Upholding Strategic Partnership: Kazakhstan’s New President Visits Moscow

On Wednesday, April 3, the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, arrived in Moscow. This is the first official foreign visit of the new leader, and it confirms that Russia plays a vital role for Kazakhstan. Moreover, the visit emphasizes that organisations such as the CSTO and the EAEU, where Russia plays a dominant role, are also important for the second president of Kazakhstan. 

We can expect that during this visit and negotiations with the President of Russia, bilateral relations between the countries in the spheres of politics, the economy, as well as humanitarian and cultural concerns will be discussed. The issue of cooperation between the two states within the CSTO, the EAEU and the SCO will also be touched upon. In addition, in connection with the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, which will be held at the end of May in Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana), preparations will also be discussed. This meeting will coincide with two anniversaries – the fifth anniversary of the EAEU’s creation and the 25th anniversary of the expression of this idea of ​​an economic union, which was promoted by the first president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, in 1994.

The Power Transition in Kazakhstan Is a Well-Prepared Project
Nailya Almukhamedova
The departure of Nazarbayev is undoubtedly a carefully thought-out and optimal political step. Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned as president in a political environment that was calm and prepared, while retaining the main levers of power.
Expert Opinions

If we talk about the trajectory of development of Russia-Kazakhstan relations under the new president, the main vectors of cooperation between the two countries are likely to continue. Kazakhstan and Russia share the second-longest land border in the world. About 4.5 million people of Russian descent live in Kazakhstan. Close political and economic cooperation will continue. It is most likely that cross-border and intra-regional cooperation will continue. Due to the fact that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev dedicated many years to the diplomatic service (he was UN Under-Secretary-General), increased cooperation in the international arena is expected. 

It should be noted that there are a number of problems affecting bilateral relations. Over the past few years, the trade volume between Russia and Kazakhstan has fallen, but the nation’s volume of trade with China increased. Some Kazakhstani experts have criticized the EAEU. Thus, for example, Kazakhstani liberal intellectuals are opposed the Russian president’s proposal to create a “Common information space” within the EAEU. They regarded it as an attempt to Russify their nation’s media. But at the highest level, the EAEU is strongly supported. 

As for the alignment of the EAEU and the Chinese Belt and Road project, Russia is proposing to negotiate with China on behalf of the EAEU, while Kazakhstan prefers that China negotiate with each EAEU country separately. Also, like China, Kazakhstan did not recognize Abkhazia, South Ossetia or Crimea’s reunification with Russia; however, this is due to the multi-vector policy of the country. Kazakhstan’s leaders believe this policy is the optimal, most mutually-advantageous approach to foreign relations. However, all these problems are solvable and it is possible to say that Kazakhstan and Russia will be able to come to an agreement on them.
Nazarbayev Resigned, but Nothing Will Change
Stanislav Pritchin
During the transition period, while the first president of Kazakhstan will keep the position of the head of the nation’s Security Council, serious changes or adjustments in the republic’s foreign policy are highly unlikely.
Expert Opinions
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.