Question: Over 30 plus years Kazakhstan-Russia relations have reached a high level of strategic partnership and are developing dynamically. Thanks to what mechanisms and instruments could such results be achieved? What is being done to further promote the cooperation?
Vladimir Putin: Indeed, Kazakhstan-Russia partnership is of a particularly privileged nature and actively developing nowadays. It is based on the principles of mutual respect, recognition of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference with home affairs. A vast legal basis (over 350 documents governing relations between our countries) proves this in particular.
We enjoy most versatile mechanisms of interstate communication. First of all, ties between presidential administrations, ministries of foreign affairs, law enforcement and justice bodies, parliaments.
Apparently, the Intergovernmental Commission on Kazakhstan-Russia Cooperation led by deputies Chairman of the Government (Alexey Overchuk and Serik Zhumangarin) plays an important role. Its regular, very productive meeting took place a week ago (30–31 October) in the ancient city of Turkestan. A stock was taken of bilateral cooperation in the field of trade, economy, industries, energy, transport, finance, culture, science, education and tourism. Plans were drawn for future.
I would especially note the good rate of growth in mutual trade turnover. Last year, it increased by 10.2% to reach a USD 28.2 bn. record, and in this January – August it grew 7.6% more to equal to USD 18.9 bn.
Russia is one of the major investors in the economy of Kazakhstan. The Russian investment accumulated in Kazakhstan equals to about USD 17 bn. Some 6,000 enterprises with Russian participation operate in the Republic.
The world’s longest land border (7,598 km) helps us interact successfully, enhancing interregional cooperation. For example, 76 of 89 subjects of the Russian Federation are developing effective cooperation with the akimates of Kazakhstan. General public and business community of the two countries actively promote these positive processes.
Our shared history, multi-century good-neighbourliness and cooperation, pride for the feat of ancestors who fought against Nazism contributing to the Victory, bring our peoples even closer together and foster the traditionally close mutually beneficial ties. We cherish this precious possession and try to multiply it for the sake of future generations of our citizens.
I would like to emphasize that the Kazakh youth is interested in learning Russian language and getting Russian education. We are grateful to our partners for their keen interest in cooperation in the areas of volunteering, culture and humanitarian activities.
Thus, our strategic partnership is forward-looking, extensive and multifaceted, time-tested and developing in an upward direction. We have something to offer and we know how to help each other. We will continue to work together, build up our economic and technological potential and improve the quality of life of our fellow citizens.
Question: One of the traditional areas of Kazakh-Russian cooperation is the energy sector. Not so long ago, an important project was launched to transport gas through the territory of Kazakhstan from Russia to Uzbekistan. What other projects are being implemented in this area?
Vladimir Putin: Nature and geography give Russia and Kazakhstan significant competitive advantages in the energy sector, which we strive to maximize for the benefit of our fellow citizens.
Leading Russian companies Gazprom, Rosneft, Lukoil and Tatneft, together with their partners from Kazakhstan, are developing fields and building joint ventures to process energy resources and plan to increase mutually beneficial cooperation.
Interaction in the gas industry opens up broad prospects. This is explained, among other things, by the infrastructure and routes of gas transmission and gas distribution systems in Russia and Central Asia established over many years and the high level of coordination both bilaterally and multilaterally.
Let me remind you that on 7 October, together with the Presidents of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, we participated in the ceremony of the launch of Russian natural gas supplies to Uzbekistan via Kazakhstan. This route will make it possible to make the most efficient use of existing gas transport networks and will contribute to the development not only of our three countries, but also of the entire Central Asian region. In the future, we believe it would be advisable to hold consultations with our colleagues from Turkmenistan. They traditionally participate in these markets. It would be in our common interests to involve them in such cooperation.
As for Kazakhstan, Russia is ready to assist in gasification of its northern and eastern regions in accordance with the Roadmap for cooperation in the gas sector signed by Gazprom and the Government of Kazakhstan on 18 January this year. Currently, various options are being worked out to debug the relevant gas transmission infrastructure.
Among the latest agreements, is a strategic cooperation agreement providing for gas exploration, production, processing and transportation signed on 1 November this year on the margins of the St. Petersburg International Gas Forum by Alexei Miller, Head of Gazprom, and Roman Sklyar, First Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan.
Our countries are constructively interacting in the oil sector. Using the logistic facilities of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, we transport oil to the global markets in the most reliable and cost-effective way. Together with our OPEC+ partners we make a significant contribution to ensuring stability and predictability of the global oil market.
By working together we are developing the uranium and mining industries and successfully implementing nuclear fuel cycle and peaceful atom projects.
As you know, the leadership of the Republic of Kazakhstan is considering the construction of the nuclear power plant on its territory. If the decision to implement this project is made, Rosatom State Corporation is ready to develop a relevant project using the most advanced technologies in compliance with the highest environmental requirements and safety standards. This will boost energy supply of the economy of Kazakhstan and give a strong impetus to the social and economic development of the country.
We consider the development of cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan in green energy to be rather relevant. We have a lot in common in our approaches to the decarbonisation of the economy and energy transition. Our countries are planning to reach zero greenhouse gas emission by 2060. To do that we need to modernise energy and industrial infrastructures, make greater use of alternative and renewable energy sources and natural gas during the transition period. We need to make effective use of the absorption capacity of natural ecosystems.
We are also discussing other formats of joint work. On the whole, we expect that energy needs in Central Asia will only increase in the long run and other interested countries will be able to join our cooperation.
Question: Interregional and cross-border interaction is of great help for the cooperation between Kazakhstan and Russia. Interregional cooperation forums were once launched to develop contacts. What topic will be discussed at XIX Forum? What statements and decisions are planned to be made?
Vladimir Putin: As I already noted, interregional and cross-border ties are of extremely great importance for Russia and Kazakhstan and are one of the pillars of the bilateral relations. Naturally, our countries were among the first in the world to introduce the practice of holding interregional cooperation forums with the participation of the heads of state.
Such meetings not only foster mutually beneficial relations between the business, cultural, and scientific communities of the two countries, but also serve to work out specific issues that largely determine the prospects of strengthening bilateral relations and giving them practical substance. Aware of the importance of such work, we participate in it together with Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
The theme of the forthcoming 19th Forum is “Agriculture – the foundation of a robust economy”. Participants will concentrate on pertinent topics, such as food security, the implementation of digital technologies in the agro-industrial complex and the training of young professionals.
The meeting should result in the signing of a solid package of interregional agreements and, most importantly, commercial contracts. Mutually beneficial agreements between our entrepreneurs are a key benchmark of flourishing business cooperation. We strive to maximize the benefits of the complementarity and interdependence of our economies in order to increase the competitiveness of Russian and Kazakh products, including, in third markets.
Question: Astana hosted the inaugural Central Asia-Russia Summit last year. Russia maintains fairly close bilateral relations with all five countries in the region. What are the priorities for interaction within the framework of six-party cooperation?
Vladimir Putin: Integration trends in the Central Asian region are gaining momentum. This was confirmed by the outcomes of the regular Consultative Meeting of the Heads of Central Asian States held in Dushanbe on 14 September this year. In light of this, the demand for the Central Asia+Russia format is growing.
It is evident that our interaction, including in transport, logistics, energy and humanitarian affairs, has expanded beyond the framework of bilateral cooperation. It has the potential to further thrive through the collective endeavour of all parties involved.
In addition to high-level dialogue, we maintain links through security councils and other structures. For instance, the six-party contact mechanism for foreign ministers has been successfully developing since 2019. Recently, talks in this format took place in Samarkand on 14 April this year. There are plans to launch the work of the Central Asia+Russia expert groups on sectoral competences.
As for the priorities of our interaction with the “six-party cooperation”, they presently involve strengthening political dialogue, as well as cooperating in security, economy and trade, agriculture and food supply, energy, environment, healthcare, sanitary and epidemiological well-being, humanitarian relations, migration, information technologies and mass communications.
Question: Kazakhstan and Russia participate in many multilateral structures, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Kazakhstan assumed the SCO Presidency, and President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev had introduced the Initiative on World Unity for Just Peace and Harmony at the SCO summit in July. In your opinion, what role do the SCO and other regional organizations play in maintaining peace and stability in the great Eurasian space?
Vladimir Putin: Development of a new and fairer world order based on the primacy of international law has been a prevailing trend at the current stage of world development. Russia believes that establishment of a common peaceful, stable and prosperous Eurasian space is an integral part of this process.
Obviously, it is impossible to address such challenges, which are monumental and global in scope, without consolidated efforts, strengthened mutual trust, and readiness to cooperate and to search for collective solutions. At the same time, respect for the sovereign right of every people to its own development pattern as well as compliance with the principles of the UN Charter in their entirety are necessary and essential preconditions.
We assume the establishment of a broader integration track – the Greater Eurasian Partnership – as an important step towards achieving this goal by combining the capabilities of all regional states and multilateral institutions, first of all building upon the Eurasian Economic Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
We have great expectations for the SCO, which brings together 26 states, since this structure has a strong consolidated political and economic capacity and covers a geographical area extending from South and Southeast Asia to the Middle East and Europe. The SCO attracts with its focus on creation and multifaceted cooperation, mutual consideration of interests, equality, openness, and respect for cultural and civilizational diversity. This compares favourably our organization with the “narrow-block” structures with the small number of chosen participants that are promoted by the Western countries. It is no coincidence that the constructive SCO role in ensuring peace and sustainable development has been reaffirmed in the thematic resolution of the UN General Assembly adopted on 28 August 2023.
Russia and Kazakhstan as well as a number of other partners founded the SCO in 2001. Fruitful cooperation within the SCO framework has established itself as one of the key pillars for strategic relations of friendship and alliance between our countries.
We support the priorities of 2023–2024 Kazakhstan Presidency in the SCO aimed at enhancing its authority and influence in the international arena. We will work towards achieving the goals agreed upon by the SCO leaders in order to further consolidate the organization.
We have to pay a particular attention to the implementation of high-level decisions aimed at improving the SCO performance in order to adapt it to present-day realities and enforce the impact of joint measures. I am sure that these goals will be achieved together by all partners.
We consider another quite representative regional format that is the Community of Independent States to be an integral part of the efforts aimed at supporting peace and stability in the entire Eurasian space. Russia will chair the CIS from 1 January 2014. Our main priorities include the deepening of economic cooperation, expansion of cultural and humanitarian ties, and contacts in the sphere of security and law enforcement, conjunction of Eurasian integration processes.
As for the economic stability, the Eurasian Economic Union, undoubtedly, has a crucial role to play in this area. It provides the conditions for sustainable development of the Member States’ economies, their overall modernization and enhancement of global competitiveness. In current difficult geopolitical conditions the Union focuses on ensuring technological sovereignty, creating an independent financial infrastructure, increasing the share of national currencies in mutual settlements.
Russia and Kazakhstan actively cooperate in the sphere of regional security within the CSTO. The events of January 2022, when the CSTO had significantly contributed to maintaining the internal political stability in Kazakhstan, have illustrated the efficiency of addressing the challenges faced by the Organization, in particular, ensuring its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Member States.
The next year will be marked by Kazakhstan presidency in the Organization. I am convinced that the initiatives of Kazakhstan partners will consolidate the CSTO potential and promote its empowerment in the interests of all Member States.
Question: Kazakhstan and Russia share not only a land boundary but also a maritime one – both our countries have access to the Caspian Sea. Today, the problem of pollution and swallowing of the Caspian Sea is very acute. With regard to water resources, the ecologists have been sounding the alarm about the state of the Ural River for some long time. What is being done to address these issues?
Vladimir Putin: Transboundary water cooperation issues traditionally occupy a significant place in the agenda of bilateral relations. The Ural River flowing through the territory of Russia and Kazakhstan has important economic, environmental, and even cultural significance for our countries. To preserve the ecosystem of its basin, joint Russian-Kazakh programmes are being implemented, including a wide range of scientific activities to restore the biosphere, identify sources of pollution, and purify water. A substantive dialogue is conducted through federal and environmental agencies, the Russian-Kazakh Commission on Environment, the Commission on the Joint Use and Protection of Transboundary Waters, and the Commission for the Preservation of the Ural River Ecosystem.
The same applies to solving the environmental problems of the Caspian Sea, including the shallowing of the water body. We attach great importance to the preservation of populations of rare animal species, in particular the Caspian seal and fish, especially sturgeons.
In general, Russia and Kazakhstan prioritize environmental protection, including within the framework of the Caspian Five. To preserve the ecosystem and biodiversity of the Caspian Sea, we are implementing projects to protect mammals and birds, clean the seawater of plastic pollution, breed and raise sturgeons, etc. The Caspian Sea is our common heritage, and we should act here only together, on the basis of partnership and cooperation. There is just no other way to do it.
Meanwhile, of course, we do not forget about the economic and logistical potential of our water bodies, and we plan to develop cooperation here, in particular, in the field of shipbuilding and maritime transport.
Question: There is a close cultural and humanitarian exchange between Kazakhstan and Russia, and no high-level talks go without mentioning this component of cooperation. What new initiatives are planned in this area?
Vladimir Putin: God-neighbourliness and mutual trust are a solid basis for historical affinity of the peoples of Russia and Kazakhstan. And it is logical that we are brought together by bright and fruitful humanitarian initiatives.
Each year, major cultural events are organized in Russia and Kazakhstan, covering a variety of areas. The special status of relations between the States is underlined by the international Russian Seasons project organized in the Republic of Kazakhstan in 2023, the ceremonial opening of which took place on 2 March on the stage of Astana Opera, capital’s theatre.
The Cross Days of Russia in Kazakhstan and the Cross Days of Kazakhstan in Russia are regularly organized. The events organized as part of these activities are always an important event in the cultural life of our countries.
Scientific and academic contracts are expanding. In 2022 more than 60 thousand students from Kazakhstan have studied in Russian institutes of higher education. In 2023/2024 academic year we have increased the number of places for studying with governmental quota by 200. The leader of Russian higher education in Kazakhstan is the branch of Lomonosov Moscow State University. Its graduates, young people, who get a diploma of Russian standard in any sphere – from physics and mathematics to arts – are in demand and, as a rule, don’t have problems in finding a good job. We are planning to increase this cooperation.
Branches of other Russian higher education institutes are functioning successfully in Kazakhstan. Taking into account the growing need of studying Russian language in the Republic of Kazakhstan, we are planning to expand common educational infrastructure. For instance, we are ready to apply and develop in the Republic of Kazakhstan the experience in building schools and developing other types of educational activities, increasing the quality of education in Russian language in Kazakhstan, this will become an emblematic project, demonstrating a dynamic development of bilateral cooperation of our States.
As Abai Kunanbayev, a Kazakh national thinker and educator, who translated the classics of Russian literature into Kazakh language, put it: “To avoid vices and achieve goodness one have to know Russian language and Russian culture”. He called it a “key to life”.
Without any doubt Russian language – is our common heritage and competitive advantage, but most importantly it’s a significant factor strengthening Russian-Kazakh friendship. I appreciate the initiative of the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, to create an International Organization for the Russian language. It is symbolic that it is in 2023, declared the Year of the Russian language in the CIS, that the CIS Council of Heads of State adopted a decision on 13 October to sign a Memorandum of Association and a Statute of this organization. I’m convinced that this will serve as a powerful factor of further rapprochement of our peoples.
Question: It is believed that a lot in the relationship between countries depends on the relationship between their leaders. How do you assess the level of your personal relations with Kassym-Jomart Tokaeyev?
Vladimir Putin: I have noted more than once that he and I have developed a truly friendly, close relationship. It’s not surprising. We are people of the same generation and feel equally responsible for our countries. We do our best to provide a favourable environment for their confident development and prosperity, to improve the quality of life of our citizens.
We regularly call each other through phone and meet in different formats – we “check our watches” both on the bilateral agenda and on issues of multilateral cooperation. Such personal contacts fully reflect the high level of Russian-Kazakh relations.
Most importantly – our peoples have always been and remain good neighbours and faithful friends. I’m convinced that by strengthening the invaluable traditions of trust, mutual understanding and multifaceted successful cooperation, we will successfully implement an advanced model of interstate communication that can be set as an example to others. Therefore, whatever the situation in the world, I look forward to the future of our allied relations and integration partnership with confidence.