Kazakhstan’s Gateway to Europe – The Diplomat


On August 6, Ukraine printed a coastal notification, declaring the waters of six Russian ports on the Black Sea – Anapa, Novorossiysk, Gelendzhik, Tuapse, Sochi, and Taman – as a zone of “navy menace.” This occurred in response to Russia’s exit final month from a deal that had allowed protected export of Ukrainian grain. Moscow introduced that it might view all ships heading to Ukrainian ports within the Black Sea as carriers of navy cargo, and the international locations underneath whose flags these ships are registered as contributors within the conflict on the aspect of Kyiv.

The state of affairs escalated considerably after Ukrainian maritime drones struck Russian vessels close to Novorossiysk and Kerch in early August. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a warning that Russia dangers shedding its ships if it continues to dam the Black Sea waters and the export of grain. Sergey Vakulenko, a nonresident scholar on the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Middle, wrote lately that the Ukrainian drone assaults on Russian ships close to Novorossiysk and Kerch are a part of a plan geared toward lowering Russian exports from Black Sea ports, primarily oil.

Such important blows to grease infrastructure may additionally injury the export of Kazakhstani oil. The principle portion of Kazakhstan’s oil exports (round 70 p.c) are despatched by the Yuzhnaya Ozereevka terminal close to Novorossiysk to European Union international locations. The EU at present serves as the first and most essential commerce and financial accomplice for Kazakhstan. The EU accounts for 40 p.c of the nation’s exterior commerce and 48 p.c of whole international direct funding (FDI) influx. 

Moreover, Kazakhstan provides 70 p.c of its exported oil to EU international locations and ranks third amongst non-OPEC members by way of uncooked materials provides to the European Union. The share of Kazakhstani oil makes up about 6 p.c of whole EU oil imports. Kazakhstan additionally offers 21 p.c of the uranium imported into the EU.

Contemplating that oil is the first export commodity guaranteeing the influx of international foreign money for Kazakhstan, commerce with the European Union is an important factor within the structure of the nation’s financial stability and safety.

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Considerations in regards to the unreliability of transportation and transit routes by Russian territory, by which the export of Kazakhstani merchandise happens, predate Russia’s assault on Ukraine. Sadly, Kazakhstan’s issues with exports to Russia and transit by Russia have been continual.

Russia frequently, in violation of the foundations governing the Eurasian Financial Union (EAEU), unilaterally restricts the entry of Kazakhstani merchandise to its home market, making use of non-tariff regulatory strategies, together with unjustified selections by regulatory authorities organizations (Rospotrebnadzor, Rosselkhoznadzor). Moreover, Kazakhstani items transiting by Russian territory to exterior markets face systematic issues (similar to Russia’s imposition of a quota on the export of Kazakhstani coal by its territory in 2019), usually pushed by political motives. These disruptions frequently end in multimillion-dollar prices for Kazakhstan’s financial system.

At current, the state of affairs has been considerably aggravated by financial sanctions imposed by the West in opposition to Russia and Belarus. This has finally undermined the long-term, relative stability of the already problematic “Northern Commerce Route” for Kazakhstan. For a few years, whereas having fun with financial consolation and aligning their path with Russian pursuits, the political elite of Kazakhstan usually uncared for critical steps towards diversifying export routes. Because of this, the authorities successfully pushed the nation right into a “transit entice” set by the Kremlin, which had a destructive affect on the nation’s financial improvement and heightened Kazakhstan’s financial and, consequently, political dependence on Russia.

Now the Trans-Caspian Worldwide Transport Route (TITR) undertaking, passing by Azerbaijan and Georgia, is gaining new momentum. Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, on the summit of the Council of Cooperation of Arab States of the Persian Gulf (CCASG) and Central Asian international locations held on July 19, 2023, in Saudi Arabia, introduced plans to extend cargo transportation alongside the TITR to 500,000 containers per yr by 2030. Compared to the Northern Hall, the TITR (the so-called Center Hall) presents a extra economical and quicker commerce route, lowering the space by 2,000 kilometers. Moreover, it advantages from favorable climatic and political circumstances. Good neighborly and partnership relations with Azerbaijan and Georgia (by which the Trans-Caspian route passes), in addition to the political predictability of those international locations, can guarantee extra favorable transit circumstances for Kazakhstan.

The event of the TITR and different various transport routes might be a major step in guaranteeing financial safety. That is a part of a pure response to ongoing issues with transporting items by Russia. The advantages of the event of the TITR needs to be shared by all of the international locations alongside its route. Among the many important benefits that the taking part international locations will acquire from the undertaking, the next may be highlighted: Transit charges and extra revenues; creation of needed financial infrastructure to facilitate unhindered transit, together with pipelines, railways, ports, and terminals; elevated geopolitical affect by management over key transit routes; and stimulating the event of the power sector by the passage of oil by particular territories.

For Kazakhstan, specifically, the event of the TITR presents broader entry to world markets for promoting oil and different items and accelerated transportation by using Azerbaijan’s developed infrastructure for oil supply and processing, guaranteeing extra environment friendly provide administration. The route additionally diversifies danger: With a number of routes in place, Kazakhstan can scale back the chance of issues or delays in transit.

An essential final result of this undertaking might be nearer cooperation between Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, which might have a constructive affect on numerous features of interplay. This might vary from joint investments in infrastructure and alternate of expertise and applied sciences, to strategic strengthening of political, financial, and cultural ties between the 2 international locations.

Sadly, however for fairly predictable causes, the TITR undertaking faces sturdy opposition from Russia. Just lately, Russian media employed a set of political expertise clichés, describing the state of affairs as a “sport at the hours of darkness.” (One headline, for instance, learn: “A Sport within the Darkish: Kazakhstan is Constructing a Transport Hall round Russia”). This isn’t shocking, contemplating that profitable completion of the undertaking would strip the Kremlin of an essential leverage level over Astana.

The numerous financial results that Kazakhstan would profit from in creating the TITR wouldn’t favor the Kremlin, which is accustomed to “twisting the arms” of economically susceptible neighbors.

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It’s additionally price noting that the undertaking comes with its challenges. Among the many main obstacles are the complicated logistics of the route and excessive funding prices for rolling inventory and infrastructure. The logistical complexities contain double transshipment between rail/street and sea transportation by the Caspian and Black Seas. At present, cargo transportation throughout the Caspian is primarily carried out by Azerbaijani vessels. To attain the declared capability, substantial investments are wanted in transportation infrastructure and the enlargement of the maritime buying and selling fleet. Moreover, customs inspection occasions must be diminished.

The conclusion of the TITR undertaking would require not solely financing but in addition sturdy political and diplomatic will, in addition to competent undertaking administration from the governments concerned.


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