Remarks
Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
National Press Club
Washington, DC
January 20, 2010


As prepared

As Kazakhstan begins to serve as the Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe this year, it is charting a course for a bright and promising future.

It is a future in which the United States and Kazakhstan together seek peace, security, economic development and prosperity. We seek democratic values and human rights that unite free nations in trust and in respect. We seek a region in which relations are good between neighbors, between Russia and China and Afghanistan and all others in the region and of course with the United States.

Kazakhstan has been a leader in international security since its earliest days of independence. After the end of the Cold War, the world applauded as Kazakhstan renounced its nuclear weapons, closed the nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk, and freely transferred over half a ton of weapons-grade uranium to secure sites outside the country under Project Sapphire.

This past December, we marked the sixteenth anniversary of the landmark Cooperative Threat Reduction Program in Kazakhstan and we continue to work in partnership with Kazakhstan to advance our common non-proliferation goals. In April President Obama will welcome President Nazarbayev and other world leaders to the Global Nuclear Security Summit he will host.

Since its independence, Kazakhstan has also set an example in the region with economic reforms that have attracted investment and created jobs. The Government of Kazakhstan is also making wise choices to develop multiple energy export routes and to diversify its economy to ensure that its vast oil wealth can become a source for social mobility, not social stagnation.

As Kazakhstan’s economy continues to recover from the global economic downturn, it should again be an engine for growth within Central Asia. Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan would benefit immensely from Kazakhstani investment and energy supplies to stimulate growth and create jobs.

And Afghanistan needs the full partnership of Kazakhstan to overcome the destitution that extremists, warlords, and civil war have compounded over several decades. Kazakhstan is providing vital logistical support to the International Security Assistance Force through the Northern Distribution Network. We welcome Astana’s decision to invest in Afghanistan’s next generation of leaders by generously allocating $50 million to fund scholarships for a thousand Afghan students to study in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan’s OSCE Chairmanship is highly symbolic. The OSCE had long prided itself for stretching from Vancouver to Vladisvostok. Now, for the very first time, a major international organization is headed by a new country east of Vienna. It is a recognition that the OSCE draws its strength not only from Europe and the United States, but also from Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Balkans.

The challenges facing the OSCE and the international community are real but our strength comes from facing those challenges collectively and with a common purpose. The United States looks forward to working with Kazakhstan this year to meet these challenges and achieve the goal of modernizing and strengthening the OSCE, for the benefit of all participating States.

Kazakhstan has successfully navigated the early stages of statehood. It has achieved a position of leadership on international security and economic development. And now, Kazakhstan, as the OSCE Chairman-in-Office has an unprecedented opportunity to lead Central Asia towards a future of democracy and to advance its own reform agenda to unleash the creative energy of its people.

With continued reform, Kazakhstan can become the nexus of Eurasia in the 21st century, the point where all roads cross. For thousands of years, along the ancient Silk Road, the communities of Central Asia facilitated the global exchange of ideas, and trade, and culture. In the process, they made historic contributions to our collective human heritage.

Today, as Kazakhstan assumes the OSCE mantle, it is poised and ready to break a fresh path for a new Silk Road, a great crossroads of reform linking the provinces of northern Russia to the ports of South Asia, the republics of Western Europe to the democracies of East Asia.

A strong and prosperous and democratic Kazakhstan can energize the global transmission of learning, trade and freedom across the steppes of Central Asia. Kazakhstan has a glorious past and can seize a hopeful future. The United States will continue to be Kazakhstan’s steadfast partner.