Foreign Minister Idrissov, Ambassador Umarov, distinguished guests, thank you for the opportunity to speak today about the U.S.-Kazakhstan bilateral relationship and how we see it growing in the future. But first, let me thank the Embassy of Kazakhstan, the Turkic American Alliance, and the Atlantic Council for hosting this event, as well as all the other sponsors who have helped provide a forum to discuss all aspects of the United States-Kazakhstan relationship.
Turning Great Games into Great Gains – we couldn’t agree more. Looking back over the past quarter century, it’s amazing how far we’ve come together. The United States was the first country to recognize Kazakhstan when it became an independent and sovereign nation twenty three years ago. It was clear in 1991 and it is clear today that a strong, independent, and vibrant Kazakhstan is very much in U.S. strategic interests. In the years since, Kazakhstan has become an increasingly important partner in many areas, including global security, non-proliferation, and strengthening economic connections within Central Asia and between Central and South Asia. And we have seen repeatedly over those 23 years how the U.S.-Kazakhstan partnership contributes to greater stability and prosperity for the Kazakhstani people, the American people, and broader Central Asia.
Later today, Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Idrissov will meet in the latest round of our Strategic Partnership Dialogue to discuss cooperation on the most pressing global problems such as ISIL, Iran’s nuclear program, climate change, and infectious disease like ebola. They will also talk about U.S. support for Kazakhstan’s efforts to diversify its economy and promote green energy through EXPO-2017, and our joint efforts to increase educational exchanges and people-to-people contacts between our two nations, and to see our brightest scientific minds cooperate further for mutual benefit. The joint statement to be released today will detail the broad range of interests we share – and that we will continue to share.
Our two nations have built a foundation of mutual trust, working together to advance common nonproliferation and arms control goals. Kazakhstan has been, and continues to be, a leader in this field, both seen in past efforts such as Project Sapphire and the relinquishing of their nuclear arsenal, as well as in current efforts, including establishing a regional Nuclear Security Training center and offering to host the IAEA low-enriched uranium fuel bank. Kazakhstan and the other states of Central Asia made a major achievement this past year, as they worked with the United States and other members of the P5 to sign the Protocol to the Central Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty. Finally, Kazakhstan’s hosting of the P5+1 talks on Iran in 2013 was instrumental in the international community’s efforts to reach a diplomatic solution on the Iranian nuclear program. Through these and other nonproliferation efforts, Kazakhstan has made tremendous contributions to international security.
Kazakhstan has also done a great deal to foster stability in its own region. It has contributed to Afghanistan’s future by funding 1,000 Afghan men and women to study at Kazakhstani universities and by funding the Afghan National Security Forces and Police. We applaud Kazakhstan’s establishment of its new development agency, KazAID, which we understand will focus on Afghanistan and other parts of Central Asia.
While making significant contributions to regional security, Kazakhstan has also been investing in its own future, by building up its human capital. Through the Bolashak program, thousands of Kazakhstani students study abroad, forming friendships and bringing back insights and best practices to their own society. We are pleased, of course, to have hosted many Kazakhstani students through the Bolashak, Fulbright, and other programs. We are also honored to have started a new program welcoming senior civil servants from Kazakhstan at Duke University and at OPM’s Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through this venture, the United States remains committed to continuing to work with Kazakhstan to foster democracy and good governance.
Effective governance in turn allows us to increase our collaboration to address global challenges, which show no sign of abating. The United States and Kazakhstan have made significant achievements together. Unfortunately or fortunately for us, the reward for good work is more work. That’s why we’ve set an ambitious agenda together, to seize the opportunities of the 21st century and address its challenges.
Although located on opposite sides of the planet, in spirit we are on the same side. We share the goal of a strong, independent, and vibrant Kazakhstan that can strengthen the security, freedom and prosperity of not only the Kazakhstani people and the broader Central Asian region, but also of the United States itself.