ASTANA – “As Kazakhstan increases its role and voice in regional and international affairs, the United States wishes to be Kazakhstan’s trusted strategic partner,” George Krol, U.S. President Barack Obama’s nomination for ambassador to Kazakhstan, testified to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 17.
Krol is currently U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan and served as ambassador to Belarus from 2003-2006. He joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1982 and has worked in U.S. missions in Warsaw, New Delhi, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev and Minsk and served as director of the Russian Affairs Office at the U.S. State Department and as deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs. Earlier in his career, from 1995-1997, he was special assistant to the ambassador-at-large for New Independent States (the states now known as the Commonwealth of Independent States). He has degrees from America’s Harvard University in history and from the U.K.’s Oxford University in philosophy, politics and economics. Krol was tapped to be U.S. ambassador to Turkmenistan in 2007, but never confirmed.
“If confirmed, I would intend to use diplomatic experience in the Central Asia region where I now serve as Ambassador to Uzbekistan and previously as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, as well as my interagency contacts, to lead our mission team in advancing our growing engagement with Kazakhstan in pursuit of our broader national interests of strengthening long-term stability in the Central Asia region and the world, promoting American economic and business interests, encouraging respect for universal human rights and preventing any threats to our national security emerging from this region,” Krol told the committee that must approve his nomination before it goes to the full Senate for a final vote.
The relationship between the U.S. and Kazakhstan is growing in depth and importance, the ambassador-designate said. “Our Strategic Partnership with Kazakhstan has become increasingly important as Kazakhstan takes its rightful place on the world stage as a country of consequence,” Krol said. U.S. investment in Kazakhstan has reached roughly $31 billion, and ties in the spheres of security, education and civil society have expanded, Krol noted.
The role of the U.S. is not to dictate, but to provide the Kazakh people with an example of a prosperous, rule-based democracy, he said. “The choice will be Kazakhstan’s to make, but the United States will always be a reliable principled influence and partner for Kazakhstan’s efforts to advance market reform and to develop into a free, democratic society respectful of the rights and choices of its citizens.”
Krol also remarked upon Kazakhstan’s significant aid contribution to Afghanistan and its burgeoning international development body, KAZAid, currently being established in collaboration with USAID. “This is a country the United States can work with,” he said.
“Kazakhstan has been a generous partner in Afghanistan and a vital link in the Northern Distribution Network, and is a strong supporter of building greater transport and commercial links across the region and beyond,” Krol told the committee. “Kazakhstan has also directly supported international efforts regarding Iran’s nuclear programme and has been not only a responsible partner but also a world leader in global nonproliferation efforts, having given up at its independence what was, at the time, the fourth-largest nuclear arsenal in the world.”
Kazakhstan has made “wise decisions” since its independence 22 years ago, the ambassador designate said, citing economic reforms he credited for the country’s rise to middle-income status, as well as the Bolashak international scholarship programme.
Krol was nominated for the ambassadorship on May 1. Former ambassador to Kazakhstan John Ordway has been serving as interim charge d’affaires since Ambassador Kenneth Fairfax completed his mission in October 2013.
The United States does not currently have ambassadors in about one quarter of the countries of the world, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said last week. Partisan conflict in the Senate is blamed for the logjam in confirmation votes.