Kazakhstan is actively participating in joint efforts to make Russia less effective in its war of aggression against Ukraine, James O’Brien, US ambassador and head of the office of sanctions coordination at the State Department, said at a press conference in Almaty on Friday.
In the framework of his two-day visit to Kazakhstan, O’Brien traveled to Astana and Almaty to hold talks with government officials and representatives of the private sector in an effort “to understand where sanctions are working and where they are not working as intended.”
In his remarks, O’Brien pointed out that “the sanctions were imposed as part of the response to Russia’s unjustified and further invasion of Ukraine. The sanctions’ aim is to make Russia’s military less effective and to deny Russia the money to rebuild its military as the war continues.”
“Russia’s invasion broke apart supply chains and business relations that were generations in the making,” O’Brien told the press.
In response to questions by Vlast about the effectiveness of the measures implemented by Kazakhstan to hinder sanction-busting strategies, O’Brien gave little details.
“Kazakhstan’s government has some good plans and has taken some good steps recently. The number we care about is the export [volumes] to Russia and that would take some time, because supply-chains move at a pace.”
To a question by Vlast about the potential use by Russia of Kazakhstan-based companies and bank accounts to circumvent sanctions, O’Brien answered: “I won’t speculate on possible sanctions. I’m here because we find it effective to work together with the Kazakhstani authorities. We have made clear that we don’t want Russia using financial institutions to help circumvent the sanctions”.
“We see the banks as helpful partners in implementing the sanctions. They would know their customers and they would know which transactions they are financing in most cases. And where we have seen Russia trying to set up its banks abroad, as ways of avoiding the sanctions, we have taken action against the banks and the payment sanctions,” O’Brien added.
Considering the participation of Kazakhstan in the customs union within the Eurasian Economic Union, of which Russia, Belarus, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan are also part, there seems to be little leverage for Kazakhstan to decide its course between complying with the free flow of goods and services and avoiding that battlefield-ready items are re-exported to Russia. Yet, O’Brien mentioned that he noticed a strong political will in this respect.
“President Tokayev said in the presence of President Putin that Kazakhstan would not provide items that would be used in the battlefield. Kazakhstan has held this position in the year and a half since the invasion.”