RUSSIA-KAZAKHSTAN: “SECURITY AND COOPERATION” DILEMMA ALONG THE COMMON BORDER
Sergei Golunov, Director, Center for Regional and Transborder Research, Volgograd State University (Russian Federation)
The Soviet Union’s disintegration radically changed the political situation in the vast area of the Eurasian continent. The Iron Curtain disappeared leaving a vacuum filled in with the help of all sorts of positive and negative factors affecting the security of the new states. At the same time the formerly unified expanse now divided by visible and invisible frontiers is becoming increasingly discrete.
This is best illustrated by the area along the border between Russia and Kazakhstan. The boundary is a unique political and geographic phenomenon without analogies in Eurasia and elsewhere. This is the world’s longest land border between two states1 with a short stretch of a sea border in the Caspian Sea. This is a unique example of a relatively porous state border that divides the countries of the Eastern and Western, Christian and Muslim civilizations.
No wonder that when the Soviet Union fell apart the border gradually developed into an important instrument of cooperation not only between the two largest post-Soviet states but also between the European and Asian and Northern and Southern parts of Eurasia. On the one hand, security problems that came to the forefront in the 1990s require an efficient protection against illegal transborder flows to Russia and the EU countries. On the other, the sealed off border will lead to effects comparable with blood flow occlusion in a huge organism, in our case the post-Soviet space. A choice of a “strict” or “lenient” strategy at the border that today relies on security and cooperation as the key paradigms may seriously change the geopolitical situation that will go beyond the relations between Russia and Kazakhstan.
These paradigms can be regarded, to a certain extent, as opposites, yet they are not mutually exclusive and they can be combined in various variants and proportions. I intend to analyze the most important factors that may affect these proportions.
General Description of the Border Area
Strange as it may seem the border’s total length has not yet been established: the figures vary from 6,400 to 7,600 km.2 Meanwhile, this is not an idle question: in case of setting up a full-scale border regime and equipping extra 1,000 km of the border will cost tens of millions of dollars more.
On the Russian side of the border there are 12 adjacent regions with about 26 million living in them.3 Seventy administrative districts with over 1,500 settlements in which over 3m people are living are situated directly along the border.4
Seven out of Kazakhstan’s 14 regions are lined along its border with Russia. In the north and west there are 5.3m people living in the border regions; 2.4m of them live in the countryside (up north the population density is somewhat higher).5 Thus, the border areas’ demographic descriptions are comparable, though the demographic potential of Russia’s border areas is nearly five times higher.
The correlation between the title ethnoses on both sides of the border considerably differs. In the Russian border areas Russians comprise about 82.1 percent of the total population, Kazakhs, only 2.1 percent. The figures for the Kazakhstani side are: Russians, about 74 percent, Kazakhs, about 9 percent. The Volgograd Region is a striking example of how far the ethnic proportions diverge at the regional and local levels: from 89 percent of Russians and 1.6 percent of Kazakhs to 33 and 57 percent, respectively.6
The landscape on the both sides is mainly the same: steppes and semi-deserts with rare natural obstacles. The border rivers divide the two countries on the stretches of no longer than 150 km. Natural obstacles are mainly found in the border stretches of the Altai Territory and part of the Republic of Altai. They are both mountainous countries and transborder communication is much more difficult there than elsewhere.
These geographic features have made the border quite suitable for transport communication: it is crossed by 16 railways, about 200 roads (6 highways, 36 roads have pavement, 33 roads have no pavement, the rest are dirt roads hard to negotiate in bad weather).7
Under Soviet power the transportation system originated and developed as a single complex whose elements were set up without regard for the administrative borders between the Soviet republics. As a result, in some places roads and railways cross the state frontier to return to the territory of “their” country in other places. In case of railways this creates serious problems because transportation between parts of the same state depends on the neighboring state. In addition, the state and departmental affiliation of such stretches may differ.8
The resource potential of the border territories is one of the long-term factors of transborder cooperation. Here I have in mind oil, ores, coal, timber, agricultural products (mainly grain), cattle and the pastures it needs and water for irrigation. I shall demonstrate below that the most efficient technological chains inherited from Soviet times that have survived the hardships of the transition period continue operating because they process raw materials supplied by Kazakhstan and return part of finished products (metal products, gasoline, electric power, etc.).
Both countries, and Russia in the first place as the main target of smuggling, are facing problems unheard of under Soviet power. Indeed, there is no more or less efficient border control—the border terrain remains easily negotiable while the cost of adequate border equipment remains too high. The problems were also created by the fact that the system of rigid administrative control within the Soviet Union had fallen apart, new social problems appeared, and international criminal groups set up a well-oiled system of illegal transborder activity. On top of that, the previous rigid control of the Soviet state frontiers slackened.
Border security problems that both sides have to address play an ambiguous role in policy forming. There are two groups of problems. The first (that includes drug trafficking, other types of smuggling, illegal migration, and irredentism) suggests that the border regime should be tightened and unilateral measures should be taken. The second group that comprises ecology and related issues calls for coordinated actions.
Unprecedentedly large amount of drugs illegally moved across the border is Russia’s main headache. The drugs arrive mainly from Afghanistan (75 percent of the world heroin production). The long and easy-to-cross border between Russia and Kazakhstan attracts drug dealers as the key to the route that starts in Central Asia and ends in Russia. In fact, Kazakhstan is one of the world’s largest producers of marijuana: its southern areas grow up to 5 thousand tons of drug raw material every year. The Ministry of the Interior of the Russian Federation has supplied impressive figures: 93 percent of marijuana, 85 percent of hashish and 78 percent of opium arrive in Russia via Kazakhstan.9 Every year the amount of arrested drugs is increasing. This can be explained both by stricter border control and greater volumes of drugs moved across the border. According to the Federal Border Guard Service of the RF, in a year and nine months (1996-1997) 560 kg of drugs were confiscated.10 In 2000, the Southeastern regional department alone of the border guard service (that is, without Astrakhan, another entry point) arrested 394 kg.11
International experience has proven that border guard and customs services can confiscate not more than 5 to 10 percent of smuggled drugs. Meanwhile, Russian experts say that if the present trend continues, in ten years one out of five Russian citizens will become addicted to drugs.12 Europe will have its share of drug addiction, too. It looks as if drug pushing has become a more serious threat to Russia than territorial losses and probably even domestic instability.
Any comparison of the risks Russia may run if the border with Kazakhstan remains porous and its economic losses if it is sealed off suggests a sad conclusion: transborder cooperation cannot compensate for the losses Russia is suffering because of drug traffic. A mere comparison of the market price of heroin produced in Afghanistan in 1999 ($130-140 billion) the bulk of which reaches its users along the northern route and the figures of foreign trade turnover among the CIS countries in 2000 ($25.3 billion) can easily discredit the idea about priority development of transborder cooperation and speak in favor of tighter administrative control. The scope of drug traffic is the main argument in favor of stricter control on the Russian-Kazakhstani border.
At the same time, such control will most probably decrease Russia’s influence in Kazakhstan while producing doubtful advantages. Indeed, drugs are mainly moved by railways and highways (experts quote a figure of 70 percent) that enter the Russian Federation at checkpoints. It seems that without efficient and wide-scale cooperation with Kazakhstan and other regional countries (if they are really interested) unilateral measures may prove less effective than desired.
The virtually open frontier and its inadequately determined legal status, along with a wide gap between the economic contexts of the territories on both sides and their social ailments ease smuggling of finished products and raw materials. As in all other fields, the past decade allowed smugglers to set up channels on the inter-regional, regional, and local levels and to organize themselves into stable transborder criminal groups. A large number of people living close to the border are involved in smuggling and earn money from it together with people working in the transportation system and its infrastructure, and law enforcement structures who help draw documents on cargoes, register migrants, etc.
Large amounts of scrap of non-ferrous metals, timber, construction materials, agricultural products and foodstuffs, alcohol and liquor, consumer goods (with Chinese goods predominating), fuel, greases and lubricants, and automobile spare parts are smuggled to Kazakhstan. It reciprocates with foodstuffs, home-distilled liquor, and consumer goods. The counterflows of food and fuel are explained by the price scissors: gasoline is much more expensive in Kazakhstan while food is more expensive in Russia.13
Some of the local people are living solely on what they earn by smuggling on a small scale. Customs dues and other fees and administrative abuses force people to avoid control. Economic entities on both sides frequently need fuel and spare parts very much and have to resort to illegal transborder barter. These and many other factors testify that smuggling is born not only by shadow economy but also by stricter control at the border that produces negative effects in the administrative and legal sphere, and by gaps in the legal basis of transborder relations, especially at the local and regional levels.
Uncontrolled migration is of special importance for Russia and other European countries, it stands apart from other transborder security problems. Uncontrolled migration from Kazakhstan may upset ethnic balance in Russia’s western border regions—in future this may give rise to irredentist sentiments. Labor and trade migration from Central Asia and Kazakhstan may produce numerous ethnic communities springing up along the border on the Russian side excluded or nearly excluded from social life and thus causing social tension.
In the post-Soviet period illegal migrants from the far abroad have been using Kazakhstan and Russia partly to settle in the Russian Federation, partly to go further on, to the EU. Between 1997 and 1999 about 2 thousand illegal migrants were detained on the border (1.5 thousands of them being citizens of Afghanistan, others, citizens of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and other Asian states). According to experts of the Federal Border Guard Service, 34 percent of all illegal crossings take place on the border with Kazakhstan, with only 2 to 10 percent of illegal migrants being arrested.14
Fighters heading for Chechnia have started using Central Asia and Russia as frequently as the Azerbaijanian and Georgian routes. According to the Southeastern Regional Administration of the Federal Border Guard Service, in 2000 border guards, together with the Federal Security Service and the Ministry of the Interior identified 300 people that intended to join Chechen separatists.15
Recently, a new trend has become obvious: local criminal groups are formed close to the border that smuggle drugs and illegal migrants, steal cattle, and poach (in the Caspian Sea, in particular). They use the adjacent areas to sell illegal products or bury traces of their crimes, which makes investigation harder.
Ecological security is threatened by an absence of a unified system of control over the formerly common expanse. For the same reason it has become harder to address transborder environmental problems. Considerable agricultural areas are neglected, the local authorities have no means to fight pests, which makes Kazakhstan a source of insects that greatly threaten the neighbors. In particular, there is a greater threat of epidemics that originate in the steppes along the border where there are natural foci of dangerous infections: plague, anthrax, tularemia, and brucellosis. Plants and animals may also be infected. This calls for tighter sanitary measures at the border that both sides (Russia especially) have to introduce.
From time to time water use and pollution of the rivers that cross the border create problems. Ecological safety of the river Irtysh that starts in China and crosses Kazakhstan and Russia is one of the major ecological problems for the two countries. China is planning a canal between the Cherniy Irtysh and Karamei rivers, which will deprive the Irtysh of about the fourth part of its water flow. This will inevitably increase specific pollution thus endangering water supply in two other countries, in the first place Kazakhstan.
On the Caspian shore problems are created by intensive mining and extraction of raw materials on land and on the seabed. The former produces air masses saturated with hydrogen sulphide that move from Kazakhstan to Russia, soil may subside, earthquakes may be provoked. Mining on the seabed pollutes the sea and irreparably damages the biological resources in the north of the Caspian.
Transborder Cooperation: Successes and Difficulties
The regions have become relatively independent in their foreign contacts: this is one of the main opportunities opened to them when the rigid administrative and command system of the Soviet period melted away. The border administrative units on both sides can now enter into cooperation in the production, trade, financial, transport, humanitarian (social, educational, and cultural), ecological, and other spheres.
The border areas and related organizations manifest special interest in transborder cooperation, this interest sometimes developing into transnational interests. This is an important factor of the border policy—in future it may contribute to a new configuration of the border-adjacent territories and, possibly, to stable transborder regional organizations in both countries. Today, such regions already rely on the Agreement on Border Cooperation between the Regions of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan for 1999-2007 of 24 September, 1999 which was signed together with a Program of Border Cooperation that will function during the same period.
It seems that the priority the sides attach to cooperation may probably suggest such forms of transborder security (with a special emphasis on joint actions by the structures of the ministries of the interior and a common border area with strengthened southern border of Kazakhstan) that will not lead to an excessively strict regime on the border between Russia and Kazakhstan. The present level of such cooperation does not breed optimistic expectations. Let have a closer look at the potential.
Production cooperation is mainly determined by the need to develop the resource, infrastructure, technological and other potentials created under Soviet power. Today, the problems and new priorities of the post-Soviet decade still call for close cooperation that would ensure a complete production cycle. One of the priorities is mining in Kazakhstan with the help of Russia-made equipment; the extracted raw materials can go to Russian enterprises for processing. In some cases finished or semi-finished products are returned to Kazakhstan.
Today, the most promising oil fields of Western Kazakhstan (Karachaganak, Tengiz, Kashagan on the Caspian shelf, and others) use drilling equipment made in Russia and supplied from the Astrakhan and Volgograd regions. The greater part of the minerals mined in Kazakhstan is processed at Russian enterprises close to the border, in the Samara, Orenburg, and Omsk regions. Russian enterprises of the border area receive all sorts of raw materials, including non-ferrous metals (manganese, titan, lead, chromium, and zinc); part of finished products return to Kazakhstan. This pattern is also used in case of coal supplied by Kazakhstan and used in Russia in heavy industry and power production, power being partly consumed across the border in Kazakhstan.
There are fairly close ties between economic infrastructures at the local level: agricultural products from Kazakhstan are taken for processing to Russia; agricultural machines are also repaired across the border.
At the same time, production cooperation depends to a great extent on the economic situation. The crisis of the 1990s crippled heavy industry to a great extent, caused falling-off of production, partial loss of Kazakhstani markets and forced the border regions to look for other partners. This was also caused by the fact that some of the large enterprises in Northern and Western Kazakhstan were sold to foreigners. For example, when a South Korean company Samsung bought the leaders of the copper industry of Kazakhstan, Russia was deprived of copper supplies. The same happened when Western firms bought certain ore mining enterprises (in particular, chromium mining).16
There are other problems: the sides’ low investment potentials (especially of Kazakhstan’s), greatly differing potentials of the border regions, numerous administrative, legal, and other barriers.
Trade between the adjacent regions on both sides of the border should be increased and business activity should intensify. For the greater part of the border regions the country across the border is the priority foreign-trade partner: for four out of 12 border Russian regions (Cheliabinsk, Orenburg, Kurgan regions and the Altai Territory) Kazakhstan is the main trade partner; all Russian border regions look at it as one out of three priority CIS partners.
Russia, in its turn, is a priority foreign-trade partner for practically all border regions of Kazakhstan with a share ranging from 36 to 80 percent.17 The lowest (36 percent) share of Russia is found in the most industrially developed East Kazakhstan Region (61 percent of its import and merely 16 percent of its export).18 The Cheliabinsk and Orenburg regions are two largest Russian regional partners of the Republic of Kazakhstan (in 2000 the trade turnover of the former reached $538.6, of the latter, $527.4m). The Sverdlovsk Region came third with $379.2m worth trade turnover; Moscow with $339.6m was trailing behind the Omsk Region.19
Eight border regions of Russia export to Kazakhstan much more than they import from it. At the same time the leaders of trade with Kazakhstan import more than they export: the share of Kazakhstan in the Cheliabinsk Region’s export is 8.1 percent, in import, 66.2 percent. The corresponding figures for the Orenburg Region are 5.5 and 75.6 percent, for the Novosibirsk Region 16.1 and 28.3 percent. These regions rely on their Kazakhstani neighbors as a source of raw materials rather than market outlets.
The sides try to stimulate and diversify their foreign-trade cooperation for adding efficiency to it. With this aim in view the legal basis on the level of the Eurasian Economic Community has been improved as well as on the level of bilateral relations between states and regions. As a result the customs territories have become partly integrated, which creates privileged conditions for trade turnover between the two countries (despite sporadic protectionist measures applied contrary to the general trend of the Eurasian Economic Community). The policy pursued by the border regions and encouraged by the central authorities has added more life to cooperation between large economic entities in Russia and Kazakhstan that are, in fact, responsible for the lion’s share of trade turnover between the two countries.
Humanitarian cooperation is going ahead in science, education, relations between ethnic and confessional groups, folk culture, the mass media, medicine, physical culture and sport, human rights and freedoms, social security and employment. The closest relations exist in the sphere of mass media and education. In fact, cooperation in these spheres helps preserve common Russian-language cultural expanse and ensures an adequate place for the ethnic minorities that identify themselves with the neighboring state.
In the sphere of information such cooperation mainly refers to promotion of the Kazakhstani press and on-line publications in the border areas of Russia—the Russian media are quite popular in Kazakhstan and do not need support. The regional administrations of the Astrakhan, Orenburg and other regions support TV and radio programs and periodicals in the Kazakh language, though the auditorium is rather limited even among the Kazakhs.
In the sphere of education the neighbors concentrate on primary and secondary education in native tongues and on education for Kazakhs willing to study in higher and specialized secondary educational establishments of the neighboring Russian regions. There are Kazakh schools and classes with intensified teaching of the Kazakh nearly in all border areas of Russia. A considerable gap between the professional and educational potential of the neighboring Russian and Kazakhstani areas (caused, among other things, by an outflow of Russian-speaking specialists from Kazakhstan) explains why the sides concentrate on higher and specialized secondary education in Russia for Kazakhstani students. This cooperation includes education for Russian and Kazakh students in the neighboring countries with mutually acceptable diplomas, post-graduate courses and on-the-job training in Russia for lecturers of Kazakhstani higher educational establishments, defense of theses by candidates for academic degrees, etc. Russian colleges have branches in some of the regions of Kazakhstan.
The gap between the two countries’ potentials is seen in health protection as well. On the Russian side hospitals and clinics in large regional centers are well equipped and offer a wide variety of medical assistance while in Kazakhstan such resources are much more modest. In 1994, the health protection sphere in the republic was privatized, which sharply increased the number of those seeking medical help in Russia.20 Russian medical centers opened branches in some of the regions across the border to meet the needs of the local people in high-quality medical services.
The threat of epidemics, potential sources of which are being found in Kazakhstan, also calls for joint efforts. So far they cannot be realized on a large scale because of lack of funding especially evident in Kazakhstan.
Ecological problems are another important aspect of transborder cooperation: locust control, emergency situations, river pollution, nature protection measures along the border, industrial activity that affects the interests of the other side need constant attention. These problems have already been registered in the abovementioned bilateral and multilateral documents.
Unfortunately, ecological programs are funded last and come after large-scale economical projects. As a result many announced priorities are never realized or, at best, take much time to be completed. This can be said about a project of restoring the steppe landscapes ruined by excessive land-tilling, rebuffing desertification, protecting flora and fauna by creating national parks and other similar objects, regulating the flow of transborder rivers, including the largest of them, the Ural and Irtysh. Specialists and the public are very much worried over the ecologically hazardous objects found close to the border in the regions: Atyrau (Tengiz and Eastern Kashagan oilfields), Western Kazakhstan (Karachaganak oilfield), Orenburg, Cheliabinsk, East Kazakhstan (ore mining and industrial processing). So far we cannot say that the situation has improved but we can point out that thanks to the concerted efforts of the ecological academic community and people directly involved in nature protection both in Russia and Kazakhstan the public is informed about environmental pollution; such cases are monitored, there are scientific research programs, including field research.
The Problems of Formulating Border Policy
The post-Soviet period gave rise to complicated and urgent problems in the border areas. In addition, the border between Russia and Kazakhstan is unique: it is long, its origins, as well as its ethnic and cultural features, are specific, and the cost of its proper equipment is outside the reach of both countries. This explains why the border policy is still in the process of formation that involves not only the top echelons of power and the law enforcement structures but also the border regions themselves.
In the first post-Soviet years the political elites of the two countries were convinced that the border should remain porous or even nominal and that the outer CIS frontiers should receive the greatest attention. This approach proceeded from the high cost of a properly equipped border and the traditionally close ethnic and cultural ties.
The situation changed in the latter half of the post-Soviet decade, especially toward the end of the 1990s. Such changes were caused, among other things, by the considerably altered ethnosocial and ethnodemographic situation along the frontier and clearer regional ideas about transborder cooperation. The situation in the sphere of security has also changed: new global, regional and local problems appeared and came to the forefront.
The central and regional authorities of Russia radically changed their attitude to the problems of border regime under the pressure of growing illegal transborder activity. The RF Federal Border Guard Service is actively promoting an idea of a complete control along the border, yet when talking in public its representatives point out that transborder cooperation with Kazakhstan should not suffer. In 2001 Andrei Nikolaev, Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Defense and former head of the Federal Border Guard Service, suggested a “zip-fastener” pattern for the border’s future regime to be regulated according to circumstances.21
In 1995-1998 when talking about the future border regime the Russian side was referring to very limited measures that in future would have allowed Russia to apply legal frameworks to transborder communication and create an administrative-legal basis to fight violations of the state border regime. In 1996 a wide-scale experiment was conducted of guarding the border with the help of Cossack detachments rather than regular border guards. The method proved cheap enough but the experiment had to be partially discontinued because of Kazakhstan’s concern that the Cossack might become involved in ethnic conflicts on both sides of the border.22 This concern was probably caused by Astana’s serious apprehensions that if supported from the Russian side the Russians on the Kazakh side of the border may develop irredentist intentions.
Later, Cossack units were also invited to guard the border, yet the main emphasis was on regular border guards that could conscript Cossacks under contract. The Federal Border Guard Service, the main structure, was entrusted with coordinating an interaction between the customs, migration, law enforcement, and other border services.
The institutions that now exist within the RF Federal Border Guard Service at the border took shape mainly between 1996 and 2000. It was at that time that the Cheliabinsk-based Regional Administration of the FBGS was reorganized into its Southeastern Regional Administration and regional border guard detachments were formed mainly by 2000. These were two major events in the process.
It was at that time that the personnel problem and material support of the newly created units were addressed. The units were mainly formed out of the border guards removed from other CIS countries, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan in the first place, and local people serving under contract. Because of inadequate funding the border guards had to procure floor space, transportation means, fuel, communication, and even weapons themselves. These problems were partially resolved late in the 1990s and early 2000s with the help of regional administrations and considerably larger allocations from the federal budget. Yet the shortage of people and poor logistics are lingering, 70 checkpoints are obviously not enough, there are gaps in the legal basis related to the border guards’ rights and responsibilities. In short, so far control at the border is not complete.
Kazakhstan is following a different pattern of ensuring security along the border. Its border guards are subordinate to the National Security Committee and are, therefore, a powerful organization with wide possibilities to collect information and use coercion.
Still, having not enough material and other resources23 to tighten the border regime, the leaders of Kazakhstan at first also wanted the frontier to remain open. They did abandon the idea of customs control and collection of fees from transportation means crossing the border. Yet the smuggling of raw materials and consumer goods that had reached huge proportions, potential social instability in the northern border areas and the need to resort to measures that would at least partially correspond to what the Russian side was doing (border regime and other measures) forced the Kazakhstani side to change its position at the delimitation talks. In March 2000, the republic conducted training exercises of its border guards (first in the independence period) on the territories adjacent to Russia. Recently, new checkpoints have been opened more actively.
There are several trends in which the administrative structures of the two countries are cooperating, the main of them being fighting crime and regulation of transborder cooperation.
To fight crime the sides rely on closer cooperation that involves border guards and other power structures. The Granitsa (Border) operation is a regular feature in the border areas of the two countries conducted to stem drug traffic and smuggling of arms and to liquidate criminal groups.24
The results of such efforts convincingly testify that it is not enough to rebuff border and transborder crime but it also necessary to contain its growth. During the December 1998 operation 5,672 crimes were disclosed (including 10 contract assassinations), 397 wanted persons were detained, the activity of 186 criminal groups was stemmed, 128.9 kg of explosives confiscated together with 1,958 units of fire arms, over 13 thousand units of ammunition, 546.9 kg of drugs, 303.2 thousand liters of alcohol and vodka, 102 earlier stolen cars and other material values estimated at over 45m rubles.25
Though quite impressive, these results and other equally successful operations hardly let one believe that crime can be eliminated by sporadic campaigns. So far there is no regular cooperation between the border guards of Kazakhstan and Russia.
The sides have another problem that should be addressed without delay: the regime of checkpoints. They have already made the first step toward its settlement by signing an agreement On Checkpoints at the Russian-Kazakhstani State Border on 23 December, 1998. It was enacted a month later with a list of checkpoints being agreed upon some time after that.
The border regions help shape the border policy of their countries by (1) contributing to legal support of the border regime and the status of the border regions; (2) influencing the relevant aspects of the central authorities’ policies; (3) developing transborder cooperation described above. At the same time, while declaring its desire to extend such cooperation and fishing for all sorts of related privileges in its relations with the Center (a special status for their regions, investments in transborder structures, tax privileges, the right to locally spend the most part of the collected customs fee) a large part of the local Russian elite still wants tighter border regime to fight drug traffic and illegal migration.
This seeming contradiction is explained by the structure of transborder cooperation described above that is dominated by large economic entities. They depend to a much lesser degree on the border regime than the small and medium-sized businesses that will be the first to suffer from tighter border control and accompanying corruption.
I am convinced that it is for good reason that the local district authorities treat the prospect of tighter border control with a great deal of caution. It may cripple local transborder contacts and complicate ethnic relations. At the same time, a great number of border districts are oriented toward internal ties.26
An absence of strong stimuli explains why the administrative structures at the regional and local levels are weakly coordinated, therefore the prospects of an efficient model of transborder security based on both countries’ concerted efforts is vague. So far, they rely mainly on unilateral measures.
The length, geopolitical, ethnic and cultural specifics of the border between Russia and Kazakhstan have made it the key to legal and illegal transborder flows in Eurasia. The terrain, infrastructure and social and demographic features make transborder exchange easier and help preserve a rather high level of transborder contacts.
Today, this is not a positive factor. Given unequal economic development of adjacent areas (or, wider still, of the North represented by Russia and the South represented by Central Asia), transborder crime at the regional and local levels, and mounting social and ethnic tension, the porous border threatens Russia’s security (drugs are the greatest threat) and that of Kazakhstan (smuggling, etc.). The porous border brings Russia, in a direct and indirect way, greater economic damage than economic advantages. At first glance, the relatively low level of interaction between Russia and Kazakhstan’s structures responsible for security at the border justifies unilaterally established tighter border control.
In practice, one side alone can hardly improve the situation—the border’s length will call for huge allocations for its proper equipment. The border structures need more people and better equipment that can hardly be done today with the inadequate funding and the reform of the armed forces (providing for reducing their numbers) underway. In fact, expenses will hardly be justified by the results—experts believe that the bulk of goods is smuggled to Russia along the railways and highways. In addition, tighter measures may cause political problems: the adjacent areas that remain integrated even in an absence of the Soviet Union can become isolated.
More active transborder cooperation at all levels is an alternative. The other side should become more interested in such cooperation so that to willingly contribute to an efficient system of border security and probably liberalization of the border regime if the southern borders of Kazakhstan are strengthened. So far cooperation in this sphere is devoid of a firm basis on which the two countries could put a system of permanent multilevel and operational cooperation and to invite the public to participate in these processes.
In any case, the border between Russia and Kazakhstan will remain a key to the security system and transborder cooperation that embraces not only these countries but also entire post-Soviet expanse, and in a certain sense, the larger part of Eurasia. Today, neither Russia nor Kazakhstan can resolve the most serious border problems single-handedly. This calls for transborder cooperation at the bilateral and also multilateral basis, which would involve third countries and international organizations.
The article is prepared within the Research Support Scheme of the Soros Foundation.
1 The border between the United States and Canada is longer (8,893 km) with 2,477 km of them running in Alaska [http://wwg.far.ru/].
2 See: Ekspert, 17 December, 2001, p. 62 (the figure of 7,598 was supplied by the Federal Border Guard Service of the RF); World Wide Geography—http://wwg.far.ru/ (6,846 km); http://www.kaz.newmail.ru/HMAGEOGR.HTM/ (6,477 km).
3 Estimates for 1999. Calculated from: Entsiklopedia SNG. Vypusk: Regiony Rossii. Istoria. Demografia. Khoziaystvo. Finansy. Investitsii. Banki. Strakhovanie. Ekologia, Moscow, 2001.
4 See: R.Sh. Mullaianov, “Aktual’nye problemy pogranichnoi politiki sovremennoi Rossii,” in: Granitsy bezopasnosti i bezopasnost’ granits, Cheliabinsk, 2001, p. 44.
5 Calculated from: Natsional’niy sostav naselenia Respubliki Kazakhstan, Vol. 2, Almaty, 2000.
6 Calculated from: Natsional’niy sostav naselenia Respubliki Kazakhstan, Vol. 1, Itogi perepisi naselenia 1999 g. v Respublike Kazakhstan, Almaty, 2000; Entsiklopedia SNG…; Chelovek i granitsa. Volgogradskaia oblast’. Sotsial’niy pasport i odnomernye statisticheskie raspredelenia, Cheliabinsk, 2001; Chelovek i granitsa. Privolzhskiy federal’niy okrug. Sotsial’niy pasport i odnomernye statisticheskie raspredelenia, Cheliabinsk, 2001; Chelovek i granitsa. Sibirskiy federal’niy okrug. Sotsial’niy pasport i odnomernye statisticheskie raspredelenia, Cheliabinsk, 2001; Chelovek i granitsa. Ural’skiy federal’niy okrug. Sotsial’niy pasport i odnomernye statisticheskie raspredelenia, Cheliabinsk, 2001. The author has used information he obtained in the administration of the Astrakhan Region.
7 Calculated from: Chelovek i granitsa. Rossiisko-kazakhstanskoe prigranich’e. Sotsial’niy pasport i odnomernye statisticheskie raspredelenia, Cheliabinsk, 2001, pp. 6, 11, 14-16, 24, 29, 34, 43, 48; data collected by the authors was also used.
8 According to the Federal Border Guard Service of the RF, there are eight leased railway stretches that run in the neighbor’s territory. Russia and Kazakhstan lease four such stretches each.
9 See: A.A. Kurtov, “Narkomafia i islamskiy ekstremizm—noviy tandem v Tsentral’noi Azii,” in: Granitsy bezopasnosti i bezopasnost’ granits, pp. 411-413.
10 Information supplied by Interfax agency [http://www.interfax.ru/sngnews/09.htm/].
11 See: R.Sh. Mullaianov, op. cit., p. 46.
12 See: Narkoticheskaia Voina Protiv Rossii. Analiticheskiy Doklad Tsentra Strategicheskogo Razvitia [http://www.e-journal.ru/p_besop-st5-10.html/].
13 Between August 1998 and April 1999 the situation was different: the financial crisis in Russia considerably lowered the prices that forced Kazakhstan to protect its markets against cheaper Russian products.
14 See: O. Ruban, “Bezgranichnye prostory Otchizny,” Ekspert, 17 December, 2001.
15 See: Ibid., p. 48.
16 See: N. Zubarevich, “Vzaimodeistvie Rossii s iuzhnymi sosediami: problemy i perspektivy,” in: Chto khotiat regiony Rossii [http://pubs.carnegie.ru/books/1999/10am/03asp/].
17 See: V.A. Vashanov, “Sovershenstvovanie proizvodstvenno-khoziastvennykh sviazei regionov Rossii i SNG,” in: Prigranichnoe sotrudnichestvo: opyt i perspectivy, Moscow, Orenburg, 2001, p. 72.
18 According to the 1999-July 2000 figures (see: S.V. Plotnikov, “Vostochniy Kazakhstan: ekonomicheskaia situatsia i sostoianie vneshneekonomicheskikh sviazei s prigranichnymi regionami Rossii,” in: Sibir’ v strukture transaziatskikh sviazei: problemy prigranichnoi torgovli i mezhregional’nogo vzaimodeistvia, Barnaul, 2000, p. 30).
19 Calculated from data supplied by the State Customs Committee of the Russian Federation.
20 There is information that in the Omsk Region alone the daily figure is from 1 to 3 thousand patients; this costs from 2 to 3m rubles every day, only a third of the sum is repaid later (see: V. Mukomel’, G. Kosach, A. Kuzmin, “Rossiisko-kazakhstanskie prigranichnye sviazi: opyt triokh rossiiskikh obslatey,” Vestnik Evrazii, No. 2, 2001, p. 111).
21 See: O. Ruban, op. cit., p. 61.
22 See: Ibid., p. 202.
23 According to expert assessments, in 1998 the army of the Republic of Kazakhstan was from 40 to 80 thousand people strong, there were about 15 thousand border guards (see, for example: K.F. Zatulin, A.V. Grozin, V.N. Khliupin, Natsional’naia bezopasnost’ Kazakhstana: problemy i perspectivy, Moscow, 1998, pp. 49, 66).
24 See: Upravlenie informatsii MVD Rossii [http://www.mvdinform.ru/news41.htm].
26 The results of a poll in border districts conducted in 2000 are very illustrative in this context: only three out of 12 heads of district administrations of the Orenburg Region were seriously interested in transborder cooperation. Experts believe that this lack of enthusiasm is explained by similar economic specialization on both sides of the border, one-sided trade flows coming from Kazakhstan, and inadequately developed transborder communication means (see: V. Mukomel’, G. Kosach, A. Kuzmin, op. cit., pp. 90-91, 117).