With the organization of its first defense exposition, Kazakhstan's Ministry of Defense is making a significant push to expand its sources for military hardware beyond its traditional supplier - Russia. But questions remain about how serious Kazakhstan is about westernizing its military, and if such a move is more cosmetic than substantive.
Kazakhstan’s military relies on largely decrepit, Soviet-era heavy equipment, and its defense budget is still, by global standards, paltry: In 2010, the country budgeted $60 million for procurement of new equipment. However, when the world financial crisis ends and with oil revenues expected to increase significantly over the coming 10-15 years, Kazakhstan has laid out ambitious plans to modernize its armed forces.
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Joshua Kucera is a Washington, DC,-based freelance writer who specializes in security issues in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East. He is the editor of EurasiaNet's Bug Pit blog.