Why did US Under Secretary of State David Hale actually come? Expert Opinion

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale visits Nur Sultan on August 21. According to official information, he took part in a meeting in C5 + 1 format, dedicated to ensuring the prosperity and security of the Central Asian region, and also held meetings with the leadership of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. What really interested a senior US official in Central Asia?

August and September 2019 will go down in the history of Kazakhstan not only as the 120th anniversary of the first oil production in the republic. This is also an active period of preparation for the first visit of Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev as the president of Kazakhstan to China – to one of the largest investors in Kazakhstan.

Pay attention to the chronology of events.

On August 20-23, David Hale arrives in Kazakhstan, then to Uzbekistan. At the meeting with Kassym-Zhomart Tokaev, US Under Secretary of State “noted the relevance of the goals and objectives set by the Head of State for social and economic development and democratization in the country, expressing readiness to support their implementation”.

On August 29 New York Times publishes the article “A Windswept Plain, a Sea of Oil and a Mountain of Money” in which the author asks the question – “Is it wise to spend 37 billion dollars here?”. Emphasizing that amid falling oil prices, returning of the investment will not be easy. But despite this, the United States is still ready to support “social-democratic development and democratization in the country”.

Immediately after that, on September 3, in Zhanaozen, a wave of protests against Chinese industries in our country started and then spread to other cities of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan people express concern over continued dependence on Chinese investment.

On September 5, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev arrived in Atyrau, where he held an extended meeting on the development of the oil and gas industry. The President, noting the importance of further development, posed a number of specific tasks for the Government and local executive bodies, including geological exploration and the development of local oil service.

The next important event will be the visit of Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev to China on September 11-12. Here, Chinese partners will probably ask about the fulfillment of obligations that were ever taken under the previous government. There are quite a lot of them, but Kassym-Zhomart Tokaev has a weighty argument in the form of discontent and fears of the Kazakhstan citizen, the striking Zhanaozen, and already voiced support from the US authorities. 

Why did this activation arise right now?

On August 12, 2019, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that “Russia intends to ratify the convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea in the very near future.” And this means that in the next 5-10 years, all those fields that were once discovered during the Soviet time, then re-confirmed and postponed until the signing of the Caspian Convention. The North Caspian Depression and the Caspian Sea, rich in hydrocarbon resources, will be actively developed in the coming years, and the events listed above will be nothing more than the establishment of relations between two major US and Chinese players in Central Asia. And exactly which fields will be activated, which companies will take part in this, and what prospects Kazakhstan companies will have are another, no less fascinating story.

Daniyar Gabdulin,

Expert. Strategic planning. Oil and gas industry of Kazakhstan

Photo: akorda.kz