A Dispatch From Kazakhstan's Military-Industrial Complex
Kazakhstan's biennial defense expo, KADEX, kicked off on Thursday in Astana with hundreds of defense companies displaying their wares, Kazakhstan's armed forces strutting their stuff, and a visit from President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
This is the second iteration of KADEX; the 2010 inaugural event was the first defense expo in Central Asia, and announced Kazakhstan's intention to be a serious player in the world arms market. This year, organizers say the event has grown, with 30 percent more participants, 250 companies from 20 countries taking part. And thanks to a grant from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, The Bug Pit is here in Astana to cover it.
The marquee event Thursday was the demonstration of Kazakhstan's vehicles and aircraft, special forces units, and a small parade of military bands from around the world, including Germany, Poland, India, Tajikistan and the U.S. Nazarbayev and a crowd of chilled, wet VIPs were on hand to watch it.
But the real business of the show is business, with Kazakhstan showing off the fruits of its defense industry and foreign firms coming to Kazakhstan to try to make some deals here. Most of the foreign companies, unsurprisingly, were Russian or other ex-Soviet republics (though none from elsewhere in Central Asia). The turnout of non-post-Soviet companies seemed about the same as it was two years ago, with Turkish companies leading the way (they have an entire pavilion to themselves) followed by Israeli companies, and a smattering of European, U.S. and Chinese companies.
Future posts will cover some of the new developments in Central Asian defense business that are on display at the show, including how Kazakhstan has persuaded a number of Western firms to set up operations in Kazakhstan, and how the CSTO is now marketing its own military equipment, including drones. Stay tuned.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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