As the campaign against terrorism in Afghanistan enters an uncertain phase, Kazakhstan is striving to reinforce its position as Central Asia's economic powerhouse and cast itself as a pillar of regional stability. All indicators show that US President George W. Bush's administration is responding favorably to the Kazakhstani initiative.
During an early December tour of Central Asia, Secretary of State Colin Powell issued an invitation to Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev to visit Washington. Nazarbayev made his visit several weeks later. The Kazakhstani leader used the trip not only to polish the country's image, but also to restore his own personal reputation, which has been damaged by published reports, including a long article in the New Yorker magazine, detailing top-level corruption.
Speaking to reporters after his December 21 meeting with Bush and lunch with Vice President Dick Cheney, Nazarbayev stressed Kazakhstan's solidarity with the American fight against terrorist extremism. He also claimed legitimacy as a leader on economic and political reform in Central Asia. "They congratulate us on our achievements, and we received support from the US leadership," he said.
Bush and Nazarbayev signed a joint statement on a New Kazakhstan-American Relationship, which committed the United States and Kazakhstan "to advance a shared vision of a peaceful, prosperous and sovereign Kazakhstan
Alima Bisenova is a freelance journalist, based in Astana, Kazakhstan.