Kazakhstan is the recognized leader of the global anti-nuclear movement
Kazakhstan’s anti-nuclear initiatives and activities are recognized worldwide. This recognition is based on the decisions taken by the first president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, in the first years of independence.
The Semei nuclear test site was closed by decree of the first president of Kazakhstan on August 29, 1991. This date became the starting point of the anti-nuclear movement in Kazakhstan. These measures then became an important decision that brought considerable benefits to the development of the country.
First, the newly independent Kazakhstan faced economic challenges due to the crisis of the 1990s, accompanied by hyperinflation, bankruptcies of thousands of companies, a colossal drop in GDP and unemployment. This required immediate government action.
Second, Kazakhstan is geographically located between two nuclear powers: Russia and China and the United States have shown keen interest in the new country and its nuclear status. The presence of nuclear weapons would seriously complicate the establishment of constructive negotiations with partners and prevent external pressures that would threaten the national security of the newly emerged country.
Third, a powerful professional army was needed, as well as specialists and technologies that would ensure the safe storage and operation of nuclear weapons. Thus, the nuclear renunciation policy was justified at that time. This decision has significantly improved the country’s investment climate.
Initiatives from Kazakhstan
The path to a world free of nuclear weapons is only possible with international treaties at the global level and bilateral agreements with the nuclear powers.
For example, bilateral agreements have been concluded between Russia and the United States, which accounts for 90% of the total nuclear arsenal and this, according to the latest SIPRI data, is 11,805 nuclear warheads. The Russia-US Treaty on Measures to Further Reduce and Limit Strategic Offensive Arms (START III) is one such agreement. Despite numerous demands from both parties, the agreement was nevertheless extended for five years until February 2026.
Kazakhstan is a party to almost all major nuclear treaties, including the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
Kazakhstan became a key driver in the creation of a Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone in 2006.
Kazakhstan has also always actively promoted the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament program.
Some 135 countries have backed the Universal Declaration on Building a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, initiated by Kazakhstan’s first president during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2015.
The deployment of a low-enriched uranium bank under the auspices of the IAEA in Ust-Kamenogorsk has become a clear practical confirmation of Kazakhstan’s leadership in the anti-nuclear field from the world community. The bank is a storage facility for a physical stock of 90 tonnes of low-enriched uranium, which can be used for peaceful purposes in the event of a fuel supply disruption to nuclear power plants.
At the same time, it should be emphasized that today Kazakhstan plays an important role in the world nuclear energy market. At the end of 2020, our country represents 42% of the world’s uranium production.
Efforts by Kazakhstan and other countries are now aimed at developing an international legal mechanism that will ultimately lead to the creation of a world free of nuclear weapons.
Kazakhstan has proven its unconditional global moral authority on the global anti-nuclear agenda.
Nursultan Nazarbayev announced the initiative to create a Global Leadership Alliance (GAL) for nuclear security during the fifth meeting of the Astana Club in 2019. GAL aims to become one of the most authoritative international non-governmental platforms in its field.
Kazakhstan has made an important contribution to creating a world free from the threat of nuclear war.
The author is Amina Zharylgapova, an expert from the Institute of World Economics and Politics (IWEP) of the Nursultan Nazarbayev Foundation.