U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney shakes hands with Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev after a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Astana, Kazakhstan, in May. President Bush is set to meet with the Kazakhstani leader in September, despite an initiative he recently launched to combat autocracy like the kind Nazarbayev practices. Nazarbayev, coincidentally, sits atop huge oil reserves.
Just after launching an initiative to combat international kleptocracy, President Bush is scheduled to meet with the leader of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, a man who stands accused in U.S. courts of high-level bribery and who runs his country as a repressive despot.
Nazarbayev just happens to rule an oil-rich country.
President Bush launched an initiative this month to combat international kleptocracy, the sort of high-level corruption by foreign officials that he called “a grave and corrosive abuse of power” that “threatens our national interest and violates our values.” The plan, he said, would be “a critical component of our freedom agenda.”
Three weeks later, the White House is making arrangements to host the leader of Kazakhstan, an autocrat who runs a nation that is anything but free and who has been accused by U.S. prosecutors of pocketing the bulk of $78 million in bribes from an American businessman. Not only will President Nursultan Nazarbayev visit the White House, people involved say, but he also will travel to the Bush family compound in Maine.
Nazarbayev’s upcoming visit, according to analysts and officials, offers a case study in the competing priorities of the Bush administration at a time when the president has vowed to fight for democracy and against corruption around the globe. Nazarbayev has banned opposition parties, intimidated the press and profited from his post, according to the U.S. government. But he also sits atop massive oil reserves that have helped open doors in Washington.