As it turns out, there were some other people hoping to get their hands on the stockpiles as well. According to Qasymzhomart Tokaev, Kazakhstan’s former foreign minister (2003-07), Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi contacted the Nazarbaev government through “diplomatic channels” in an attempt to procure Kazakhstan's nuclear arsenal. Speaking at a conference in Astana, Tokaev, now director-general of the UN Office at Geneva, laid out some details of Qaddafi's offer and why Nazarbaev ultimately rejected the Libyan strongman.
From RIA Novosti:
He also said that Kazakhstan’s long-serving president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, had declined the offer over concerns for global “strategic order” and suggested the decision demonstrated that the country’s “national leader” possessed the “political and moral right to head a global anti-nuclear movement.”
Nazarbaev's office has thus far not commented on the Qaddafi offer. Given history, however, it stands to reason that if indeed Kazakhstan was propositioned by Qaddafi, the offer was rejected.
Despite the country's many rights abuses, tight media controls, and general authoritarianism, nuclear nonproliferation is one area where Kazakhstan has been a global leader. Nazarbaev noted as much in his 2001 book, "Epicenter of Peace." The book, one of more than 100 authored by the president, details Kazakhstan's role as a nuclear weapons testing ground for the Soviet Union and the nasty effects it had on the land and on the people living on the country's eastern steppe.
The introduction to "Epicenter of Peace," written by Harvard's Graham Allison -- who was serving in the Clinton administration at the time of Kazakhstan's disarmament -- details just how chaotic the process was:
Nazarbaev's nonproliferation chops have even earned him a couple nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2008, "ABC News" reported that two U.S. congressmen, Darrell Issa (Republican-California) and Charlie Melancon (Democrat-Louisiana), were circulating a letter to nominate Nazarbaev for the prize. In 2011, their congressional colleague Eni Faleomavaega (Democrat-American Samoa) nominated Nazarbaev for the Nobel in a decree signed on the Marshall Islands for the Kazakh president's role in stopping nuclear weapons testing. In 2012, Nazarbaev's name was again put in the Nobel hat, this time by Hiroyuki Moriyama, a parliament deputy in Japan.
Nazarbaev has yet to hoist the Nobel medal, but that hasn't stopped him from painting Kazakhstan as a beacon to the rest of the nuclear-weapons-seeking world. In a March 2012 op-ed for "The New York Times" titled "What Iran Can Learn From Kazakhstan," the Kazakh president called on the Iranian government to "make the right choice" on nuclear weapons, and even offered space in Kazakhstan to open the world's first international nuclear-fuel bank.
Perhaps, when it comes to nukes, anyway, there is something to "The Kazakhstan Way."
-- Zach Peterson