Ambassador Richard E. Hoagland Aktau Press Conference
July 15, 2009
Ambassador Hoagland: I wanted to say, very briefly, thank you to Deputy Akim Nurgaliyev because we have just completed a very, very impressive presentation on the economic, social, and financial growth of Mangistau Oblast (province) and its plans for the future.
I don’t really want to waste your time by making a boring speech that might not be very interesting for you. What I would like better is if we could have almost a roundtable. You could ask me many questions and any questions, and we can talk together.
So what questions do you have?
Q: Which project did you find most interesting?
Ambassador Hoagland: It would be impossible to say that one project is more interesting than any other. What was most interesting to me was the composite view for the future, and it’s in the slogan, “Earth, Sea, and Sky,” looking at the entire possibility for future growth.
Q: Why are you here?
Ambassador Hoagland: As the U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan, it is my responsibility to learn as much as I can about the country and its people so that I can inform my government better about the objective realities of the country. So for me this really isn’t a vacation; this is part of my work.
Q: What other regions have you visited?
Ambassador Hoagland: Since I have relatively recently come to Kazakhstan, I have not travelled very extensively. I have visited Atyrau, and I have visited Almaty many times. Next month I will go to Ust-Kamenogorsk. I then plan to visit Shymkent. And, of course, I was in Semipalatinsk with President Nazarbayev in June. Also, in March I was in Baikonur.
Q: This is your first visit to Mangistau. What are your impressions?
Ambassador Hoagland: I’m just beginning the visit, so I’m sure my impressions will grow during the next two days. But my initial impression is the great possibilities for this city and for the region around this city. In fact, I told the Deputy Akim that I want to come back in 20 years, because I know I will not be able to recognize this area because of the huge growth and development that will happen.
Q: What is your impression of other regions which you have already visited?
Ambassador Hoagland: When I travel around Kazakhstan, it makes me think of the United States, because we too are a vast territory with many different kinds of landscapes, from mountains to deserts to great agricultural areas. So I look at Kazakhstan, and I think of the diversity and great variety that exists here. I also recognize the real economic development that has happened since independence in Kazakhstan, and I am also impressed by the special attention that Kazakhstan pays to education for its citizens.
Q: Supplies for Americans in Afghanistan are going through Kazakhstani territory, and especially through the seaport in Aktau. What do you think of Kazakhstan’s assistance to the U.S. effort in Afghanistan?
Ambassador Hoagland: Kazakhstan has for many years been a very good partner in fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and in the region. For many years, we have had over-flight agreements for our state aircraft that are involved in Afghanistan, and we have also had for many years what is called a divert agreement: if our aircraft have problems, they can land at Almaty International Airport for help. This new transit agreement is another positive step, because it allows the transport of non-lethal supplies for our soldiers in Afghanistan through the territory of Kazakhstan. The Obama administration is following a new policy in Afghanistan that we hope will be really successful. President Obama, and his advisors and generals, know that there is not a really only a military solution for Afghanistan. There must be humanitarian and there must be economic solutions to develop stability and prosperity for that very troubled country. Kazakhstan is playing an increasing role in the humanitarian support for Afghanistan.
Q: What do you think about the recent G8 Summit?
Ambassador Hoagland: I thought it was interesting that when a journalist asked President Obama what did he think of the summit, his response was, “I think sometimes we have too many summits.” The problem is that summits can meet and make many decisions, but then the governments involved are responsible for implementing those decisions, and it doesn’t always happen. But the real value of these summits is that they allow the leaders and their advisors to talk face to face and to try to solve specific problems, and that’s very positive.
Q: I have travelled to America, and many people there don’t know much about Kazakhstan. How can we increase interest in and knowledge of Kazakhstan in the United States?
Ambassador Hoagland: I agree with you. I am sympathetic about that problem. One thing that we need is more international journalists who are actually based here in Kazakhstan so that they can do regular reporting.
Q: How can I become an international journalist? (Laughter)
Ambassador Hoagland: I have another part to my answer, but let me answer that specifically. CNN International, Cable News Network, is very widely broadcast in the United States and all over the world. They have a regular program where they work with international partners from many countries. If your television stations produce reports, they can be broadcast on CNN International. The press and information section of the American Embassy would be happy to discuss how to do this with you, to take advantage of these kinds of possibilities.
Let me give you another answer to your question. Your embassy, the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Washington D.C., is extremely active and very successful in publicizing Kazakhstan. Your ambassador, Erlan Idrissov, is working on a project right now that will bring Kazakhstani culture to the United States. It will be a six-month program of joint cultural ventures to publicize Kazakhstan. It will involve cinema, music, and theater, and joint ventures between the museums of our countries. So that will be one more step forward.
Q: When is the President of the United States coming to Kazakhstan?
Ambassador Hoagland: President Obama pays close attention to Kazakhstan. In fact, soon after he was elected, one of his very early telephone calls to foreign leaders was to President Nazarbayev. He has said that he would be honored to visit Kazakhstan, but at this moment it’s not on the schedule yet. But I hope during the time that I am United States Ambassador in Kazakhstan, I can welcome and host my President on a visit to your country.
Q: For other countries, the U.S. is an example of democratic development. In the United States, NGOs are very developed. After our meeting, you are meeting with local NGOs. What will you talk about, and will you talk about the new Internet law?
Ambassador Hoagland: I don’t think that I will talk about the new Internet Law with these NGOs because that law has already been signed. I will talk about the importance of civil society, meaning, in part, NGOs working closely with their government. But let me say something about the Internet Law. Our position, as the U.S. Government, is that it is important now for Kazakhstan not to use that law to limit freedom of speech and to limit freedom of the mass media. We will watch closely how the law is implemented, and we will not be shy to make our views known.
Q: Could you briefly talk about U.S. assistance to Kazakhstan, including in the fields of health care and education?
Ambassador Hoagland: We have so many programs with Kazakhstan that it would probably take me another hour to describe all of them. We have cooperative programs in economic and financial development and in healthcare development. We have many different kinds of educational and professional exchange programs. We have extremely important programs together in non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and in many other areas. We have just had a very good visit by Under Secretary of State Bill Burns with President Nazarbayev, and we agreed that we will establish a Bilateral Cooperation Commission to make our work together a little more rational. This commission will cover all of our areas of cooperation including security, political cooperation, the human dimension, energy, and economic trade and investment.
Q: Thank you very much.
Ambassador Hoagland: You’re welcome.