ALMATY – Kazakhstan occupies 15th place in Nuclear Threat Initiative’s nuclear material security index. The head of state, speaking at the third Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 24 stressed that this position is strengthened by the country’s political and economic stability and effective anti-corruption legislation. Dean of the Faculty of International Relations of the Kazakh National Al-Farabi University, Doctor of Law, Professor Karimzhan Shakirov spoke about important non-proliferation measures taken by the country that contributed to this recognition.
The nuclear arms race continues and the number of nuclear weapon countries is increasing. In your opinion, does continued nuclear armament have the potential to reduce the number of conventional military conflicts?
First and foremost, it is important to note Kazakhstan’s example. The country has been working hard to prove that non-nuclear weapon states are capable of making a contribution in nuclear non-proliferation that matters and to demonstrate to leading powers that Kazakhstan is a major contributor to nuclear non-proliferation efforts. We are looking to show that using fear of a nuclear attack as a deterrent is a flawed concept. It is obvious that the existence of nuclear weapons has not eliminated the threat of military conflict in various parts of the world. Proving this requires more responsibility from nuclear powers in restructuring the traditional system of international security, starting with non-proliferation and ending with nuclear disarmament.
The absence of significant steps to reduce nuclear security and evidence of nuclear weapons proliferation in third countries and the risk of their use by terrorists is pushing the leaders of major global powers to seek ways to eliminate nuclear dangers. It must be admitted that this search is complicated by less than desirable relations between countries.
Kazakhstan’s determination in the early 1990s to abandon its powerful Soviet-era nuclear arsenal was an unprecedented step. This step was preceded by the creation of the “Nevada – Semey” movement and the closure of the Semipalatinsk test site. Its closure, as the President noted, was and remains the first accomplished ban on nuclear weapons testing in the world.
According to the Kazakh leader, we rose above the global threat and made a fundamental choice in favour of a nuclear-weapons free history for our country and the world. This has become the core of our statehood. Nuclear disarmament has predestined our country to become a leader in the anti-nuclear movement, imposing a noble mission to promote nuclear disarmament worldwide.
Which of Kazakhstan’s initiatives most accurately describes this mission?
In December 1993, Kazakhstan, as a non-nuclear weapon state, ratified the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Later, Kazakhstan proposed the International Day against Nuclear Tests to the UN. President Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed the adoption at the UN of the Universal Declaration on the Achievement of a Nuclear- Weapons Free World. In August 2012, The ATOM Project was introduced at the International Anti-Nuclear Conference in Astana.
In his speech at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, Nazarbayev said Kazakhstan continues to work on the creation of a regional training centre for nuclear security and, jointly with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has introduced a unique automated system of accounting, control and physical protection of natural uranium. Kazakhstan joined the Global Partnership of the Group of Eight (G8) against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In addition, Kazakhstan ratified the amendments to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.
Kazakhstan’s position on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons is reflected in many of President Nazarbayev’s speeches. Nazarbayev discussed the establishment of an independent nuclear arbitration under the IAEA or UN to identify violations of international rules on nuclear development in the American newspaper, The Washington Times. According to the President, this mechanism would be capable of solving the debate around Iran’s nuclear programme.
How do the scientists of the university, which is celebrating its 80th year, promote Kazakhstan’s non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament initiatives?
Our university, in collaboration with the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the National Nuclear Centre of Kazakhstan, the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency and Hokkaido University, has organised the training of specialists in theoretical and experimental nuclear physics, nuclear energy and technology, including in a double degree programme. In addition, our scientists are actively involved in research activities on nuclear non-proliferation. For example, last year, they participated in the first Issues of Peaceful Nuclear Energy international conference held at the Almaty Institute of Nuclear Physics.
KazNU is the only Central Asian university participating in the UN programme Academic Impact. Under its auspices, the university hosted the international conference The Changing Nature of Conflict in the 21st Century, dedicated to the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s accession to the UN. Leading international and domestic diplomats discussed the possibility of creating a conflict and nuclear weapons-free world. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sent a letter to the participants of the international conference, giving his support to preventing armed conflict and thanked the university for organising the conference jointly with the UN.
There is also a unique course, “Introduction to Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction,” held jointly with the Faculty of International Relations, the Centre for the United Nations’ assistance to KazNU and the George C. Martin Centre for Non-Proliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (U.S.).
As part of the events, U.S. Congressman Eni Faleomavaega delivered a public lecture on non-proliferation. He deeply covered the topic of safety compliance, the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes and conflict resolution, highlighting the positive role of the Kazakhstan President.
In addition, the faculty of philosophy and political science gave a presentation of a book by honoured anti-nuclear veteran Nigmet Zhotabayev, “The Lasting Echo of Nuclear Tests,” dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site. Our university also held other scientific meetings on non-proliferation and the elimination of nuclear weapons.