Conceptual basis of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy

The place and role of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the modern world cannot be understood without analyzing the formation and development of the foreign policy of our state. Foreign policy activity of the Republic of Kazakhstan at the initial stage was oriented towards the creation of favorable macroand microeconomic and political parameters for a decent entry of our state into the world community. The main factor in shaping the foreign policy doctrine in the early stages was the geopolitical: the territory and population of the republic, being landlocked country, neighboiring powers as Russia and China, the search for the contacts with the Muslim world and others.

Almost from independence, Kazakhstan’s leaders openly articulated their awareness of the state’s landlocked status and the accompanying political, economic, and security challenges. President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Foreign Minister Kasimzhomart Tokayev, who served as Foreign Minister (1994–1994 and 2003–2007) and Prime Minister (1994– 2002), frequently commented on the infuence of the landlocked issue on Kazakhstan’s policies. In addition, the landlocked factor appeared in the young state’s national security documents and its formal documents on principles of foreign policy.

In one of his early speeches laying out the basic principles of Kazakhstan’s national security strategy and foreign policy, Nursultan Nazarbayev asserted the influence of the state’s landlocked situation: ‘the lack of direct outlet to the open seas and communicative resources makes the republic’s participation in international economic relations difficult. ... For the development of trade and economic relations with other countries and the greater diversication of these relations, it’s essential that Kazakhstan secure for itself, in accordance with contemporary law, unimpeded access to the sea. Without the consolidation and specification of this right with neighbours in bilateral treaties and agreements, Kazakhstan will find itself in a dependent position, which could undermine not only its, but its political independence [1].

Nazarbayev stated that because of Kazakhstan’s lack of access to the sea, the state should devote special attention to developing cooperative relations and “complete trust with contiguous states, primarily with Russia and China, which, for us, are the gates to world lines of communication. At the same time we are studying the possibility of an outlet to the Mediterranean and Black Sea via the Caspian, southward” [1].

However, sovereign Kazakhstan’s first initiatives demonstrated the international community, the policy, aimed not only on geopolitical interests of Kazakhstan, but, above all, its peaceful nature, aimed at creating an atmosphere of mutual trust and cooperation at regional and international levels, for the development of equal relations with all countries and international organizations. On December the 2, 1991 at the press conference on the results of the presidential elections Nursultan Nazarbayev first outlined Kazakhstan’s foreign policy, denoting its multi-vector character. «The Republic must have a reasonable balance between Europe and Asia. Yet, of course, the Kazakh people has deep roots with Turkic peoples [2].» As a result, as the strategic objectives primarily were the following:

  • The creation of favorable external conditions for radical socio-economic and political reforms in Kazakhstan;
  • Defending the national interests of the country, and above all, territorial integrity, inviolability of frontiers;
  • The alignment of foreign policy based on partnership;
  • Multi-vector nature of foreign policy [3].

Within one of the most important steps into the successful integration into the outer world and joining a number of leading countries in the matters of mutual assistance and cooperation became the refusal of the use of the nuclear power on the territory of the republic. More than 460 nuclear explosions were carried out in Kazakhstan[4]. The figure is not diminished, it is real, that is why, the abovementioned aspect became the most significant one in the foreign policy of the Republic of Kazakhstan. In August 1991 President Nazarbayev signed a historic Decree to close the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site. Since April, 1995 Kazakhstan became the denuclearized zone with the support of the nuclearpowerful states. In September, 1996 the Foreign Minister Kasyzhomart Tokayev signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

The Republic of Kazakhstan sustains the Treaty of the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which permits people to carry out nuclear research and use atomic energy for peaceful purposes. Nevertheless, they have to collaborate with the United Nations (UN) and go along with the transparency and non-proliferation safeguards under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)[5].

It should be noted that Kazakhstan as an independent subject of international relations faced with completely new problems for itself: the need for an independent foreign policy, the creation of a foreign and defense concept, the formulation of the national security doctrine, strategic articulation of the external economic development, etc. Given the geopolitical situation, ethnosocial composition of the population, the level of industrial development, the republic’s defense capability has been recognized that dominant means in providing security of Kazakhstan are not military but political, and above all, a sensible balanced diplomacy.

The major objectives of the Kazakhstan’s foreign policy in the contemporary time are stated in the following. First of all, it is the protection of national interests, then, provision of complimentary provisions for political and economic development, improving the strategic collaboration with the developed countries and regions worldwide, developing of the assistance with the international and regional organizations, reinforcing the processes of democratization in the new world and endorsing both human and social development, contributing to global and regional security by opposing such threats as extremism, terrorism, separatism, drug trafficking and the organized crime, regional and global economic integration, and fortification of the environment [6].

As for the principles of the contemporary international relations, it can be mentioned that they are prescribed in the documents of the most authoritative organizations, among which are the UN Charter, Declaration of Principles of International Law in 1970, Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1975. Kazakhstan as a democratic republic follows the tendency to strengthen the relations among states on the basic principles of international law. Those are the principle of sovereign equality of states, principle of non-intervention into domestic affairs of other states, principle of international cooperation of states, principle of conscientious execution of international obligations, principle of non-usage of the force or threat of force, principle of inviolability of frontiers, principle of territorial integrity of states, principle of peaceful solution of international arguments, principle of self-determination of nations, and principle of respect of rights and basic freedoms of the human.

The principles helped Kazakhstan to create positive relations with around 200 countries worldwide and to be a part of approximately 70 international political and economic organizations, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), the United Nations (UN), and others. It is also worth to point out that Kazakhstan chaired the OSCE in 2010, and the OIC in 2011 [7]. Kazakhstan signed more than 1,300 international and intergovernmental contracts and agreements with foreign countries both within the region and far abroad.

It widely acknowledged that the way the main players in the world policy regulate interaction not only between them but between other states as well, has a critical value for our understanding of world policy and forecasting foreign policy behaviuor in the globalised world. Thus, Kazakhstan attempts to strengthen not only its own relations with other countries, but among its strategic partners as well. For example, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim appreciated Nursultan Nazarbayev personally on June 28, 2016 stating «The ice that was in the relations (between Russia and Turkey) has melted, thanks to the contribution of our brother countries, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, who exerted every effort to normalize relations. We express our gratitude to these countries» [8].

In the end, it should be mentioned that the Republic of Kazakhstan became the most developed state in the Central Asian region lately thanks to its improved foreign policy and growth in oil. The President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev managed to follow the balanced policy by keeping positive relations with such powerful countries as the United States of America, Russia, and China.

In order to achieve the Republic of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy goals, high priority is put on further institutional development of the diplomatic service: training, retraining and advanced professional training of the diplomatic personnel; expansion of Kazakhstan’s diplomatic presence abroad and its representatives in international organizations.



  1. Kazakhstanskaya pravda, May 16, 1992
  2. Жигалов К.В., Султанов Б.К. Первый Президент Республики Казахстан Нурсултан Назарбаев. – Алматы, 1993. – С. 9.
  3. Стратегия становления и развития Казахстана как суверенного государства (16 мая 1992 года) http:// Document/?doc_id=30006969
  4. Вайс А., Назарбаев дает «ядерный урок» Ахмадинежаду, 27 марта 2012 г. nuclear_security_iran_kazakhstan_nursultan_nazarbaev/24528484.html
  5. Министерство иностранных дел Республики Казахстан: Разоружение и ядерное нераспространение от 04 декабря 2013 года.
  6. Министерство иностранных дел Республики Казахстан: Концепция внешней политики РК на 20142020 гг. от 25 апреля 2014г.
  7. Сайт Акорда.кз: САММИТ ОБСЕ В АСТАНЕ
  8. Konyrova , Kazakhstan plays key role in Russian, Turkish reconciliation world/kazakhstan-plays-key-role-in-russian-turkish-reconciliation/50000262-3008458
Magazine: NO
Year: 2016
City: Astana
Category: History