Despite Bush’s 2004 proclamation that America wouldn’t receive corrupt foreign officials, the president appears set to welcome Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev—an authoritarian leader allegedly on the receiving end of bribes by U.S. businessmen. Why the welcome from Bush? Might have something to do with all the oil Kazakhstan is sitting on….
In early 2004, President Bush issued a presidential proclamation barring corrupt foreign officials from entering the United States. Then, a few months ago, in spite of that proclamation, Washington was treated to the disgusting spectacle of an official visit by Teodoro Obiang, the corrupt dictator who rules over oil-rich Equatorial Guinea. But now the Bush Administration is preparing to roll out the red carpet for a man who, by sheer numbers, appears to have stolen far more than Obiang: President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan.
Last week, Kazakhstan’s foreign minister, Kassymzhomart Tokaev, came to town and met with the hospitable U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to discuss strengthening ties between the two countries. The visiting Kazakh immediately told the Washington Times that Nazarbayev?a former Communist Party hack who has ruled his country since it won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991?would be coming to town this September for meetings with administration officials. I spoke to a well-placed source who said that while nothing has been finalized, the White House, with strong backing from the Pentagon, is seriously considering extending an invitation to Nazarbayev.
It’s hard to see how Nazarbayev’s visit could possibly be squared with Bush’s 2004 proclamation. This fall, James Giffen, an American business consultant, is set to be tried in the Southern District Court of New York on charges that he funneled more than $78 million in bribes to Kazakh officials. And guess who is alleged to have received most of that money? President Nazarbayev himself, along with his former prime minister, Nurlan Balgimbayev.