinking Under Yeltsin and Putin,” in Michael Clarke and Colin Mackerras, eds., China, Xinjiang and Central Asia: History, Transition and Crossborder Interaction into the 21st Century (London: Routledge, 2009), 151.

30. Deyermond, “Matrioshka Hegemony?” 161.

31. Ibid.

32. Anna Matveeva, “Back to Heartland: Russia’s Policy in Central Asia,” The International Spectator 42, no. 1 (2007), 44-47.

33. See Matveeva, “Back to Heartland,” 45; and Pavel K. Baev, “Assessing Russia’s Cards: Three Petty Games in Central Asia,” Cambridge Review of International Affairs 17, no. 2 (2004), 270-271.

34. Rajan Menon, “The New Great Game in Central Asia,” Survival 45, no. 2 (2003), 107-204.

35. See Baev, “Assessing Russia’s Cards,” 273-274; and Jessica N. Trisko, “Coping with the Islamist Threat: Analysing Repression in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan,” Central Asian Survey 24, no. 4 (2005), 373-389.

36. Roger McDermott, “Kazakhstan’s Emerging Role in the War on Terror” Terrorism Monitor 2, no. 10 (May 2004), http://www.jamestown.org/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=26541&no_cache=1#.VOU3x1O5-X0.

37. Trisko, “Coping with the Islamist Threat,” 381.

38. Alexander Cooley, “Principles in the Pipeline: Managing Transatlantic Values and Interests in Central Asia,” International Affairs 84, no. 6 (2008), 1174-1178.

39. Marlene Laurelle and Sebastien Peyrouse, “The United States in Central Asia: Reassessing a Challenging Partnership,” Strategic Analysis 35, no. 3 (2011), 429-430.

40. Annette Bohr, “Central Asia: Responding to the Multi-Vectoring Game,” in America and a Changed World: A Question of Leadership (Chatham House; Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 111.

41. See Eugene Rumer, “US Interests and Role in Central Asia after K2,” The Washington Quarterly 29, no. 3 (Summer 2006), 141-154; and Thomas Ambrosio, “Catching the ‘Shanghai Spirit’: How the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Promotes Authoritarian Norms in Central Asia,” Europe-Asia Studies 60, no. 8 (2008), 1321–1344.

42. Murat Laumilin, “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization as ‘Geopolitical Bluff’?: The View from Astana,” Russie.Nei.Visions 12 (July 2006), 4-5.

43. Kirill Nourzhanov, “Russia and Eurasian Security: Pragmatism and Geopolitical Ambition in the CSTO,” in Bear on the Prowl? The Return of Russia as a Great Power (Australian Institute of International Affairs, Policy Commentary, November 2008), 37-38.

44. Andrei Tsygankov, “Russia’s Power and Alliances in the 21st Century,” Politics 30, no. 4 (2010), 45. On Russian energy exports see, Shamil M. Yenikeyeff, “Energy Interests of the ‘Great Powers’ in Central Asia: Cooperation or Conflict?” The International Spectator 46, no. 3 (2011), 61-78.

45. Andrej Krickovic, “Imperial Nostalgia or Prudent Geopolitics? Russia’s Efforts to Reintegrate the Post-Soviet Space in Geopolitical Perspective,” Post-Soviet Affairs 30, no. 6 (2014), 509-510. See also Dmitri Trenin, “Russia’s Sphere of Interests, Not Influence,” Washington Quarterly 32, no. 4 (2009), 3-22.

46. Niklas Swanstrom, China and Greater Central Asia: A New Frontier? ,(Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, Silk Road Paper, December 2011), 48-49.

47. Niklas Swantsrom, “Central Asia and Russian Relations: Breaking Out of the Russian Orbit?” Brown Journal of World Affairs 19, no. 1 (2012), 108.

48. Yenikeyeff, “Energy Interests of the ‘Great Powers’ in Central Asia,” 64-65.

49. Birgit Brauer, “Kazakhstan’s Economic Challenges: How to Manage the Oil Boom?” Transition Studies Review 14, no. 1 (2007), 189-190. In 2007, for example, Kazakhstan exported 150 million tons of oil per year, placing it on a par with Venezuela.

50. Enrique Palazuelos and Rafael Fernandez, “Kazakhstan: Oil Endowment and Oil Empowerment,” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 45 (2012), 27-37.

51. Sebastien Peyrouse, “Chinese Economic Presence in Kazakhstan: China’s Resolve and Central Asia’s Apprehension,” China Perspectives 3 (2008), 36; and Richard Rousseau, “Kazakhstan: Continuous Improvement in its Relations with China?” Strategic Analysis 37, no. 1 (2013), 41.

52.Gael Raballand, and A. Andresy, “Why Should Trade between Central Asia and China Continue to Expand?” Asia-Europe Journal 5 (2007), 240-245; and Peyrouse, “Chinese Economic Presence,” 36.

53. “China, Kazakhstan issue statement on developing all-round strategic partnership,” Xinhua, June 14, 2011, <http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2011-06/14/c_13927297.htm>.

54. Ibid.

55. Yenikeyeff, “Energy Interests of the ‘Great Powers’ in Central Asia”, 70.

56. Vladimir Socor, “Implications of China’s Takeover of PetroKazakhstan,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, 2, no. 165, September 7, 2005, <http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=30824>.

57. See “China Loans 10 bln dlrs to Kazakhstan,” AFP, April 16, 2009, <http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gVmB7pH0nMJqMN5UYXbVlgT2dqrA>; and Jing Yang and Victoria Ruan, “China, Kazakhstan Sign Loan-for-Oil Deal,” The Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2009, <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123996097676128865.html>.

58. “China’s participation in Kazakh oil and gas sector makes 24%,” Kazinform, April 21, 2011, http://www.inform.kz/eng/article/2373415. For a broader discussion of Chinese investments in the Kazakh energy sector see Marlene Laurelle and Sebastien Peyrouse, The Chinese Question in Central Asia, 72-74.

59. John C. K. Daly, “Kazakhstan Withdraws Troops from Iraq,” Eurasia Daily Monitor 5, no. 104 (2008), http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=34049&tx_ttnews[backPid]=166&no_cache=1#.VPZWkVO5-X0.

60. Bohr, “Central Asia,” 113.

61. Ibid; and Laurelle and Peyrouse, “The United States in Central Asia,” 435.

62. Roger McDermott, “Vigilant Eagle: Kazakhstan’s Assistance to ISAF in Afghanistan.” Connections: A Quarterly Journal (Summer 2011), 87-88.

63. Joseph Hammond, “ISAF’s Latest Ally,” The Diplomat, June 11, 2011, http://thediplomat.com/2011/06/isafs-latest-ally/?allpages=yes.

64. McDermott, “Vigilant Eagle,” 90-93.

65. Hoagland reported that: “Nazarbayev said, ‘Listen to me closely. We can play a most helpful role for you and for the interests of regional security and stability. We can be a base for logistical support for Afghanistan. We can be the base for the broadest training of Afghans, both military and civilian. We are ready to do this and will do so to the maximum. This will save you a lot of money. We can be the honest broker without any ideological agenda.” See “09ASTANA557 KAZAKHSTAN: Nazarbayev on Afghanistan, Iran,” WikiLeaks: Kazakhstan, March 3, 2009, https://wikileakskz.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/09astana557-kazakhstan-nazarbayev-on-afghanistan-iran/.

66. Ibid.

67. Marat Shaikhutdinov, “Central Asia in the Foreign Policy Strategy of Barack Obama’s Administration: Results and Prospects,” American Foreign Policy Interests 32 (2010), 88.

68. Nigel Gould-Davies, “Ukraine Crisis Highlights New Asian Big Powers Game,” Nikkei Asian Review, December 1, 2014.

69. S. Frederick Starr, “A Partnership for Central Asia,” Foreign Affairs 84, no. 4 (2005), 164-178.

70. See for example Joshua Kucera, “The New Silk Road?” The Diplomat, November 11, 2011, viewed 15 January 2015, http://thediplomat.com/2011/11/the-new-silk-road/?allpages=yes.

71. See Joshua Kucera “Clinton’s Dubious Plan to Save Afghanistan with a New Silk Road,” The Atlantic, November 2, 2011, viewed 15 January 2015, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/11/clintons-dubious-plan-to-save-afghanistan-with-a-new-silk-road/247760/; and Younkyoo Kim and Fabio Indeo, “The New Great Game in Central Asia post 2014: The US ‘New Silk Road’ Strategy and Sino-Russian Rivalry,” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 46, no. 2 (2013), 275–286.

72. Georgiy Voloshin, “US Downsizes Military Ties with Central Asia”, Eurasian Daily Monitor, July 29, 2014.

73. Gleb Bryanski, “Russia’s Putin says Wants to Build ‘Eurasian Union’”, Reuters, October 3, 2011.

74. Joanna Lillis, “Kazakhstan: Astana Faces Up to Economic Doom and Gloom”, Eurasianet, January 19, 2015, http://www.eurasianet.org/node/71671. For the government’s 2014 economic forecast see, “Negative Impacts from Urkaine Related Sanctions”, Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, September 19, 2014, http://www.kazakhembassy.in/index.php/Latest-NEWS/negative-impacts-from-ukraine-related-sanctions.html; One Kazakh analyst noted that the country’s trade with Ukraine prior to the crisis had exceeded its trade with the rest of Central Asia, but it had declined by a third from a high of USD 4 billion per year. Maksyn Bugriy, “Nursultan Nazarbayev’s Ukraine Diplomacy”, Eurasia Daily Monitor 12, no. 8 (January 14, 2015), http://www.jamestown.org/regions/centralasia/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=43400&tx_ttnews[backPid]=53&cHash=25c95d26d026275f740b4c869597462b#.VPeMeVO5-X0

75. Sultan Akimbekov, “Needless Rush: Another Look at Eurasian Integration”, Russia in Global Affairs, (March 21, 2014), http://eng.globalaffairs.ru/Needless-Rush-16499.

76. Ibid. A similar critique has also been made by other Kazakh observers, see Alibek Konkanov and Bakhytzhan Kurnanov, “No Reason to Rush into a Eurasian Economic Union”, East Asia Forum, May 24, 2014, http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2014/05/24/no-reason-to-rush-into-a-eurasian-economic-union.

77. See Anna Dolgov, “Kazakhs Worried after Putin Questions History of Country’s Independence”, The Moscow Times, September 1, 2014, http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/kazakhs-worried-after-putin-questions-history-of-country-s-independence/506178.html; and Erica Marat, “How Russki Mir Enters Central Asian Politics”, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, January 22, 2015.

78. Dolgov, “Kazakhs Worried.”

79. “Kazakh Statehood is 550 Years Old: Nazarbayev”, Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, October 23, 2014, http://www.kazakhembassy.in/index.php/Latest-NEWS/kazakh-statehood-is-550-years-old-nazarbayev.html; and “Why Celebrate 550 Years of Kazakh Statehood?”, The Astana Times, January 28, 2015, http://www.astanatimes.com/2015/01/celebrate-550-years-kazakh-statehood/.

80. Richard Weitz, “Astana Strives to Resolve Ukraine Conflict”, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, January 22, 2015, http://www.cacianalyst.org/publications/analytical-articles/item/13131-astana-strives-to-resolve-ukraine-conflict.html.

81.“Xi suggests China, C. Asia build Silk Road economic belt”, China.org, September 7, 2013, http://www.china.org.cn/business/2014-06/11/content_32632084.htm.

82. Wang Jisi, “‘Marching Westwards’: The Rebalancing of China’s Geostrategy”, International and Strategic Studies Report 73 (Center for International and Strategic Studies, Peking University: October 2012), 7-8.

83. Ibid, 8.

84. Tao Xie, “Back on the Silk Road: China’s Version of a Rebalance to Asia”, Global Asia 9, no. 1 (2014), http://www.globalasia.org/Issue/ArticleDetail/548/back-on-the-silk-road-chinas-version-of-a-rebalance-to-asia.html.

85. Shannon Tiezzi, “China’s ‘New Silk Road’ Vision Revealed”, The Diplomat, May 9, 2014, http://thediplomat.com/2014/05/chinas-new-silk-road-vision-revealed/.

86. Richard Weitz, “Assessing Kazakhstan’s Revised National Development Strategy”, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, March 5, 2014, http://www.cacianalyst.org/publications/analytical-articles/item/12928-assessing-kazakhstans-revised-national-development-strategy.html.

87. Jeremy Page, “China to Contribute $40 billion to Silk Road Fund”, Wall Street Journal, November 8, 2014, http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-to-contribute-40-billion-to-silk-road-fund-1415454995.

88. Anuar Almaganbetov and Bakhytzhan Kurmanov, “China Challenges Russian Influence in Kazakhstan”, East Asia Forum, February 28, 2015, http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2015/02/28/china-challenges-russian-influence-in-kazakhstan/.

89. Yu Bin, “China-Russia Relations: Putin’s Glory and Xi’s Dream”, Comparative Connections (January 2014), 6.

90. Michael Clarke, “Kazakh Response to the Rise of China: Between Elite Bandwagoning and Societal Ambivalence”, in Emilian Kavalski and Niv Horesh (eds), Asian Thought on China’s Changing International Relations (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014), 157-159.

91. Enersto Gallo, “Eurasian Union versus Silk Road Economic Belt?” Policy Brief 159 (Institute for Security and Development Policy: August 2014), 1.

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