Ever since gaining independence, Kazakhstan made nuclear disarmament its strategic policy. It gave up the world’s fourth biggest nuclear arsenal it had inherited from the Soviet Union. Today, the country actively advocates elimination of the threat of a nuclear war that still hovers over the humankind. Its initiatives in the sphere have earned worldwide recognition.
Astana’s anti-nuclear initiatives were discussed at a roundtable in Moscow. It was attended by leading Russian and Kazakh experts in the sphere, government officials, representatives of public organizations, diplomats and journalists.
Opening the discussion, Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to Russia Galym Orazbakov recalled that anti-nuclear movement had emerged in Kazakhstan during the perestroika years. It was then that the Nevada-Semey movement came into being, uniting victims of nuclear tests all over the world. In 1989, the organization brought thousands of protesters in the streets of Astana, demanding to ban tests that were dangerous for people.
And they achieved their goal: the last nuclear explosion under Semipalatinsk took place on October 19, 1989. On August 29, 1991, the testing ground was shut down by a decree of Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev. It was the first step towards a nuclear-free Kazakhstan.
Moreover, the young country voluntarily gave up nuclear weapons, and the last nuclear warheads left its territory in 1994. The global community appreciated the Kazakh leader’s initiative, and soon nuclear powers signed a Memorandum on security guarantees for the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan’s anti-nuclear policy developed in the following years, Orazbakov said. Moreover, it became a top priority in its foreign policy.
It is sufficient to recall that Kazakhstan was among the first CIS member states to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The country successfully cooperates with the IAEA, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Krakow Initiative, the Zangger Committee and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. In order to completely rule out the possibility of a nuclear materials leak, Kazakhstan has set up the National Commission for Non-Proliferation of WMD, which is responsible for the entire range of issues related to the nuclear cycle. In 2006, a treaty on setting up a zone free from nuclear arms in Central Asia was signed in Semipalatinsk.
The day when the nuclear testing ground in Semipalatinsk was shut down became the starting point for political shifts, which put off the danger of a thermonuclear war, said Roman Vasilenko, ambassador-at-large of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, in his speech. After this, tests on other nuclear testing grounds all over the world came to an end, too. The refusal to join the international nuclear club is a principled decision. The ambassador recalled that at the time, Kazakhstan had 104 nuclear ballistic missiles, 375 cruise missiles and 40 strategic bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Part of them was taken to Russia and the other part destroyed. Having given up this arsenal, Kazakhstan has the moral right to call on the global community to fully ban nuclear tests, reduce nuclear weapons and completely destroy them in the foreseeable future, Vasilenko said.
It was no coincidence that the president of Kazakhstan has suggested that the international community sign a new treaty on non-proliferation of nuclear ammunition and declare August 29 the International Day Against Nuclear Tests. “Like an organism damaged by radiation, the nuclear threat continues mutating, acquiring ever new forms,” Nursultan Nazarbayev said. “The global community needs to create a universal treaty on comprehensive, horizontal and vertical non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.”
Kazakhstan’s initiative was endorsed by the United Nations Secretariat and found a broad response in the international community. Not waiting for such a treaty to be signed, the country has proposed a number of steps to implement its initiative.
Moreover, Kazakhstan came up with the idea of drafting a new universal treaty on comprehensive, horizontal and vertical non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. This document is supposed to guarantee non-use of “double standards” and at the same time clearly envisage the parties’ commitments and mechanism of sanctions against its violators. Kazakhstan’s president voiced this initiative at the global Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.
Kazakhstan has also called for quick adoption of a treaty banning production of fissile materials for military purposes, which could become an important step towards establishing the non-proliferation regime. “Let me recall that the world has already accumulated about 2,000 metric tons of fissile materials,” Nazarbayev said. “These reserves are not used in the military sector, but they can well be used to create nuclear explosive devices. Are we aware that terrorists, having acquired even a primitive nuclear arsenal, can provoke serious inter-state conflicts?”
The mission taken up by Kazakhstan is invaluable for the humankind, said another participant of the event, Maksim Shingarkin, deputy chairman of the State Duma committee for natural resources and environment and co-founder of the Nevada – New Land movement. It is a clear and open stand. It seeks to change politicians’ minds so that they realize: global politics can be successful without the threat of nuclear weapons, becoming free of the phantoms of nuclear parity, nuclear deterrence and nuclear blackmail that have dominated politics until now.
At present, over forty countries are on the brink of acquiring nuclear technology, said Alexei Vlasov, CEO of the Information and Analytics Center for Post-Soviet Studies at the Moscow State University. The situation around Iran’s nuclear program is especially alarming. The problem cannot be resolved by using force, the expert argued. The politics of double standards used by Western countries is also objectionable.
Kazakhstan’s authority as a recognized leader of the anti-nuclear movement has allowed it to act as a moderator in the difficult dialog with Iran, Vlasov emphasized. In April 2013, it provided a platform for six-party talks (Iran, Russia, the United States, China, France and Britain) that took place in Alma-Ata…
Among Kazakhstan’s recent initiatives, the ATOM international project deserves special mentioning. The abbreviation stands for Abolition of Tests – Our Mission. The goal of the project is to attract attention of the international public for the movement for complete ban of nuclear tests. At present, it is collecting signatures for its petition all over the world.
Karipbek Kuyukov, ATOM’s honorary ambassador, told the participants about the initiative’s goals. His entire life is an illustration of the dangers of nuclear tests and at the same time of unbelievable courage and purpose a person can demonstrate in a seemingly unbearable situation. Kuyukov fell victim to Semipalatinsk tests and was born without arms. But his strong will helped him to grow up, receive an education and become a great artist – he paints holding the brush in his teeth.
“Tens of thousands of people in Kazakhstan suffered from tests on the testing ground: there were 456 tests in forty years,” Kuyukov said. “I have seen many such people in my life. Many of them died because of the radiation. I set myself a goal – I want to tell the world how ordinary people suffered. And I am positive that the more signatures we collect for our petition, the higher possibility that the humankind will give up nuclear tests for good.”
Participants of the roundtable met Kuyukov’s speech with applause. Applause is not usual at such meetings, but this was a special case: they showed their respect to the courageous man and the honorary cause he and his country have devoted themselves to.