Kazakhstan Declared a “Free Nation”

Here’s a kicker. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev is visited the United States this Friday. While having his government run ads in response to the sure to be hilarious movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev is getting the royal treatment by the Bush Administration. On Friday, Bush had the audacity to say that Kazakhstan is a “free nation”. What an idiot. Even the conservative National Review called Bush’s embracing of Nazarbayev as such:

But like too many visitors to the White House these days, Nazarbayev is an autocrat. He is not democratically elected, he allows little leeway for his opponents, and he is working to keep political power centralized in the hands of his own family. For Nazarbayev, who visited the Clinton White House twice but has not met Bush in Washington, D.C. since December 2001, the invitation is a victory. He will use the Bush White House to confirm that his autocracy has substantial U.S. support. This couldn’t come at a worse time, as a predominately Muslim Kazakhstan teeters on the brink of turning into another Saudi Arabia: corrupt at the top, with ample cause for discontent at the bottom.

But I guess that according to Bush’s definition of “free”, Kazakhstan is probably a shining beacon. I also think that we can translate “free” as geopolitically vital to US interests. If you are willing to make deals with the US, like Nazarbayev is, then you are placed in the ideological clear no matter what you do to your citizens.

As a LA Times editorial put it,

[T]here are few nations more strategically important to the United States than Kazakhstan. Its mineral resources are vast; by 2015, it is expected to account for nearly as much oil production as Iran. It is a stable U.S. ally in a region marked by shaky friends, rivals and foes, such as Russia, China, Afghanistan and Iran. It is a majority-Muslim country that sent troops to Iraq and opened its airspace to U.S. flights during the invasion of Afghanistan. It is a model for nuclear disarmament, having agreed to destroy the missiles it inherited from the former Soviet Union.

. . .

Yet Kazakhstan is too important to ignore or keep at a distance — and the reasons go far beyond its oil wealth. If Bush confines himself to meeting only with leaders who have perfect democratic records, he’ll have to rule out the heads of most countries in the developing world.

True enough. The US has to deal with these countries but it can certainly do so without such silly hyperbole. Such statements are just embarrassing and further undermine the little credibility Bush has left.

Nazarbayev’s visit was of course overshadowed by Borat and the genius publicity campaign for the upcoming movie. Borat attempted to crash the White House meeting, only to be turned away by the Secret Service.

I just hope the movie is still in theaters when I get back to the States in late November.