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Opinion What’s next for Kazakhstan?

Protesters rally amid energy price hikes on Jan. 4. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades to break up the march in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Protesters rally amid energy price hikes on Jan. 4. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades to break up the march in Almaty, Kazakhstan. (Abduaziz Madyarov/AFP/Getty Images)

Regarding the Jan. 10 news article “Kazakhstan officials say 164 are dead in protests, country now ‘stabilized’ ”:

Kazakhstan is facing political upheaval. Government buildings are being torched. The president is still standing (for now), but his cabinet has resigned. A state of emergency was declared, the Internet was shut down amid protests sparked by fuel prices, and 164 are now dead. These aren’t the actions of a well-functioning democracy. 

Just weeks ago, the Biden-Harris administration released the first-ever U.S. Strategy on Countering Corruption. The same week, administration officials met with members of Kazakhstan’s government at the Ritz-Carlton in D.C. to commemorate 30 years of diplomatic relations between the countries. Tellingly, one place Kazakhstan wasn’t represented was at the “Summit for Democracy” President Biden hosted.

Our leaders, in the administration and in Congress, should take a closer look at this country’s relationship with Kazakhstan. Even before the recent chaos, foreign investors lived with the threat of forced nationalization. Reports of corruption in businesses were common, and the rule of law was arbitrarily enforced. Are these actions consistent with the United States’ values? Is now the right time to consider rewarding Kazakhstan with permanent normal trade relations? Recent news indicates otherwise. 

Ken Blackwell, Washington

The writer is a former
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations
Human Rights Commission.

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