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Kazakhstan closes space doors?

December 14 2012, 11:59

Kazakhstan plans to review an agreement with Russia on its lease of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Right now, proposals are being considered to bring the Baikonur facility under Kazakhstan’s jurisdiction.

Talgat Musabayev, head of Kazakhstan’s National Space Agency, said earlier this week that the lease agreement should be rescinded. He called for the Baikonur Cosmodrome to be jointly used by Russia and Kazakhstan, something that he said stipulates clinching a new agreement that should be based on non-lease principles. At present, Russia uses the Baikonur Cosmodrome under an agreement set to expire in 2050. Russia annually allocates more than 100 million dollars for the operation of the facility.

Commenting on the matter, Moscow-based investment expert Kirill Markin points to an array of changes in Kazakhstan’s political course.

"There are at least two options on the table. I don’t rule out that Kazakhstan may use the Baikonur facility for the implementation of its own projects in the future. On the other hand, Astana may use the facility as a bargaining chip in its talks with Moscow."

Natalia Kharitonova of the United Eurasian Expert Network links Kazakhstan’s stance on the matter to the current political differences between Moscow and Astana.

"The Russian authorities are changing their strategy with respect to the CIS countries, including Kazakhstan. This can be explained by several factors, such as the latest reshuffle in the Russian Defense Ministry and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s statements during his visit to Turkey in October 2012. The statements prompted Moscow to rethink its relations with Kazakhstan."

For his part, Kirill Markin attributes the situation to Kazakhstan’s drive to act as an independent space power. In this regard, Kazakhstan will hardly do without Russia’s help because Astana will need more professionals to implement its own space program, Markin says.

"Finding highly skilled staff for the space sector is a tricky task, something that may finally prod Kazakhstan to attract Russian specialists. This stipulates the allocation of hefty sums that, however, may be rejected by the Kazakh government."

Experts, meanwhile, mention the ongoing construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome, a planned Russian spaceport, due to be completed in 2015. The construction complies with the current geopolitical situation, experts say, singling out a spate of unfriendly steps by Russia’s immediate neighbors, including Azerbaijan, where Russia has suspended its lease of the Gabala radar station.

ruvr.ru

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