as a partner for the security and stability of Europe, its neighbourhood, and other regions of the world

01 — The key questions for the Partner-Atlas

RELEVANCE: What relevance does Kazakhstan have for Germany with regards to “the security and stability of Europe, its neighbourhood, and other regions of the world?"

The Expo 2017 world exhibition, a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (2018), the peace talks on Syria: no country in Central Asia is as oriented towards Europe and Germany as Kazakhstan. Nevertheless, much of what has happened recently in Kazakhstan and Central Asia has remained below Germany’s threshold of perception.

Kazakhstan, in particular, is gaining importance with respect to many strategic issues. For example, the New Silk Road project initiated by the People’s Republic of China extends for more than 2,800 kilometers through Kazakhstan, giving rise both to high expectations and to skepticism and a fear of dependence. Considering China’s strategic choice of partner and location, the project not only has an economic policy dimension, but is also increasingly taking on a geopolitical dimension. This goes hand in hand with China’s digitization initiative, which, in China’s efforts to export it, is affecting the very foundations of free societies.[i]

Even today, Kazakhstan sees Russia as its primary strategic partner in matters of security policy. However, since its founding in 1991, the Central Asian country, in the person of its first president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has tried to balance the power struggles and dynamics of China, Russia and the West (EU and USA) based on the concept of multivectoral foreign policy, and thus to find its own way toward sovereign development. This is also a factor that makes Kazakhstan interesting.

WILLINGNESS: To what extent is Kazakhstan willing to work with Germany in realising this interest?

Kazakhstan was the only Central Asian country to have been significantly involved in both in the development and implementation of the first EU-Central Asia strategy (2007). Kazakhstan then played a leading role in developing the new EU-Central Asia Strategy (2019).

As far as security is concerned, Central Asian nationals have carried out fatal terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere and have fought alongside ISIS/Da’esh in Iraq and Syria. For a number of years, Kazakhstan has been vehemently fighting radical Islam. Those who recruit fighters have been sentenced to severe prison terms. The education and preaching of Islamic clergy, along with the practice of religion, are under state control.

There is also cooperation with German authorities in this respect. Kazakhstan is very interested in working together on training its security agencies. The General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Kazakhstan has extensive law enforcement competencies and works on matters of training with several German institutions, including the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation. Members of the Kazakh army have been trained by the German Armed Forces as part of the Partnership for Peace program.

STATUS QUO: How close is Germany and Kazakhstan's current cooperation in this area?

On the one hand, Kazakhstan collaborates with Germany via joint membership of multilateral organizations, such as the UN and OSCE, which Kazakhstan chaired in 2009. For decades, however, their collaboration has also been based on common issues, for example preventing arms proliferation as well as putting an end to the trafficking of human beings, arms and drugs.

In April 1995, Germany and Kazakhstan signed an agreement on security cooperation that has been revised and renegotiated since 2014 at the request of Germany, and which is on the list of agreements to be signed for 2020. In the new version, the resolution maintains cooperation across the entire range of security policy, from the fight against terrorism and organized crime to cyber defense and counterfeiting. It also provides for the exchange of experts and personal data.

There is also a transit agreement for military personnel in relation to Afghanistan (since 2007) and one to ensure the security of classified information (since 2003).

POTENTIAL: What is the potential for strengthening the partnership between Germany and Kazakhstan in this area?

If we consider Kazakhstan’s work as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, the range of issues on which the country can be approached becomes evident:

a) The nuclear disarmament of world powers In January 2018, the central event of Kazakhstan’s membership in the UN Security Council was a high-level thematic briefing on “Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction: confidence-building measures”. The presidential statement of the UN Security Council No. S/PRST/2018/1, adopted at the end of the meeting, is devoted to the comprehensive strategy for conflict resolution. This has great potential for cooperation between Kazakhstan and Germany at the level of multilateral organizations.

b) Central Asia and Afghanistan Kazakhstan’s membership of the UN Security Council continued to focus on the UN Security Council’s ministerial debate on “Building a regional partnership in Afghanistan and Central Asia as a model for linking security and development”, chaired by Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov. The meeting was attended by the foreign ministers of Kuwait, Russia, Poland, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the deputy foreign ministers of Great Britain, the Netherlands, the United States, Equatorial Guinea and Afghanistan, and delegations from member states of the UN Security Council and the European Union.

A few years ago, Kazakhstan started to provide development aid through its own state agency. In this way, Kazakhstan is contributing to the stability of Afghanistan in particular. Kazakhstan increased this commitment during the course of the coronavirus crisis and expanded it to neighboring Tajikistan. Large quantities of basic foodstuffs (especially wheat flour) were delivered to Dushanbe in order to alleviate the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

c) Fighting terrorism

In 2018, Kazakhstan hosted a special high-level event to launch a draft code of conduct for a world without terrorism. The primary objective of the document is to attain a world free of terrorism by 2045 and to create a broad international coalition of partner countries. To bolster the relevance and importance of the code, speakers included leaders of the United Nations and Security Council counter-terrorism units, along with the leaders and representatives of more than 100 Member State delegations.

The bilateral relationship between Germany and Kazakhstan offers considerable potential for the fight against terrorism and other crime. Work can be intensified on the basis of the renegotiated agreement on cooperation in the fight against organized crime and terrorism, along with other dangerous forms of crime. There already exist joint governmental commissions for the economy and for ethnic Germans in Kazakhstan. The latter is run by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior together with the Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan. Decades of trusting cooperation with the German Ministry of the Interior offer the potential for thematic and organizational expansion to include the above-mentioned security policy issues.

POLICY RECOMMENDATION: What in German foreign policy has to change in order to fully exploit this potential?

It is important for Kazakhstan to be recognised and taken more seriously as a possible strategic partner. The country is aiming to achieve recognition and form partnerships. It could be demonstrated that there are common interests and collaboration in the fight against Islamist terror, nuclear proliferation and trafficking in arms, drugs and human beings. For these reasons, the newly negotiated security agreement should be signed soon.

However, both countries also have strategic deficits. Neither Germany nor Kazakhstan have a consistent strategy with regard to China and the initiatives coming from there, and so intensified cooperation on the New Silk Road and digitization is particularly recommended. Germany and Kazakhstan have maintained good and trusting bilateral relations for 28 years, involving reliable solutions to problems on which they can build.

Thomas Helm was head of the KAS Office in Kazakhstan until September 2020.

[ii] A study published at the end of September 2020 by KAS Kazakhstan, together with the Kazakh analysis institute TALAP, and a discussion paper on the study published by KAS show on the one hand that a majority of people in Kazakhstan are more interested in contact with China, which is limited to tourism and a limited economic exchange, and on the other hand they are strongly suspicious of China’s attempts to make itself the winner of the Corona crisis.


  • Population: 18,776,707
  • Capital: Nur-Sultan
  • Interest: The Security and Stability of Europe, its Neighbourhood, and other Regions of the World
  • Region: Asia and the Pacific
  • Potential partner countries: Australia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Singapore, South Korea, Philippines, Japan, Uzbekistan

02 — Foreign Office


Country Office Kasachstan
Kabanbai Batyr Str. 6/3 - 82
010001 Astana

04 — The region

Asia and the Pacific



For Germany, Japan is one of the most important economic and value partners in Asia. In addition to the wish for jointly maintaining and further developing the multilateral order, there is also the desire for closer cooperation in future technologies. Japan and Germany face similar challenges, particularly in regard to the future of industrial production and the demographic development of their societies.

  • Population: 126,476,461
  • Capital: Tokyo


Germany has a vital interest in maintaining and consolidating a world order based on the values of liberal democracy and on the centrality of the United Nations (UN). Given the USA’s global withdrawal, which the coronavirus pandemic has made even more evident, Germany needs to pursue this goal together with other international partners. With the Indo-Pacific Guidelines that were released in September 2020, the Federal Government expressly commits itself to this task in the region that is taking centre stage in the 21st century. India’s importance can hardly be overestimated in this respect: India is already the largest democracy in the world, and within the next decade it will replace China as the most populous country. Like Germany, the subcontinent at the Indo-Pacific interface is dependent on a solid security structure, an open trading system, and free navigation in international waters. India is severely affected by the consequences of global warming due to its vulnerable ecosystems and is reliant on multilateral approaches to solve this global problem.

  • Population: 1,380,004,385
  • Capital: New Delhi


For decades, Afghanistan was the country with the largest diaspora in the world. In 2015, this position was taken by Syria. Afghanistan looks back on 40 years of fleeing refugees, emigration and expulsion due to civil war, violence and destroyed livelihoods. Since 2001, the country has been one of Germany’s most important security partners in the Middle East. Afghanistan is also a reliable partner in migration policy and has never used migration flows as political leverage.

  • Population: 38,928,346
  • Capital: Kabul


The Expo 2017 world exhibition, a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (2018), the peace talks on Syria: no country in Central Asia is as oriented towards Europe and Germany as Kazakhstan. Nevertheless, much of what has happened recently in Kazakhstan and Central Asia has remained below Germany’s threshold of perception.

  • Population: 18,776,707
  • Capital: Nur-Sultan


Vietnam is one of the few communist countries. A “socialist-oriented market economy” determines the country’s economic status, the communist party vigorously enforces its claim to total power, and the country is subject to fierce criticism in reports on human rights. At the same time, more than three decades of economic growth and political stability have led to Vietnam establishing itself as an influential player in Southeast Asia. An early and vigorous response to the coronavirus crisis has so far managed to limit the dangers to health and the economy.

  • Population: 95,529,003
  • Capital: Hanoi