Why Did Nazarbayev Go To Clinton in 1994
The classified documents published by Bill Clinton Presidential Library tell the story of how the relationships between the US and the independent Kazakhstan have been formed. And if, for the US, these materials are of the mere historic nature, then, for Kazakhstan (due to the lack thereof), even to this day, they possess a topical political significance.

We have familiarized ourselves with the document collection and decided to tell our reader about some most interesting episodes of the history of the two states' relationships within the framework of summing up Nursultan Nazarbayev's 30-year rule.

Note that, on June 22, 2019, it will be exactly 30 years since the moment Nursultan Nazarbayev has been put in charge of Kazakhstan first as the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, then as the President of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic and, finally, as the President of the independent Kazakhstan. A lot of the good and the bad has happened during these years, and it seems it is the time to sum up the historic results of this period.

The documents are about the visit of the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev to the USA in February 1994.
How Nazarbayev Bought The Plane
In February 1994, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev arrived in the US to meet US President Bill Clinton. The foundations of the Kazakhstan independence had still been building at the time and the States played the systemic role in the process. The task of the US was to reduce the preserved since the Soviet times Moscow's political monopoly to control the key decisions of the young state.

On the eve of this historic visit, Nazarbayev decided to buy a Boeing 747, the huge double-deck plane that was the biggest aircraft of that moment.

It was quite an extraordinary event. The President of Kazakhstan became the first state leader in the post-Soviet space that had bought such an aircraft. There was something very personal about it. It is well-known that the sky had been the President's childhood dream which was covered in detail in the books and the documentaries. Having failed to become an aviator, Nazarbayev preserved his passion for planes even as the President (just look at his impressive aircraft fleet of today). However, as far as the Boeing 747 is concerned, a serious political subcurrent was at play there.

As Nazarbayev's chief pilot Erbol Ospanov recalls, the President had visited the US even before, but he would use the Russian governmental planes and crew teams for these visits. This time, he travelled by the Boeing to demonstrate Kazakhstan's political independence from Moscow. And this is not a hypothesis.
Bill Clinton and Nursultan Nazarbayev/Photo from the US Embassy to Kazakhstan webpage
The Kazakhstan President's purchase became the topic of discussion at the negotiations between Bill Clinton and Nursultan Nazarbayev held on February 14, 1994, the content of which has been declassified by Bill Clinton Library and is now accessible to the general public.

«How was that new Boeing 747 that you flew in on?», asked Vice President Albert Gore in passing.

To answer this specific question, the President of Kazakhstan had prepared a «contrivance» — a fully-fledged political answer recorded in the minutes of the meeting.

«Our purchasing of the Boeing 747 is very symbolic. It is the first Boeing in the former Soviet Union. I was its first passenger» — thus, Nursultan Nazarbayev elevated the aircraft purchase topic to the geopolitical level.

Then, he made a short but extremely telling speech by using a simple «by the way». Here it is.
It is not quite clear what (and whom) the President of Kazakhstan had in mind when he said «the German» (Germany haven't produced aircrafts since the time of the WWII). He might have meant the Airbus SE company that is considered a «European» aircraft producer even though, from the legal standpoint, it is a French corporation based in Toulouse.

On the other hand, the political part of the statement was quite clear — the US must help Kazakhstan to withstand the pressure from Russia. Because had it not been for the Boeing 747, Nazarbayev would have had to travel via Iluyshin 96 with which something would «go wrong every ten minutes».

This statement was very telling especially considering that, in one and a half month (on March 29, 1994), Nursultan Nazarbayev spoke at Moscow State University about the fierce competition for the market outlets and warned that «we could survive only if we were united». Today, in the Kazakhstan official historiography, this speech is said to be the ideological foundation for the future Eurasian Economic Union. For this, the President was labeled the forefather of the Eurasian integration.

However, as we can see, the political reality was actually much more complicated. And we can assume that the declassified document reflects the reality much more adequately than the public speech directed to the Russian audience. But this isn't even the crux of the matter. The thing is that if, even as early as in 1994, the President of Kazakhstan was performing the miracles of the political tightrope walking, we can only guess what levels of complexity they have reached today, after a quarter of a century of the endless presidential work.

Consequently, we find it interesting to present the list of the participants of those confidential talks.

On the part of Kazakhstan (according to the text of the declassified record), the list consisted of First Deputy Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, Deputy Prime Minister Syzdyk Abishev, Head of the Presidential Administration Nurtay Abykayev, State Adviser Tulegen Zhukeyev, Minister of Foreign Affairs Tuletay Suleymenov and diplomat Almaz Khamzayev.
All these people had played a crucial role in building Kazakhstan's external political (and, most importantly, economic) system. However, only one of them still holds on to his place in Nazarbayev's closest circle.
How To Solve The Problem of Oil
The issue of the independent flow of the Kazakhstan oil to the West was resolved in February 1994 when President Nursultan Nazarbayev arrived in the US for the official meeting with Bill Clinton. It was quite predictable considering that it was at that time that the oil became a sign of the future growth and prosperity of the country.

Bill Clinton and Nursultan Nazarbayev/Photo from the US Embassy to Kazakhstan webpage
And the Tengiz oil extracting business became the main «torchlight» that pointed the way to the oil future of Kazakhstan.

«Our joint venture with Chevron is already producing 2 million tons of oil. The deposits equal those in Alaska», said Nazarbayev to Clinton

Then, the President of Kazakhstan asked his US colleague for urgent help. Unfortunately, the content of the request remains unknown — the phrase was painted over by the Library censors who thought it to be a state secret. Although, considering that it was Nazarbayev's phrase that was painted over, it was done on Kazakhstan's request.

Anyway, the vigilance of the American censors was strictly «to check the box». According to the remaining parts of the phrases and Clinton's answers (untouched by the censors), it is not difficult to see that Nursultan Nazarbayev was complaining about Russia's position re the oil transit from Tengiz.

Most likely, he was talking about the construction of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium Tengiz-Astrakhan-Novorossiysk export pipeline system. To build it, Kazakhstan and Oman signed an agreement in 1992. Russia joint the project immediately after, but then the process slowed down.

«We will have 200 million tons of oil in the near future. We need only 18 million for domestic needs», complained Nazarbayev (this part of his phrase was preserved). Thus, the fate of the remaining 180 mln of the Tengiz oil was put into question.

The dialogue that followed allows us to reconstruct not only the essence of Nazarbayev's complaint but the explanation of the Russian position.

Clinton: «Why is Russia doing this?»

Nazarbayev: «Political pressure».

Clinton: «Why wouldn't it be good for them? They could charge you for use of the pipeline».

Nazarbayev's answer to this short remark was long and is painted over by the censors. It is hard to say — whether the money was not the reason, or it was the very scheme of the distribution of this money down the chain of the interested parties. We assume the former judging by the rest of the dialogue.

Clinton: «Do you think he doesn't want to talk or is it that others don't want him to talk to you?»

Nazarbayev: «He's too busy».

Then comes Clinton's extended comment and question.

«I have a question about Russia's behavior on the pipeline and the space launch facility. Do they sometimes do this because it is in their interests, or do they just do it to prove their influence? Maybe we need to try to fill Russia's need to feel important constructively. There are many other touchy issues. This touches on the whole question of Russia's actions in the region outside its borders including Georgia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Every time I meet with him (Yeltsin), the issue comes up in ten different ways. How can we influence Russia? It would complicate our lives a lot if a man like Zhirinovsky took over».

Nazarbayev's answer was extremely short. However, it is impossible to restore it since Clinton's reaction that was just as laconic was painted over as well. However, the censors preserved an entire passage by Nazarbayev in which the President gives a comprehensive account of the Kazakhstan-Russia relationships. It is all the more interesting to study this assessment made while conversing with a third party.

Nazarbayev: «In reference to what you mentioned about Russia, Kazakhstan must find a way to coexist with Russia. In 1961 (possibly a mistake and he was talking about 1861 — kz.expert), the Russian army completed the colonization of Kazakhstan. Since then our people have lived together. There are many mixed marriages, and Russians have lived in the same communities with Kazakhs. All the sons were taught by the parents to go to Russian schools otherwise, they would have no future. Throughout history, most of the danger was thought to come from China. No one has a problem if Russia decides to play a peacekeeping role similar to the U.S. For example, the British empire led to peace and stability in Asia, and Asia flourished».
Then, Nazarbayev starts complaining to Clinton that, despite the existence of the treaty that recognizes the territorial sovereignty of both states, a talk of the necessity to revise the borders with Kazakhstan has begun on the Russian TV.
After this statement, there is a huge lacuna in the document — Nazarbayev was probably expressing his honest opinion on what he thought of such talks. It was perhaps so honest that had to be cleaned out of the declassified version.

On the other hand, Nazarbayev's conversation with Shevardnadze the contents of which Nursultan Abishevich shared with President Clinton seems quite telling.

Nazarbayev: «I recently spoke to Shevardnadze… and asked, «why did you agree to the Russian bases»? Shevardnadze said, «first they armed the Abkhaz, then they armed the opposition; if I don't do what they want, they will cause trouble in Ajaria and Ossetia».

Then, Nazarbayev probably made some important generalizations (painted over by the censors). It is likely that they had to do with the assessment and the particularities of the realization of such scenarios in Kazakhstan. It follows from the comment made at the end of this part of the conversation.
«We know we cannot forsake good economic and political ties with Russia. That may come as a surprise to you (addressing Clinton — kz.expert). Kazakhstan was the last one to declare independence from the former Soviet Union. We waited to see what would happen».

Nursultan Nazarbayev
President of Kazakhstan
Nursultan Nazarbayev's confessions made in the bygone 1994 still preserve their topicality and importance. And they explain a lot in the way the Kazakhstan-Russian relationships are built. Interestingly, in 1994, the goals and aspirations of Yeltsin's Russia were analogous to Russia's goals of today (at least, in the way they were presented in the conversation). The only difference is that the Russia of 1994 and the Russia of 2018 are two different countries. First of all, in terms of their capabilities.

One Month Later
On March 24, 1994, the Russian Government signed a decree on the building of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium Tengiz-Astrakhan-Novorossiysk export pipeline system (CPC).

The CPC became the first Russian pipeline not controlled by the state. In December 1996, 50% of the CPC shares were sold to international oil companies.

It looks like Yeltsin did manage to find time to meet with Clinton.
How To Solve The Problem of Uranium
In 1994, Kazakhstan was living for the future tied to the Caspian oil extraction prospects. Such a future demanded the financial, technological, and geopolitical support that, at that point in time, only the US was able to provide. So, in order to build the strategic relationships with this country, the Kazakhstan authorities were prepared to make a lot of concessions.

For the Americans, however, the Kazakhstan problem was tied not to the future but to the past and came down to the issue of the nuclear nonproliferation. And Kazakhstan had «inherited» all the elements of the nuclear production from the USSR.

The Soviet Union died so quickly that it never got a chance to destroy the fuel reserves that could arm hundreds of warheads. For the US, this threatened to turn into a real geopolitical nightmare. At that point, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, and the Arab countries were all showing interest in the nuclear technologies. They had their own reasons for hating their neighbors whose safety was guaranteed by the US. Therefore, the escalation of an ordinary local conflict into the global nuclear war was becoming quite feasible a scenario.

The official statement made for the press after the meeting of the two Presidents shows that this scenario occupied the central spot on Bill Clinton's risks map. The speech started with Clinton's menacing statement made for the press in the presence of Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Bill Clinton and Nursultan Nazarbayev/Photo from the US Embassy to Kazakhstan webpage
«While there are many aspects to the widening relationships between our two nations, the most important is our work in nuclear nonproliferation».

Translating this phrase from the diplomatic into the ordinary language, we can surely interpret it as an ultimatum.

«When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, there were four of the new Independent States — Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan — who had Soviet strategic nuclear weapons on their territory. One of my highest national security priorities has been to ensure that the breakup of the former Soviet Union did not lead to the creation of new nuclear states».

Then Bill Clinton praised Nazarbayev for agreeing to eliminate the nuclear weapons and promised (in exchange for it) to increase the economic support of Kazakhstan from 85 $ mln to 311 $ mln in 1995. Apart from that, the additional 85 $ mln were to be given for the dismantling of the nuclear arsenal.
Then, the accentuation changed. One of the journalists asked Bill Clinton if the US would block the project of building the direct oil pipeline from Kazakhstan to Iran. It was the most topical issue of the time. Theoretically, Kazakhstan could have eliminated its dependency on the Russian oil transit by selling its uranium reserves for a profit. And the very possibility of the realization of such a scenario was of a great concern for both the US and the Russian strategists.

Clinton took a break allowing Nazarbayev to reply. The President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, as usual, chose to have it both ways. Having pointed out the importance of using the already existing infrastructure (meaning the pipeline delivering oil to Black Sea via Russia), he allowed for the possibility to use the Iranian transit to Persian Gulf. Then, Clinton grabbed the microphone again and specifically underscored that they would first think of using the existing infrastructure.

This was the public side of the matter. But there was the private, unofficial side of it as well. We have learned about it from the declassified reports of the Nazarbayev-Clinton meeting published by Bill Clinton Presidential Library.

As we can see from the declassified report, it was Nazarbayev who first spoke of the uranium liquidation. And he did so not for some higher geopolitical reasons but for very practical ones. He complained that the Russians were not going to keep their promises and pay for the enriched uranium taken off the warheads.

Lamenting that Kazakhstan had to carry the financial burden of the operation, Nazarbayev advised the Americans to press this subject when giving the monetary aid to Russia.

But the uranium issue had one more layer. The thing is that Kazakhstan and the US had signed a uranium anti-damping agreement. Then Kazakhstan learned that the US and Russia made the LEU-HEU deal a part of which was delivering the Russian uranium (transformed into fuel) to the US nuclear stations.

This deal, as Nazarbayev complained to his American colleagues, would basically close the access for the Kazakh uranium to the US market. In reply, the Americans just apathetically shrugged their shoulders.

Christopher Warren, the US Secretary of State, reminded Nursultan Nazarbayev that the world was suffocating from the oversupply of the uranium. According to him, «there are 3,000 tons of Russian uranium, 2.700 tons of Kazakh uranium, 2,000 of Western European uranium and 700 tons of U.S. uranium» (estimates for year 1994).

A decrease in world prices threatened the US-Russia agreement which was Clinton's Administration priority. Kazakhstan was suggested to be patient. What the US was prepared to do at the most was to sign a trilateral agreement with Kazakhstan. This idea, however, was never realized.
At that point in time, Kazakhstan was in desperate need of money and, in his private conversations with Bill Clinton, Nazarbayev was ready to agree to anything. At the meeting, he told how he had personally invited the US entrepreneurs to Kazakhstan to do business which, in his opinion, would be the best insurance of the Kazakhstan safety.

Simultaneously, Nazarbayev expressed his support for the idea to establish a human rights committee in Kazakhstan which was supposed to be an independent agency capable of expertly evaluating the situation in the country. «If they see any violations of human rights or of our constitution, we are prepared to change this», promised the young President of Kazakhstan.

Nazarbayev personally invited Clinton to Kazakhstan, however, it was only Hilary Clinton who had managed to make it there during the time of her husband's presidency. As for Bill Clinton, he came to Kazakhstan as late as in 2005. And this visit, just like the 1994 meeting in the US, had to do with the uranium.

As we have learned later, in this trip, Bill Clinton was accompanied by Frank Giustra who, in 2005, managed to strike a super-deal — first by buying the Kazakh strategic uranium deposits and then selling them as the shares of a Canadian company. So it appears that, after ten years, Clinton still helped Kazakhstan to «shake off» the uranium travails. Once and for all.

Alexei Tikhonov


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