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Germany and Kazakhstan Aim to Deepen Partnership

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his Kazakh counterpart KassymJomart Tokayev regard cooperation among their nations as that of “key partners” in their respective regions. The total volume of German-Kazakh trade amounts to almost $9 billion (€8.2 billion), and 85% of German foreign trade in Central Asia is conducted with Kazakh companies.

In his opening statement at the meeting of the delegations, Steinmeier praised reforms enacted under Kazakhs President Tokayev. He welcomed the abolition of the death penalty in particular, as well as the introduction of a constitutional court and the fight against corruption.

Germany and Kazakhstan have also become closer politically since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Kazakhstan has, for example, pledged to support EU sanctions, invoking the values enshrined in the UN Charter, aiming to block the re-import of prohibited goods to Russia through its territory.

Delicate balancing act

In practice, however, this could prove difficult, especially regarding so-called dual-use items, which are civilian goods that can be repurposed for military use. Kazakhstan maintains close trade ties with Russia, as both belong to the Eurasian Economic Union. Kazakhstan also shares a 7,000-kilometer (4,349 mile) land border with Russia, which is almost impossible to monitor in its entirety. Nevertheless, Kazakh border authorities and EU agencies plan to join forces in tracking down suspected sanction-breakers.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked massive fears in Kazakhstan that Russia might also seek to also pursue an imperial agenda in Central Asia. These fears are compounded by Russia’s aggressive propaganda.

The geopolitical situation requires the Kazakh leadership to perform a delicate balancing act, as Kazakhstan and Russia are bound by a number of treaties. Kazakh President Tokayev wants Russia to remain a “good friend,” urging support for all peace efforts in Ukraine. Most recently, a group of African statesand China launched initiatives to end the war, which were, however, met with a muted response from Ukraine’s Western supporters.

Promising oil deal

Tokayev said even a “bad peace” was preferable to the continuation of war in Ukraine. He also said he hoped a ceasefire could pave the way for negotiations. German President Steinmeier, on the other hand, envisioned a “just peace” for Ukraine that would not legitimize Russia’s “land grab.” While both heads of state share the same goal, they differ on how to get there.  

A number of economic agreements were signed in the presence of the two leaders, pertaining chiefly to the transport and energy sector. It was announced that Kazakhstan’s state-owned oil company would increase oil deliveries to Germany’s PCK refinery in Schwedt by 10%. The contract runs until the end of 2024.PCK refinery can no longer process Russian oil due to EU sanctions against the country and Kazakh oil deliveries will partially compensate for this shortfall.

Source : DW