Such has been the success of Kazakhstan over the last 24 years that it can be easy to forget that the county is located in an unstable region. It is a tribute to Kazakhstan and its closest neighbours that they have lived in peace together since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
It is a mark as well of the good sense of the Kazakh people that the extreme and violent ideologies which have sadly taken a hold in countries not far from our borders have found no home here. Kazakhstan stands as an example of how those of different backgrounds and faiths can live together in harmony.
But peace should never be taken for granted. We can see tragically from too many parts of the world the dangers that countries face. It is why the role of the Kazakh Armed Forces in protecting our people and land from outside threats continues to be important and is rightly celebrated this week.
It was 24 years ago on May 7 that the Kazakh Armed Forces formally came into being. The date is significant as it falls in the week when countries celebrate the end of war in Europe and the bravery and sacrifice of those who fought against the evil of Nazism.
Kazakhstan was, of course, a republic within the Soviet Union at that time. But its contribution in lifting this shadow from the world was immense. More than a million men and women from Kazakhstan fought against Hitler’s armies, and only half of them returned home after the war.
Fortunately our Armed Forces have not been called into action to defend our territory. But no one should doubt that they would be up to the task. Our land, air and naval forces are highly motivated, well trained and well-equipped with an increasingly high proportion of its sophisticated armaments and vehicles produced within Kazakhstan.
By boosting our domestic defence industry, not only are skills, jobs and expertise being grown which can help the development of other hi-tech industries, but it is easier to keep a control of costs. This explains why Kazakhstan has been able to keep its military strong without major budget increases.
Indeed, President Nazarbayev has warned against the dangers of a new arms race in defence spending. He called, in his recent Manifesto, for all countries to divert resources from existing military budgets to support global sustainable development. Kazakhstan shows there is no conflict between maintaining a strong national defence force and being a consistent campaigner for peace and disarmament.
In many ways, our Armed Forces are a symbol of our country’s successful foreign policy which is based on co-operation and dialogue. Kazakhstan is a founding member of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation and our forces work together closely with those of other CSTO members.
But they also have a long track record of co-operation with NATO including the crucial logistic support given to its mission in Afghanistan. Among the initiatives to strengthen these links is the regular exchange programme between U.S. and Kazakh cadets who visit America’s renowned West Point military academy.
The increased understanding such programmes and co-operation bring has never been more important. Our Armed Forces find themselves working increasingly with other countries on international peace-keeping missions. Kazakhstan has recognised its growing responsibility, as our economy develops, to play its part in promoting global peace and stability. Our officers are in the forefront of this work, helping protect civilian lives in the world’s trouble spots.
It is this immense contribution to our country’s progress and security which is celebrated across the country on Defender of the Fatherland Day on May 7. A national holiday, it gives us the chance to pause and think about the central role the Armed Forces have played and continue to play in the life and success of our country. They are a credit to our nation.