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Cultural Learnings Of Kazakhstan Make Benefit Tony Blair

A screen grab of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair from a video promoting Kazakhstan and President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

A screen grab of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair from a video promoting Kazakhstan and President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

Whoever said that money can't buy you love obviously wasn't the long-time autocratic ruler of a country with the world's 11th-largest oil reserves and global top-10 reserves of uranium, zinc, copper, coal, iron, and gold. If you are in that enviable position, like, say, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev is, then getting high-profile world figures to sing your praises appears to be no problem.

Take this 67-minute video on YouTube that ostensibly promotes the resource-rich Central Asian country but actually serves as an unrelenting paean to Nazarbaev. As of this writing, some 240 people have viewed the piece -- which features generous excerpts from Nazarbaev's speeches and numerous photos of Nazarbaev in the embrace of ex-world leaders, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, ex-Italian Prime Minister and European Commission President Romano Prodi, and former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski.

Blair, whose consulting firm Tony Blair Associates reportedly signed a $13 million deal with Kazakhstan in 2011, compares Nazarbaev's Kazakhstan with longtime Singaporean ruler Lee Kuan Yew.

"I think, rather like the leadership in a country like Singapore, they actually just decided they were going to take the country, move it forward, and they did it," Blair says. "And that's, you know, for all the challenges that are still there to come -- and I think those are very clear and obvious..."

In an interview with Britain's "The Telegraph," a spokesman for Blair says that in the interview he did for the video, he "made it clear that there had to be political reform including on human rights." That part was not featured.

The video ends with a scrolling roll call of some of Kazakhstan's achievements in its 20 years of independence: in the global top 20 in terms of foreign investment; in 2011, it was one of the top three fastest-growing economies in the world; gross domestic product has increased by 16 times since 1993; more than 40,000 kilometers of highways have been built; and so on.

But some statistics were not mentioned.

Freedom House ranks Kazakhstan 172nd out of 196 countries in terms of press freedom; Reporters Without Borders ranks it 162nd of 178 countries; Transparency International ranks Kazakhstan 120th of 183 countries in its 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index; and the Economist Intelligence Unit ranks it 137th of 167 countries in its 2011 Democracy Index.

-- Robert Coalson

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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