2014-12-12 By Richard Weitz
Kazakhstan has played a prominent role in the global efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism.
For example, Kazakhstan has played a leading role in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, hosting important meetings and supporting other projects.
In April 2008, Kazakhstan’s Mazhilis (lower house of parliament) ratified the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, which obliges its States Parties to take steps to avert and punish attempts to use nuclear materials in terrorist acts.
Kazakhstan has also supported UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004), which requires all states to refrain from supporting non-state actors seeking to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer, or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their delivery systems.
It further obliges all governments to establish domestic controls to avert the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and their means of delivery, including by establishing appropriate export controls over related materials and by criminalizing WMD-related proliferation activities. In 2011 and 2014, Kazakhstan hosted seminars on applying these requirements within its region.
Kazakhstan ranks 15th (ahead of Russia and China) on the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Nuclear Materials Security Index, which assesses the safety and security of the nuclear materials of various countries.
The country has been updating more domestic laws on nuclear security to comply with IAEA standards.
For example, Kazakhstan has created a national register of ionizing radiation sources through a Law “On the Use of Nuclear Energy.”
Kazakhstan also passed legislation to place more controls on the import and export of radiological sources and has drafted a law on handling radioactive wastes. I
AEA members are not legally obliged to follow Agency guidelines regarding the protection of nuclear materials, but countries can make them binding by incorporating them into their domestic legislation. Kazakhstan has pledged to incorporate these guidelines into its national laws.
Since 1995, the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC), based in Moscow, has supported projects with Kazakhstan’s former weapons scientists and other technical personnel with WMD-relevant expertise. For example, the ISTC Scientific Advisory Committee organized an energy security seminar in Almaty in October 2013.
The ISTC is an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Kazakhstan and other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States with their peers in Western countries.
According to the ISTC, as of 2012, almost 5,000 Kazakhstan scientists have received more than $35 million through ISTC projects. After the Russian Federation indicated that it would end its participation in the ISTC, the Center’s Governing Board accepted Kazakhstan’s offer, made in response to a U.S. request, to relocate its headquarters to Astana. In June 2014, the ISTC formally began operating at a facility provided by Nazarbayev University.
In 2012, moreover, Kazakhstan joined the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
In 2002, the Group of Eight (G8) Industrial States pledged to provide a total of $20 billion over the following decade to support the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction and invited non-member governments to join as partners. The United States offered $10 billion to the Partnership over a 10-year period.
The other G8 members, including Russia through in-kind contributions, promised a comparable sum (‘10+10 over 10’).
More than 20 additional partners have since joined this multinational institution. Most of this money has funded projects in Russia, though in recent years the Partnership has also supported non-proliferation projects in Ukraine. At Moscow’s insistence, the Russian government has directed most Global Partnership funding toward destroying its obsolete chemical weapons stockpiles and nuclear-powered attack submarines.
At their May 2011 summit in Deauville, France, the G8 summit agreed to continue the Global Partnership after 2012, indicating that their priorities were enhancing nuclear/radiological security, bio-security, scientist engagement, and implementation of UNSRC 1540.
It is unclear how the June 2013 expiration of the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program in Russia (also known as the Nunn-Lugar Program after its original Senate sponsors) or the 2014 Russia-West confrontation over Ukraine will affect the future scope and activities of the Global Partnership.
Kazakhstan has become a leading supporter of the global movement against further nuclear weapons testing.
At Astana’s initiative, the UN General Assembly has recognized August 29, the day on which Kazakhstan in 1991 closed the Semipalatinsk test site, as the official International Day against Nuclear Tests.
To mark the 20th anniversary of its closing, Astana hosted an International Forum for a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World in 2011.
The following year, more than 200 participants from over 75 countries, including parliamentarians from 46 countries, joined representatives from some two dozen international organizations, including the United Nations and the IAEA, at an international conference entitled, “From a Nuclear Test Ban to a Nuclear Weapon-Free World.”
The Astana conference was jointly organized by several groups in Kazakhstan (the Mazhilis, the Foreign Ministry, the Nazarbayev Center) as well as the international organization of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.
The focus of the conference, like the initiative to establish the International Day against Nuclear Tests, aimed to generate momentum for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and other nuclear disarmament measures. Kazakhstan was one of the first states to sign the CTBT, but the treaty has yet to be ratified by all the countries which are listed in Annex 2 of the treaty and whose signature and ratification is mandatory for for the treaty’s entry into force.
The Astana conference participants called for universal support for the CTBT, an end to any further nuclear weapons production, decreasing the role of nuclear weapons in national security doctrines, creating new nuclear weapons-free zones, and conducting no further nuclear tests. They further proposed regulations banning investments of state funds in companies producing or delivering nuclear weapons.
The conference participants also advocated creating new regional zones free of nuclear weapons, in particular in the Middle East, in North East Asia and the Arctic.
Kazakhstan has extended this campaign against nuclear weapons testing to the grassroots level through a global education campaign and an Internet-based ATOM Project, “Abolish Testing – Our Mission”.
Its website has a petition that any individual can sign that calls on governments to adopt the CTBT. The ATOM Project uses social media like Facebook and Twitter to promote dialogue among survivors of nuclear explosions as well as NGOs and other Internet users.
It also aims to spread knowledge about the negative effects of nuclear tests and mobilize the international community against them by staging events internationally.
In his opening address to the conference, Nazarbayev called on participants “and all the people of the world to support [the] ATOM Project and make building of a nuclear weapons-free world our most important goal.” He called having nuclear weapons “absolute blasphemy” since their use would be equivalent to committing global “suicide,” which Nazarbayev noted “is condemned by all global religions.”
Like President Obama and many other advocates of nuclear abolition, Nazarbayev stressed that a “nuclear-weapons free world isn’t achievable overnight.
But we should proceed towards it and encourage all nations to support the cause.”
In his speech, Nazarbayev identified several urgent challenges in the areas of nuclear disarmament and arms control.
First, he called on the remaining few states that had not ratified the NPT (Israel, India, and Pakistan) to do so.
Second, while praising the recent New START Treaty adopted by Russia and the United States, Nazarbayev noted that other nuclear weapons states need to follow their example and begin reducing their own nuclear forces.
Third, he called on all countries to sign and ratify the CTBT.
Fourth, he advocated establishing a global anti-nuclear parliamentary assembly.
Fifth, the Kazakh president called on all nuclear powers to accept all the various regional nuclear-weapon free zones that have been established.
Finally, Nazarbayev called for more effective international regulation of nuclear energy programs. Despite the March 2011 disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, Nazarbayev lamented the lack of clear and explicit nuclear security standards, which increases the dangers of nuclear terrorism. He singled out the need to secure more national ratifications of the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material to ensure that it can enter into force.
In support of this latter objective, Kazakhstan has used the biannual Nuclear Security Summits to launch various nuclear nonproliferation initiatives and highlight the country’s contributions in this area.
Kazakhstan has endorsed all Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) goals, including promoting the safe use of nuclear energy, augmenting the IAEA’s role and authority in nuclear safety and security, adopting stronger measures to secure radiological sources that terrorists can use in “dirty bombs,” and encouraging commercial nuclear power producers to stop using highly enriched uranium.
Kazakhstan also favors creating new international instrument and stronger UN measures to encourage countries to comply with nuclear security rules and conventions.
Kazakhstan’s expansive nuclear disarmament vision supports its NSS-related policies.
Its officials and experts argue that the only way to guarantee long-term nuclear security is through comprehensive nuclear disarmament. In the interim, they have called for ending nuclear weapons testing through the CTBT, establishing nuclear-weapons-free zones, strengthening security assurances for countries that renounce nuclear weapons, and securing adoption by all five nuclear weapon states of the protocol on negative security assurances to the Central Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty.
A highpoint of the March 2012 NSS in Seoul was the Kazakhstan-Russian-U.S. initiative to enhance the security of the former Semipalatinsk nuclear test site.
Although the site was closed in 1991, scavengers were finding contaminated scrap materials at the site.
The secret trilateral effort to clean and secure the site was launched in 2004 and was completed in 2012.
At the summit, President Obama praised “the outstanding leadership of President Nazarbayev and the people of Kazakhstan” for their contributions to global nuclear materials security.
Another element of this effort was Nazarbayev’s concurrent op-ed in the New York Times on “What Iran Can Learn From Kazakhstan.”
Recalling how Kazakhstan has prospered since renouncing the nuclear weapons capabilities it inherited from the USSR, the president wrote that, “Kazakhstan has used its close diplomatic relations with our neighbor across the Caspian Sea to urge Tehran to learn from our example.”
The commentary also called for more nuclear-weapons-free zones and other nonproliferation measures.
At the most recent 2014 NSS, which took place March 24-25 at The Hague in the Netherlands, Nazarbayev called for a variety of measures to strengthen nuclear security: strengthening the authority and the role of the IAEA; increasing nuclear transparency, bolstering negative security assurances, legally binding nuclear safety standards, adopting uniform measures for rapidly responding to nuclear accidents, and, eventually, complete nuclear disarmament.
Nazarbayev affirmed Kazakhstan’s “moral right” to request that the next NSS be held in Kazakhstan due the country’s leadership on global nuclear nonproliferation.
Of the 53 countries participating at the 2014 NSS, 33 states, including Kazakhstan, pledged enhanced cooperation on nuclear security through such means as submitting themselves to period peer reviews of their nuclear security procedures.
At the same time, Nazarbayev launched a sharp critique of the existing nuclear order at the summit and also in a Washington Times newspaper article published the day before the summit began.
He criticized the United States, Russia, and the other nuclear weapons states for not making greater progress in nuclear disarmament and for not fulfilling their assurances to countries like Ukraine and Kazakhstan that eliminate their own arsenals.
In addition to recalling Kazakhstan’s earlier contributions to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation as well as renewing Kazakhstan’s proposals to strengthen nuclear safety and security, Nazarbayev used the occasion to make a broader critique of the nuclear nonproliferation regime.
In particular, he expressed dissatisfaction with the protection the great powers provide countries that, like Kazakhstan and Ukraine, renounce nuclear weapons.
He called the NPT “unfair” and unbalanced and wanted to revise the treaty so that the original five nuclear weapon states must also provide the IAEA with “with complete information regarding their civilian nuclear projects, programs, and plans.”
In his summit speech, Nazarbayev proposed creating an international office under the UN to monitor how the five nuclear weapons states fulfill their security assurances to countries that abandon nuclear weapons and join regional nuclear weapons free zones.
Kazakhstan’s newly adopted Foreign Policy Concept for 2014-2020 commits the government to strive for a world free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.
In 2013, Kazakhstan had a prominent role in the negotiations designed to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Almaty hosted two rounds of talks involving the “P5+1” group (all five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany plus Iran).
In his December 16, 2013, letter congratulatory letter to President Nazarbayev on the occasion of Kazakhstan’s Independence Day, President Obama wrote that, “Kazakhstan’s hosting of the P5+1 discussions was key in making progress on the international community’s concerns with Iran’s nuclear program.”
During his February 2014, annual meeting with the senior foreign diplomats accredited to Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev recalled how “Kazakhstan voluntarily abandoned nuclear weapons, was recognized by the world community for this and became a good ‘beacon’ for countries such as Iran.”
Last year, Kazakhstan’s nuclear diplomacy imparted critical momentum toward bringing the long-stalled Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Agreement (CANWFZ) into force.
At a signing ceremony on the margins of the May 2014 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee Meeting in New York, the governments of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States reversed their long-standing opposition and joined China and Russia in signing the protocol to the CANWFZ, which was established in March 2009, following ratification by the five Central Asian governments — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan–of the Treaty of Semipalatinsk, which they signed in 2006.
The CANWFZ is the world’s fifth such Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone (NWFZ).
Article VII of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) guarantees the right of states to establish NWFZs. The United Nations, which has a precise definition of a NWFZ, has developed generic principles and guidelines for their authors. The five treaties establishing regional NWFZs all oblige their States Parties not to research, develop, manufacture, stockpile or otherwise try to obtain any nuclear explosive devices in the territory specified by the texts. They further require parties to avoid assisting other countries from undertaking such activities in the region covered by the zone.
Conversely, the treaties typically affirm the right of States Parties to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful purposes such as research and commerce, providing all their nuclear material and installations are placed under the full-scope safeguards of the IAEA, which allow the Agency to verify that all activities at declared nuclear sites have peaceful purposes.
The Semipalatinsk Treaty and the CANWFZ, which covers an area of more than 3.8 million square kilometers, contain some unique features. It is the first NWFZ solely in the Northern Hemisphere (where most existing nuclear weapons states are located), it adjoins proliferation-prone South Asia and the Middle East as well as two NPT-recognized nuclear weapons states (China and Russia), and it includes all five Central Asian countries (whose governments typically pursue divergent foreign policies).
One member, Kazakhstan, is the first former nuclear weapon state to adhere to a NWFZ.
For the first time, the members agree to work to help restore the ecological damage caused by earlier nuclear tests in the region, support the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, adopt the so-called IAEA Additional Protocol (which gives the Agency expanded authorities and access beyond those in the standard full-scope safeguards), and adhere to international standards for the physical protection of nuclear and radiological materials.
NWFZ treaties typically have at least one Protocol specify the rights and obligations of states outside the zone.
The five countries (Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States, which are sometimes collectively termed the “P5” since they hold the five permanent seats on the UN Security Council) defined under the NPT as nuclear weapon states (NWS) may sign them.
One protocol usually commits the NWS to refrain from stationing or testing nuclear weapons in the zone or otherwise violate the treaty.
Another protocol allows the NWS to offer legally-binding assurances not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against NWFZ Treaty parties. The non-nuclear states value these so-called “negative security assurances” as compensation for their abstaining from developing their own nuclear weapons and abiding by their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”
France, Great Britain, and the United States have supported the idea of establishing a nuclear-weapons-free zone in Central Asia but objected to the CANWFZ Protocol. Their concerns ranged from the Semipalatinsk Treaty’s seeming to allow Russia to move nuclear weapons in or through the zone within the Collective Security Treaty (CST) created before the treaty was written.
Since becoming chair of the CANWFZ Treaty in June 2012 and receiving the authority to hold negotiations on behalf of all five Central Asian governments on the Protocol, Kazakhstan held some two dozen meetings, consultations, and negotiations to reach an understanding on the issue, which resulted in a joint position document entitled, “On the position of the signatories of the Treaty on the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia on providing negative assurances to the Treaty.” 
On May 6, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States reversed their long-standing opposition and joined China and Russia in signing the protocol at a ceremony on the margins of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee Meeting in New York.
According to a Kazakhstan diplomat in Washington interviewed on the day of the signing, his country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
Actively pursued the issue, reinvigorating the negotiations process through presenting a strong legally substantiated arguments to alleviate the concerns of P5 with the regard to the Treaty. Our lawyers made a strong case on which all P5 had to agree.
Again it was Kazakhstan’s MFA that spearheaded the effort with other [Central Asian] states to accept our approach to get P5 to sign the Treaty with their interpreting statements but to operationalize it eventually after five year delay.
We started the process in 2012 when Kazakhstan got its chairmanship in C5 CANWFZ and all the countries in the region agreed to prolong our leadership in the grouping for another year in 2013 for us to lead the negotiations to its successful finalization, what actually happened today.
Speaking on behalf of all five Central Asian governments on May 6 Kazakhstan’s U.N. Ambassador, Kairat Abdrakhmanov, called the signing “a historic event” that will provide Central Asian states with “security, stability and peace in the region with a view to create the necessary conditions for the development and prosperity of their peoples.”
Signing for the United States, Thomas Countryman, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said that the Obama administration supports NWFZs as contributing to nonproliferation, peace, and security. In its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, the administration decided to extend negative security assurances to any state that lacked nuclear weapons, was a member of the NPT, and adhered to its nonproliferation obligations, which the Central Asian states do.
Countryman added that the Obama administration had decided that the CANWFZ would not disrupt U.S. security arrangements or military operations, installations, or activities.
Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador, noted that this was the first occasion that all five NWS signed a NWFZ protocol simultaneously. The Central Asian governments hope that the P5 ratify the protocol so that the treaty can enter into force before next year’s NPT Review Conference.
When the CANWFZ enters into force, approximately half the earth’s landmass will be covered by NWFZs. Treaties have created other zones in Latin America and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, and Africa.
Champions of these mechanisms consider them effective arrangements to curb the nuclear weapons proliferation throughout large regions of the globe and hope their spread will promote nuclear disarmament.
Governments, NGOs, and individual experts have called for creating more zones in other regions, especially Northeast Asia and the Middle East.
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This is the second of a three part series which will culminate with the publication of a Special Report entitled:
Promoting Nuclear Energy and Non-Proliferation: The Contribution of Kazakhstan.
Editor’s Note: The Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan, H.E. ErlanIdrissov, recently visited Washington and co-chaired the third U.S.-Kazakhstan Strategic Partnership Dialogue.
For an update on that visit and the joint statement issued during the visit see the following: