Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Almaty: Business Is Best Defense

LONDON -- Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev said Tuesday that increased foreign investment, not weapons, provided the surest security for his resource-rich former Soviet republic.

"Our main security lies in having a powerful Western business presence in Kazakhstan. We don't believe weapons are any longer sufficient to protect a country's independence," said Nazarbayev, who is on a visit to Britain.

He told a news conference his country now had 2,000 joint ventures with foreign firms and seven of the world's major oil groups had signed contracts to drill in Kazakhstan,the second biggest republic after Russia.

Western donors have pledged official cash worth around $1 billion this year to help the transition to a market economy, Nazarbayev said, adding: "These are the real guarantees of Kazakhstan's future security."

British businessmen should put aside their caution and invest more in his country's liberalizing economy, he said.

Asked about recent talks with Russia, the United States and Britain on a security agreement, the president said they aimed at building cooperation in the region and did not signify moves towards a new military alliance.

U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry announced the initiative Saturday during a visit to Almaty. A multilateral "security assurance" could not guarantee to avert war but would assure consultations and help stabilize any dangerous situations, Perry said.

"It is not a question of asking for military help from the U.S. or Britain in the event of a crisis but of resolving security issues on the basis of agreement," Nazarbayev said.

Western defense officials have never hidden fears about possible nuclear proliferation in the former Soviet Union and are urging Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan -- which all have nuclear warheads on their soil -- to stick to agreements to transfer the weapons to Russia for destruction.

Nazarbayev, who met Prime Minister John Major and business leaders Monday, said Kazakhstan and Britain had agreed on measures to improve their political, economic and cultural ties, including agreements on air services and investment protection.

He said his government would sign a contract with British Gas Plc. next month to develop a natural gas field containing one trillion cubic meters of gas in Kazakhstan.

It would press on with plans for a new currency, since political rivalries between ex-Soviet republics had wrecked any hope of preserving a common currency or "ruble zone," he added.

Kazakhstan is the second-biggest former Soviet oil producer after Russia, with annual output of about 22 million tons. It produces around 12 tons of gold a year and much of the former Soviet Union's silver, lead, zinc, copper and other minerals.

Nazarbayev will leave London for Madrid on Wednesday.