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tv   This Is America With Dennis Wholey  PBS  November 6, 2011 10:00am-10:30am EST

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>> recently, "this is america" visited the republic of kazakhstan in central asia. it's one of the 15 countries formed by the breakup of the soviet union and is the most successful of them all. on december 16th, kazakhstan and celebrates its 20th anniversary of independence. it is the ninth largest country in the world and its location,
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oil, and mineral wealth and the government's vision have all contributed to its rapid growth. internationally, kazakhstan is a world leader in the goal of eradicating nuclear-weapons honors. it is a beautiful country of snowcapped mountains, vast steppe regions, and deserts', and historic and futuristic cities. with a population of 16.5 million people, kazakhstan is my home -- is home to more than 100 different ethnic groups, resulting in a bank incredibly rich and diverse culture. over the next few programs, "this is america" will look at the people, government, economy, and sites of kazakhstan. we will also look at the importance of kazakhstan in the region and its relationships with the united states. "this is america" visits the republic of kazakhstan.
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>> "this is america" is made possible by the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. the american federation of teachers, a union of professionals. the singapore tourism board -- there is something for everyon singapore airlines, a great way to fly. poongsan corporation, forging a higher global standard. the ctc foundation. afo communications. the rotondaro family trust.
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>> later, i will talk with the kazakhstan foreign minister. right now, a visit with the u.s. ambassador to kazakhstan, can the fairfax. what americans know about kazakhstan? >> the short answer is a lot more than they currently do. >> thank you. >> it is the ninth largest country on earth. it is a country that has a rather extraordinary relationship with the united states, yet most people know either nothing or worse than nothing, what they have seen in a movie, which is the opposite of reality, of course. so there is a lot to learn here. >> what are the mutual interests of the two countries, the united states and kazakhstan? >> we have many. you can look at it from energy to food security. we have lots of overlapping interests. but for many, the one that comes to mind is nonproliferation and world security. after the fall of the soviet union, kazakhstan became the
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world's fourth largest nuclear weapons state. and it was the first one to decide we do not want it. the president declared they were going to be a non-nuclear weapons state and negotiated with the united states and russia to dismantle all the weapons and then take what remained of them, the uranium and other components that remained dangerous, and reduce this to a non-dangerous state. that was a really historic decision and followed an earlier one, 20 years ago, that also closed the nuclear-weapons testing site. the largest nuclear weapons testing site in the world, more than 400 to the explosions. he did that before kazakhstan officially became independent. it was his decision, saying enough is enough, i hereby decree this place is closed and it has been closed ever since. >> one of the things you are
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saying -- history is fascinating because just backing up a little bit, kazakhstan was kind of like a state within the soviet union. but he may day -- the current president made a very bold statement to the world by saying this place is closed. >> he made a very bold statement by saying that testing grounds is closed. he made another one by saying no more nuclear weapons. we have them, we don't want them. but he did other things as well. for example, kazakhstan has always had a lot of oil. but it is oil in the ground and not developed. it did not help the people much all during the soviet union. shortly after kazakhstan became independent, there was an international call saying let's work with the best international
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companies, let's develop the oil for the benefit of the country. so you end up with the american company, chevron, coming in early on to develop a large oil detail. that process of inviting in foreign investors was very early. this was a difficult, unsettled time around much of the former soviet union. kazakhstan stepped out in front fast and said we're going to take a different route and be more open. >> in addition to the nuclear non-proliferation, we have a country that is not only vast in size, but now is oil-rich. >> it has the potential to become one of the 10 largest oil producers in the world. >> what do you make of the people here? the culture? talk a little bit about that. i know this is a new posting for you, but you are experienced in this part of the world.
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>> they are in interesting and gracious people. they're very hard to pigeonhole. people look at the rich and -- people get the region and say it is central asia. it is, geographically, but culturally, it is different. the culture goes all the way back to the days of the nomads. everyone has heard of a gang as caen, this is all part of that ancient culture. -- everyone has heard of genghis khan. still impacts of the thinking. the family moves as a unit, there is a heavy emphasis on relations and community. all of that continues. it gives a unique aspect. >> the country, so vast, as you have said. four times as big as texas and as big as western europe.
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it is kind of a tough neighborhood, isn't it? there's a lot going on in this area. >> central asia has been a tough neighborhood for a long time. since the end of the soviet union and the breakup, and has been a tough neighborhood, but even before that. if you go back to before, there is a time referred to as the great game. it was a tough neighborhood then and you can go all boy back to 300 b.c. with the adventures of alexander the great. this was a tough neighborhood even then. >> for folks are just watching our conversation, they may not have a map right in front of them. in your mind's eye, described some of the countries in that area. the bordering country -- bordering countries and so forth. >> kazakhstan is a large country. it would look enormous if it
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were not for the fact that you have russia to the north and china to the east. but within their, you have kazakhstan and around the edges coming of kurdistan, is pakistan, tajikistan and turkmenistan. those are the five countries that make up what geographers' referred to as central asia. move down just below the menu are down into afghanistan, pakistan and from there on down into the subcontinent. >> for the folks at home, but also to help my education, when all of these countries were named stand, does that have a reference? >> stan is literally country. >> heading toward the finish line, this is the 20th anniversary of the independence -- and it is amazing to think
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that culture goes back thousands of years. then jim ford and 50 years ago, part of the soviet union. -- then jump forward and 50 years ago, part of the soviet union. how do you see the future of kazakhstan? >> it is very much a place writing its own future. they made commitments, last year, they were the head of the organization of security and cooperation in europe. they made a long-term vision for a country that is very much a western country in the sort of democratic and human rights values. that is not something that is going to happen overnight. over the next five or 10 years into the future, this country will continue to remake itself. it has gone from an impoverished soviet country to a modern, growing one. where it goes next is up to the people. it is a constant process.
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all countries change, but the pace of change here is something different. from independence to today in the same 200 years the united states took, but here it is only 20. >> i know this is a new posting for you. congratulations on being confirmed by the senate. what do you see as your mission? >> my mission in every country i have served in is to try to implement u.s. policy on a broad basis. in kazakhstan, we do have broad set of interest and relations ago from non-proliferation and nuclear issues, civilian uses of nuclear power. kazakhstan is the largest exporter of uranium and the fifth largest exporter of grains and wheat. food security is really an portent right now in the world with all of the droughts. we have military relations with them, including relations
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helping to supply our troops in afghanistan. regional issues, everything from trafficking in persons to drug- trafficking, we cooperate on the whole range of issues you would expect we would have with a major country, which kazakhstan is. it's becoming so much more of our neighbor. the big one we are working on right now is that the gao -- is wto accession. they want to become an actor on the world stage that behaves by the same rules and works in the same way as everyone else does. this means our relations span everything. >> is there any competition between trying to get involved in the wto and this common union happening between russia, belarus, kazakhstan? >> the short answer is not really.
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there's a complex answer -- there is a way in which union agreements can be incorporated, called section 28 process where you modify people's agreements and go through it. but in the end, it will be negotiating and paperwork. but it is not incompatible. >> and it is all and the interest of trade? >> it is so kazakhstan can't export more goods from the world and other countries have more rights importing to kazakhstan. >> it's exciting to be here and we're thrilled to talk with you, ambassador. after our conversation at the u.s. embassy with ambassador fairfax, we visited the foreign ministry of kazakhstan. >> what would you say are the pillars of the foreign-policy of kazakhstan? >> after gaining independence in 1991, we became a full-fledged
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member of the united nations as a peace-loving nation. our foreign policy is based on the purposes and principles of the united nations charter. in 1994, we joined as a non- nuclear state. in 1995, together with the cooperation of the united states, we managed to get rid of the nuclear arsenals that are being stored here in kazakhstan. the government put emphasis on economic development. we managed to attract over 20 years an amount of investment of $150 billion. what we are saying, the message being sent to the rest of the world, instead of keeping nuclear weaponry and being a nuclear weapon state that is out
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of law and not playing a serious role in this environment, so by getting rid of the nuclear weaponry, we managed to completely reverse the trend of the country. we managed to attract the economic potential of our country by attracting this amount of investment from abroad. frankly speaking, in this region, and we central asia, 80% of investment is coming to kazakhstan. the economic development was primarily aimed to upgrade the standards of living of the people. speaking about foreign policy, i would like to emphasize the government and the president clearly understand this country cannot be prosperous having poor
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and frustrated neighbors along its borders. we are always extending a helping hand to our neighbors. we're telling them only united, only integrated can we withstand a challenge is that exist in this region's. >> what kinds of challenges are you facing? >> one of the greatest challenges in this part of the world is afghanistan, which has continued to be the source of instability in their region. unfortunately, still, the situation is not safe in this country. from the very beginning, we supported the counter-terrorism actions of the international coalition and we joined the international coalition. we provided aerospace for
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coalition forces and provided real roads and road for transit. we continue to cooperate with the enter national community, to help afghanistan to become a stable state. afghanistan is our neighbor and afghanistan, sooner or later, should become a peace-loving country with a stable society and developing economy. i think it is achievable. we are optimists and we know it is not easy. it might take years to achieve, but in any case, what is important is -- i am repeating again that much will depend on the joint efforts of all the countries in the region to help afghanistan's government and people to stabilize the situation in that country. >> tell me a little bit about
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the importance of the relationship between kazakhstan and the united states. >> first, the united states, as i said in my opening marks -- my opening remarks, the united states has provided us great support to get rid of nuclear weaponry. the famous program, which was called cooperative threat foredecks -- cooperative threat reduction program look -- worked well here in kazakhstan. frankly speaking, i could tell that this program was a real success in kazakhstan. the old missiles were dismantled, the warheads were removed, and the fuel, the nuclear fuel has been transferred to peaceful purposes. that is a great achievement of
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many years of cooperation between that united states and kazakhstan. >> people might not know that when the soviet union controlled the area, it was in kazakhstan that they tested all their nuclear weaponry and this was their headquarters. what the president did, even before independence, was to say this must go. >> absolutely. it was a decision made by the president at the beginning of independence. he decided to close the testing site in afghanistan and i tell you this size is quite impressive. it is about 300,000 square kilometers roughly half the size of france. there were about to 520 nuclear
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explosions. 120 of them in that atmosphere. many of them underground explosions. just last week, we had an important conference called the world free of nuclear weapons. it was dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the closing of the facility, which was attended by many delegates, including the delegate general of the iaea and a nuclear test ban treaty organization. a very impressive delegation headed by the deputy secretary of energy, senator brownback and
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many others. that shows that kazakhstan played an important role 20 years ago. it is continuing to play an important role in the world. during the cold war, around 1400 nuclear warheads were deployed in kazakhstan. about 1200 intercontinental ballistic missiles, 95% of the nuclear warheads were targeted to the major cities of continental united states. by getting rid of that weaponry and warheads, we are telling to our american partners that now they can sleep safer, knowing
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that somewhere in the world, their houses being targeted by nuclear weaponry. it was an enormous contribution to the peace and security in the world. when we speak about kazakhstan, we had the fourth largest nuclear arsenal in the world. it was larger than the arsenal of u.k., france, and china combined. that says for itself. >> as the foreign minister, when you look at the world today, what do you see? >> a lot of things happening now in the world. since the beginning of this year, we have seen the evidence in north africa and the middle east.
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there are many problems related to the economic and financial issues. there are many predictions about the next wave of crisis we're facing and so on and so forth. plus, natural disasters, the japanese problems and things like that. the world became more interdependent. countries became more interdependent on each other. i think we became closer to each other. this month, the end of this month, somewhere in the world, the 7 billionth child will be born on this planet. we will reach the 7 billion population on the planet. that is a lot of people. we have to care about every person of this planet.
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we have to create more zones free of nuclear weaponry. we have to think about freshwater. that should be enough for this amount of population. we have to think about food security. we have to think about our original complex in different parts of the world. we have to think about prosperous development of ordinary people in every country. unfortunately, the so-called millennium development goals will not be achieved by 2015. but 2015 is not the end of the world. we have to think what will happen next. we are already thinking about that now.
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another important issue we are dealing with this the environment. we have to protect the environment. we have to protect our plan at from different problems, including climate change and i think kazakhstan is ready to work with all of the countries in the world. we are lucky. we manage to preserve stable relations with most countries in the world. we certainly would like to continue to expand our cooperation with the biggest countries with the biggest power, the united states of america. >> thank you very much. >> special thanks to the ritz hotels in kazakhstan and the embassy kazakhstan in washington.
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for emigration about my new book, "the chance of a lifetime" and online video for all "this is america" programs, visit our website. >> "this is america" is made possible by the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. the american federation of teachers, a union of professionals. poongsan corporation, forging a higher global standard. the ctc foundation. afo communications. the rotondaro family trust. the rotondaro family trust.
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