Obama and Nazarbayev Did Discuss Zhovtis
A more detailed look at the meeting between Obama and Nazarbayev from Joshua Kucera indicates that Obama did bring up Zhovtis and other human rights issues in some detail. And McFaul, Obama’s advisor on Eurasia and Russia on the National Security Councilapparently did not intend to indicate that Obama was overly soft on Kazakhstan and democratic freedoms.
Obama and Nazarbayev also discussed the case of Yevgeny Zhovtis, a Kazakhstan human rights activist who was sentenced to four years in prison for vehicular manslaughter after a controversial trial. “The presidents agreed that we need to try to find a creative solution to solve this very difficult issue,” McFaul said. “Many human rights organizations have raised this issue about the processes that were used to convict him. Let’s just leave it at that, the fact that both Presidents had a very frank discussion about this case.” [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
McFaul raised eyebrows when he appeared to suggest that Obama had downplayed Kazakhstan’s spotty record on human rights and democracy. “Both Presidents agreed that it’s never — you don’t ever reach democracy, you always have to work at it. And in particular, President Obama reminded his Kazakh counterpart that we, too, are working to improve our democracy,” he said. Pressed on that statement later, McFaul denied that Obama was equating the United States with Kazakhstan. “There was no equivalence meant whatsoever,” he said.”
At the meeting, Kazakhstan also agreed to allow the US to use an air transport route over its territory and reassured the US that oil company contracts will not be rewritten.