Cablegate: Kazakhstan: Political Analyst Discusess "Hawks and Doves"
OO RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHNEH RUEHNP
RUEHPW RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHTA #1761/01 2750527
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 020527Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6497
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1992
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1361
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2060
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 1012
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 1423
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 1547
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ASTANA 001761
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/29/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR PHUM SOCI KDEM KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: POLITICAL ANALYST DISCUSESS "HAWKS AND DOVES"
AROUND THE PRESIDENT
Classified By: Ambassador Richard E. Hoagland: 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) SUMMARY: Independent political analyst XXXXXXXXXXXX
believes that the elites surrounding President Nazarbayev are split
into two camps -- the "hawks" and the "doves." The hawks, or the
"old guard," believe that the international community can do little
but accept Kazakhstan "as is" because of its vast natural resources
and strategic geopolitical position. The doves, or relatively
progressive forces, strive to create some image (if not always
reality) of progress on liberalization. In his view, Kazakhstan's
political system has grown into a "caste system" that is hard to
penetrate without the necessary family connections, and President
Nazarbayev is growing insulated and aloof. He told us that business
and political elites are growing increasingly "nervous," as they
strive to discern what is happening and what it means for them and
the country's leadership. END SUMMARY.
THE HAWKS AND THE DOVES
2. (C) Independent political analyst XXXXXXXXXXXX told the DCM on
September 22 that the political elite surrounding President
Nazarbayev is solidly split into two camps -- "the hawks and the
doves." Hawks are those who believe that Kazakhstan will be accepted
by the international community "as is" because of its vast natural
resources and strategic geopolitical position. The doves are those
"who at least want to create the image of progress," especially for
foreign audiences. President Nazarbayev makes all the major
political decisions, but his decisions depend on which group has his
ear. Kazakhstan's implementation of the "Madrid Commitments"
illustrates this dichotomy, said XXXXXXXXXXXX. In his view, former
Foreign Minister Tazhin had Nazarbayev's full backing when he
committed at the 2007 OSCE Ministerial to liberalize Kazakhstan's
laws on political parties, elections, and the media. However, "the
hawks got the President's ear" and convinced him that any major
legislative changes would destabilize the country's political
situation. As a result, "all you got were cosmetic changes," said
3. (C) The hawks, in XXXXXXXXXXXX’s view, are the "old guard" --
remnants of the Soviet power machine who remained close to President
Nazarbayev as he rose to power. XXXXXXXXXXXX, and other contacts, named
Akhmetzhan Yesimov, the mayor of Almaty, and Nuratay Abykayev, First
Deputy Foreign Minister, as "the head hawks." Yesimov, who is
rumored to be Nazarbayev's distant cousin, has served as the Deputy
Prime Minister, the Minister of Agriculture, and was Kazakhstan's
Ambassador to Belgium from 1998 to 2001. Abykayev, whom one
interlocutor called "the gray cardinal," was Kazakhstan's Ambassador
to Russia from 2007 to October 2008. Before that posting, he served
as the Speaker of the Senate, Head of Presidential Administration,
and Chairman of the Committee for National Security (KNB). Some
analysts allege that Abykayev was the master-mind behind the 2006
unresolved killing of opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbay-uly and
his two associates, although the connection has never been proven.
Both Abykayev and Yesimov have had ups and downs in their careers,
but Nazarbayev has always kept them among the top political elite.
Other people who fall into the conservative camp are the former chief
of Presidential Administration Vladimir Nee, Daniyal Akhmetov, the
former Minister of Defense, and Presidential Advisor Yermukhambet
Yertysbayev. (NOTE: Yertysbayev on occasion comes out with liberal
public statements, but our NGO contacts believe he does this more to
create a media sensation rather than to express his own liberal
motivations. END NOTE.) The current chairman of the Committee for
National Security (KNB) Amangeldy Shabdarbayev is also believed to be
a staunch conservative, although the organization itself, according
to XXXXXXXXXXXX, is not a strong force onto itself, but rather a tool
"for the highest bidder," And, reportedly includes in its top ranks
both hawks and doves.
4. (C) The doves, in the view of XXXXXXXXXXXX and others, are the
younger generation of Kazakhstan's political and business leaders,
including those with strong business links to the West. Several
interlocutors named Prime Minister Karim Masimov and Timur Kulibayev,
President Nazarbayev's son-in-law, as the "forward-thinking" camp.
XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that "Kulibayev's people are everywhere" -- Energy
Minister Sauat Mynbayev, Temir Zholy president Askar Mamim, the owner
of KazKommertsBank (KKB) Nurzhan Subkhanberdin, and the majority of
the Cabinet are thought to be in his camp. In a July 21 conversation
with the Ambassador, Jay Johnson, Managing Director of Chevron's
ASTANA 00001761 002 OF 003
Eurasia Business, noted that Kulibayev is significantly expanding his
role and influence. Johnson noted that Kulibayev has gone from
occupying a ceremonial role as chairman of KazEnergy, to become
Deputy Chairman of Samruk-Kazyna, and Chairman of KazMunaiGas (KMG),
KazAtomProm, and KazakhMys. Johnson said he is consolidating his
power and control over the economy, although he noted that Kulibayev
still maintains a relatively low political profile. "That's been his
M.O. He's always in the background. He's rarely the number one guy,
out in front." [COMMENT: We hasten to add that none of our many
interlocutors, across the political spectrum, are willing to say that
Nazarbayev is positioning Kulibayev as "successor." END COMMENT.]
POLITICAL CASTE SYSTEM
5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX alleged that the Kazakhstani political system -- the
several score top figures who rotate among the top economic and
political jobs within the system -- has calcified into a rigid "caste
system" that is impossible to penetrate unless one has the necessary
family connections. He discounted the role of the younger,
Western-educated elites, who, he says, may "curse the rigid regime"
in private but can do little to change the system. (NOTE: The
government's scholarship program "Bolashak" has educated close to
6,000 Kazakhstani students at Western universities, and many of them
have returned to take positions in the government and in the private
sector. END NOTE.)
6. (C) We heard similar ideas from XXXXXXXXXXXX, independent
economist and former opposition politician who held several
high-level posts in the Kazakhstani government in the 1990s.
XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that in the 1990s, Nazarbayev surrounded himself
with "competent individuals" willing to tell him the truth.
However, in recent years, he has grown "insulated and removed."
7. (C) Several interlocutors also alleged to us that "government
has grown unpredictable." Chevron's Jay Johnson commented on the
general mood of the government to the Ambassador and said, "There is
such a fight going on now. People are scared to death. There is
such anxiety and uncertainty about what will happen in 2012 (NOTE:
when presidential elections are scheduled to be held. END NOTE) that
it has started to affect our projects." Johnson said that even
mid-level bureaucrats are intimidated by the recent round of firings
and prosecutions. "They see (former KMG president Serik) Berkitbayev
go to jail, (former KazAtomProm president Mukhtar) Dzhakishev go to
jail, (former Minister of Defense Daniel) Akhmetov get fired.
They're just terrified to do or sign anything." He said the
mid-level officials he deals with on a daily basis are afraid of
being held responsible if things go south.
GENTLEMEN, PLACE YOUR BETS
8. (C) According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, Kazakhstan's political and business
elite are preoccupied with the question of Nazarbayev's successor.
"The elites are very nervous," he said, "because they do not know who
to bet on." XXXXXXXXXXXX believes that the old guard would back whomever
Nazarbayev chose, and the successor would certainly need this backing
to survive. However, the business elites, "the young and ambitious,"
do not know with whom to align themselves, and the Presidential
Administration is not offering any clues. XXXXXXXXXXXX used the example
of Russia's oligarchs and Putin -- "Abramovich backed Putin when he
first came to power, while Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky thought they
could operate independently. Everybody here wants to be Abramovich
[super-rich and mostly living abroad] and to avoid Khodorkovsky's
fate" [in prison in Siberia].
9. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX sees three possible scenarios for the succession:
first, election of the successor, with Nazarbayev willingly stepping
aside; second, nominal appointment of the successor, while Nazarbayev
maintains the real power and continues to rule from the sidelines;
finally, Nazarbayev's unexpected death without a clear successor,
which forces the elite groups to maneuver for power. The third
option is the worst for Kazakhstan, said XXXXXXXXXXXX. A vicious fight
for control of property and power would surely follow.
10. (C) COMMENT: We fully agree that the circle of Nazarbayev's
advisors has its progressive liberals and its retrograde dinosaurs.
This dichotomy has existed since Kazakhstan's independence, and
Nazarbayev has deftly managed a balance between the two groups.
XXXXXXXXXXXX’s version of how the hawks see the outside world may help
ASTANA 00001761 003 OF 003
explain why Kazakhstan sometimes stalls on democratic reform and
liberalization. However, the old guard, while still powerful, is not
omnipotent, and in dealing with the Kazakhstani government, we work
to strengthen and encourage the role of the progressive liberals.
The best way to do that, four our long-term interests -- especially
since Nazarbayev is not immortal -- is through high-level engagement.