The approaching 30th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s Independence gives grounds for reflection and assessment from the perspective of the current moment of the difficult and at the same time worthy path that the country has passed over the past years, and all the key results achieved so far, which allow us to assert its state solvency and opportunities for further progressive development.
Over the years of independence, Kazakhstan has done so much work that it is difficult to fit it into this short text. If we speak in the words of the Kazakh leadership about the Kazakh path, then of course, this path is not limited only to the choice of an economic model. This is also a political model that includes not only general constitutional provisions, but also the political regime, infrastructure and religious relations.
This is the richest array and it is in these relations that Kazakhstan has emerged as a model state in the modern world. This perspective has received high international and domestic praise. The preservation of ethnic and religious consensus in such a fragile region of the world for three decades determines to a large extent the Kazakh way. It is built on delicate balances. The most important step of the Kazakh way was first of all security. From nuclear disarmament and the definition of borders with neighbours, the fight against terrorism and military-political blocs, to the security of the individual.
Thus, in fact, on December 16th, 1991, a new stage in the history of Kazakhstan began. The Constitutional Law on the State Independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan, adopted in 1991, consolidated the emergence of a new sovereign state in the heart of the Eurasian continent. The construction of the state required a clear master plan, which would give clear guidelines for what kind of state should be built. The first experience of Kazakhstan’s medium-term planning was the "Strategy for the Formation and Development of Kazakhstan as a Sovereign State" developed in early 1992. This was the first attempt to comprehend the path of development in the confusion of those years, and it can confidently be called the first three-year national plan.
With independence, it was necessary to solve a number of primary tasks. First of all, it was necessary to take place as a state. And this meant that it was necessary to create state institutions of power, to achieve recognition in the international arena, to join various international organizations. Looking back now, we can definitely say that this plan fulfilled its purpose, being more of a survival strategy. It was she who determined what kind of country Kazakhstan will become in the near and distant future. This strategy became one of the first official documents of the country, which laid the ideological foundation – the issue of self-determination of the Kazakh nation.
Conducting a brief historical review, the strategy explained that Kazakhstan in the modern borders was historically the territory of ethnic settlement of the tribes that later formed the Kazakh nation and controlled the entire territory of modern Kazakhstan. The leadership of Kazakhstan officially and absolutely clearly stated that the independent state in its current form is not someone’s gift to the Kazakhs, namely the historical homeland of the Kazakhs, the native Kazakh land. Thus, the country’s leadership gave the people clear guidelines, and also gave a clear signal that the government would use all constitutional means to ensure the unity and integrity of the state-and its territory. This was the most important task in such a volatile post-independence period. The strategic goal was the development of a sovereign state with a strong presidential power. The young independent country needed to outline the clear contours of statehood. Given the risk of time loss and further deepening the crisis, the presidential power allowed the country to concentrate on solving urgent problems and implementing priority reforms in a short time, without being distracted by persuasions and the search for compromises or half measures.
During that period, new ministries were created, aimed at solving fundamental tasks, state institutions such as the armed forces, diplomatic and customs services. Measures were taken to strengthen and define the State border. All this required incredible efforts, large financial resources and decisive actions. The strategy proclaimed two basic economic principles. First, the formation of a social market economy based on competitive principles. Secondly, the creation of legal and other conditions for the implementation of the principle of economic self-determination of a person. Thus, the strategy stated that Kazakhstan is moving from a planned economy to a market economy, from totalitarianism to a liberal policy.
Kazakhstan, even before gaining its independence, and despite the fierce opposition of the then Soviet leadership of the military-industrial complex, closed on its territory the world’s largest nuclear weapons test site in the Semipalatinsk region. Thanks to this, August 29th 1991 marked the starting point for the acquisition of the status of a nuclear-weapon-free region for the whole of Central Asia.
Later, Kazakhstan, as a sovereign state, voluntarily renounced its nuclear heritage and, having shown a firm, tough political will, also renounced membership in the nuclear club in principle and unconditionally. (At that time, the nuclear arsenal of Kazakhstan was the fourth most powerful in the world, inherited from the most powerful Soviet nuclear power — more than a hundred ballistic missiles, 1,216 nuclear warheads for intercontinental ballistic missiles and heavy bombers capable of reaching anywhere in the world).
Today it is very difficult to imagine that, in reality, the nuclear power capabilities of the independent state of Kazakhstan, which had just emerged on the political map of the world, actually exceeded the nuclear weapons of Great Britain, France and China.
Many authoritative experts with a global reputation today confidently claim that Kazakhstan had all the highly qualified specialists in demand, the necessary infrastructure for the introduction of military nuclear programs, and the means of delivery. Accordingly, the emergence of independent Kazakhstan in the world space, as a new nuclear power, was only a matter of political will and time.
It should be emphasized that such a courageous, decisive, historical step as the voluntary renunciation of Kazakhstan’s most powerful nuclear potential, made in the name of peace and security, would later play a very important role in the development and establishment of independent Kazakhstan as an economically powerful, intellectually advanced state.
It is important to explain that the modern Kazakh state is directly connected with the global nuclear policy, its main problems, challenges and threats. The starting point was 1947, when the Soviet government chose the Kazakh steppe for the construction of a nuclear test site. Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan played an important role in the Soviet nuclear program. The republic was the main source of uranium, there were enterprises of the military-industrial complex on its territory, providing the production of nuclear material, there were military divisions serving the intercontinental missiles, heavy bombers and nuclear warheads located on the territory of Kazakhstan.
Thanks to the verified policy of the leadership of Kazakhstan and the support provided by the international community, primarily the United States, the issue of the Soviet nuclear legacy was resolved in the best possible way, both for the republic itself and for international security and stability. Kazakhstan was able to get additional guarantees of its security. In 1994, the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom signed the Budapest Memorandum, thereby assuming the corresponding obligations: to respect the sovereignty and borders of Kazakhstan, not to use or threaten by force the territorial integrity and political independence of Kazakhstan.
A little later, China and France provided similar guarantees to Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan has in the meantime joined the UN, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and a number of other international organizations. Kazakhstan has been provided with the international investment and technology needed by the new state, especially in the promising oil and gas sector. The American company "Chevron" was one of the first to enter the Kazakhstan market to develop the oil field in Tengiz.
Since gaining independence, the nuclear factor has continued to play an important role in the development of Kazakhstan and its foreign policy image, but now in the context of nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful nuclear energy. In this regard, the current state of the global nuclear system and the role of Kazakhstan in it are of great interest.