Caspian Policy Center Holds Discussion on Kazakhstan’s Denuclearization Efforts
Author: Caspian Policy Center
Aug 31, 2021
Experts discussed the historic closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear test site and Kazakhstan’s successful denuclearization with U.S. support.
Washington, D.C. — ON AUGUST 31, the Caspian Policy Center (CPC) hosted a panel of experts to discuss the accomplishments of U.S.-Kazakhstan cooperation in nuclear security and how the relationship built over non-proliferation strengthened the countries’ bilateral relations allowing it to grow in many spheres.
The webinar was hosted in conjunction with the 30th anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site in Eastern Kazakhstan, which was signed by the first President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev on August 29, 1991.
Efgan Nifti, Chief Executive Officer of CPC, opened the event with welcome remarks that were focused on the importance of the accomplishments of U.S.-Kazakhstan cooperation and how Kazakhstan’s successful denuclearization can serve as an example for denuclearization efforts around the world.
“Nuclear security remains a pressing issue today, and Kazakhstan has become a leader in non-proliferation,” said Mr. Nifti. “30 years after the closure of the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Eastern Kazakhstan there are still valuable lessons to learn.”
Ambassador (Ret.) Richard Hoagland, former U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan and the Chairman of the Caspian Policy Board, moderated the insightful discussion among the webinar participants about the historical partnership between the United States and Kazakhstan in nuclear threat reduction and the future this paved for international cooperation in denuclearization.
“There was a time when Russia, the United States, and Kazakhstan, worked together successfully and I’m sure we will again in the future,” said Ambassador Hoagland.
H.E. Yerzhan Ashikbayev, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the United States, delivered keynote remarks during the panel emphasizing the important role Kazakhstan plays in global non-proliferation efforts.
“The end of the nuclear test site was also the beginning of Kazakh-U.S. practical cooperation on nuclear threat reduction, which eventually proved to be one of the most prominent success stories in the modern history of non-proliferation and disarmament,” said Ambassador Ashikbayev. “It is the aspiration of Kazakhstan to see a nuclear-free world by the centenary of the United Nations in 2045.”
The panelists, Andrew Weber, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Strategic Risks and Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical & Biological Defense Programs (2009-2014), Erlan Batyrbekov, Director General of the National Nuclear Center in Kazakhstan, and Leon Ratz, Senior Program Officer for Materials Risk Management at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, discussed the decisions made to successfully denuclearize in Kazakhstan and how these methods can be employed in other parts of the word to reduce nuclear threats.
“The first president of Kazakhstan made a decision right from the get-go to do the right thing for Kazakhstan’s security and for global security and that allowed the United States to play a supporting role over the decades to deal with the legacy of the Soviet Union’s weapons of mass destruction,” said Mr. Weber.
“This year [Kazakhstan] completed a comprehensive multiyear radiological survey of the Semipalatinsk Site and based on these results we will develop recommendations for reducing the territory of the testing site which cannot be left in reserve lands,” said Mr. Batyrbekov.
“There are a number of important lessons that the denuclearization experience in Kazakhstan offers for places like North Korea, like closure and remediation of the test site, the process of reemployment of scientists, and what you do with a number of biological and chemical facilities in addition to the nuclear facility,” said Mr. Ratz.
At the end of the webinar, the panelists emphasized the importance of personal relationships and trust for forwarding international cooperation and threat reduction efforts. The speakers highlighted that although nuclear threat reduction is historically one of the key areas of U.S.-Kazakhstan relations, the partnership between the two countries has flourished in multiple sectors.
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