Last week, the nation’s press reported that NATO had supposedly “registered” on the Caspian Sea.
On April 25, the Senate of Kazakhstan’s Parliament ratified a protocol that allows the Kuryk and Aktau ports on the Caspian Sea to be used to move U.S. military cargo into Afghanistan. Thus, American soldiers will appear on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Is it possible to speak of them gaining a foothold there?
Igor Korotchenko, military expert and director of the Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade:
At issue are the global efforts of the entire international community to contribute to the stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan. Islamist terrorists are operating in this Central Asian country. The Americans are sort of fighting them (without any particular success, however). At one time, Russia also entered into an agreement with Washington and took part in the supplying of special-purpose cargo, which was understood to mean specialized equipment without weaponry, for American troops in Afghanistan. Now Kazakhstan will do the same. This is a purely routine procedure which does not pose risks to the security of the Russian Federation.
For Russia, the main threat in the Caspian Sea is Kazakhstan being gradually pulled into an orbit of close military and political cooperation with NATO. Russia is faced with the task of preventing the appearance of an American military base in the region. This is our principled position, and we would strongly object to it through diplomatic and other channels.
Right now, the creation of such a NATO base in the region is unrealistic. Kazakhstan is a member of the CSTO.* In the context of its partnership with Moscow, Astana wouldn’t make such decisions, at least not while Nursultan Nazarbayev remains in power. How the situation will change when he leaves office is another matter. In the examples of Armenia and Ukraine, we see how quickly the political situation in a particular country can change. Therefore, right now it’s necessary to do everything to minimize the risks to Russia. Hysteria over the transit agreement between the U.S. and Kazakhstan would hardly help us achieve this since Astana is anxious about its sovereignty.
*Editor’s note: The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is an intergovernmental military alliance that was signed on May 15, 1992. All participating states agree to abstain from the use or threat of force and are not permitted to join other military alliances.