13.11.2023 Author: Boris Kushhov

Neighbours and allies: Putin’s visit to Kazakhstan

Neighbours and allies: Putin's visit to Kazakhstan

On November 9, 2023, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin visited the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The current importance of partnership with Russia for Kazakhstan and the state of bilateral relations were briefly but clearly described during the negotiations by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. So, he highlighted the following important points:

  • The parties have signed an agreement on good-neighborliness and alliance in the 21st century established in 2013, which turned 10 years old the day before.
  • Bilateral turnover in 2022 increased by more than 10% and reached $27 billion.
  • The volume of direct investments from Russia has exceeded $20 billion.
  • Almost 50% of foreign companies and companies with foreign participation operating in Kazakhstan are Russian.
  • Currently, the parties are implementing or working on more than 60 projects worth over $27 billion.

The data of the Bureau of National Statistics of Kazakhstan also very accurately characterize the economic importance of Russia for Kazakhstan: in particular, Russia is the largest partner of the republic in imports and the third in exports: Russia accounts for almost 20% of Kazakhstan’s foreign trade. In terms of trade turnover with Kazakhstan, Russia is only slightly inferior to China. Also, a significant share of Kazakhstan’s oil exports (up to 75%) is provided by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium and its transport infrastructure.

This state of affairs was reflected in the constructive content of the visit itself. Thus, an important item on the agenda of the negotiations was Rosatom’s proposal to build the first nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan. At the beginning of the month, their services in this matter to Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was also offered by the President of France, who arrived in the country on an official visit. In addition, the South Korean KHNP and the Chinese company CNNC have previously put forward their proposals to Kazakhstan. Thus, the people of Kazakhstan, who will make a decision on the construction of a nuclear power plant, will not have the most convenient choice between their Western, Russian and Chinese partners within the framework of the “multi-vector policy” pursued by the republic.

Based on the statements of the participants in the negotiations, gasification of the northern and eastern regions of Kazakhstan is also becoming an important area of bilateral cooperation, along with the transit of Russian gas to Uzbekistan through the territory of the Republic.

During the meeting with the President of Russia, the Head of the Republic of Kazakhstan noted the importance of removing such Russian export goods as food, fertilizers and seeds from the conditions of Western anti-Russian sanctions. He explained such a wish by the importance of Russian exports of these categories of goods to ensure global food security.  Probably Kassym-Jomart Tokaïev took into account and the importance of Russian agricultural exports for Kazakhstan itself: vegetable and animal products, as well as food, occupy the first place in the commodity structure of Kazakh imports from Russia (about two billion dollars according to 2022 data). Due to the historical experience of the development of Russian and Kazakh agriculture within the framework of a single agrarian-industrial and transport-logistics complex (recall only the experience of developing virgin lands), not only agricultural imports, but also exports of Kazakhstan, including non-regional ones, depend on trade relations with Russia. Supplies of Russian seeds are also of particular importance for Kazakhstan: the republic exports agricultural products worth $6 billion, but most of the exports fall on crops whose provision with seeds of local origin does not exceed 10%. The shortage of fertilizers in Kazakhstan’s agriculture, noted by the President of the republic, makes it pay close attention to the Russian market.  In his response, the President of Russia noted that 98% of imported wheat and barley, 80-90% of poultry meat, 70% of sugar and more than 60% of fermented dairy products come from Russia to Kazakhstan.

A significant amount of bilateral relationships and trade is accounted for by cooperation between different regions of the countries. This characteristic of the Russian-Kazakh partnership was reflected even in the program of Vladimir Putin’s visit: for example, the leaders of the two countries did not ignore the XIX Forum of Interregional Cooperation between Kazakhstan and Russia, which was taking place simultaneously with the visit of the Russian president in the city of Kostanay. The forum was attended by representatives of 30 regions of the two countries, and agreements worth more than $100 million were signed during it.

As a result of the negotiations, a program for the development of cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan for three years was signed, designed to deepen and enrich the strategic partnership of the two countries with practical content. During the joint statement of the leaders of the two countries, the media also mentioned the prospects of creating production facilities in Kazakhstan for assembling Russian cars, as well as increasing the transit of Russian oil to China through the territory of Kazakhstan. Due to the high load of existing pipelines and the prolonged stagnation in negotiations on the transit of Russian oil to China through Mongolia, the “Kazakhstan” component of transit is of key importance in the context of China’s growing demand for oil.

Thus, Vladimir Putin’s visit to Kazakhstan was a vivid illustration of some international political facts:

  • Russia-Kazakhstan relations retain their status and importance for both sides
  • Kazakhstan intends to treat anti-Russian sanctions in a manner that does not contradict its national security and economic development objectives
  • The parties continue to have active and long-term plans for the implementation of major projects.

These facts trace the triumph of objective conditions of the intra-continental political and economic situation, which remains relevant regardless of Western incitement and anti-Russian attacks. It was on this main result that President Tokayev focused the attention of his Russian counterpart and the entire international community, who during the negotiations stated that “Kazakh-Russian relations will remain unshakable and not subject to any political conjuncture”.


Boris KUSHKHOV, Department of Korea and Mongolia, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences. Especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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