Israel and Kazakhstan maintain close economic, diplomatic and military ties. Since 2007 cooperation was developed around armament modernization programs, artillery rockets, UAVs, simulators, command and control systems, advanced communications, and air defense radar systems. Kazakhstan and Israel signed a security cooperation agreement in 2014 that formalized military and defense industry ties between the two nations. All of Israel’s big defense companies have sold products to Kazakhstan’s armed forces and police, including drones, precision rockets, radar systems and communications equipment. There is also evidence of the usage of Israeli surveillance technologies and spyware by Kazakhstan.
Israel – Kazakhstan Relations
Israel and Kazakhstan established diplomatic relations in 1992. Several bilateral bodies have been established, including the Kazakh-Israeli joint governmental commission on trade and economic cooperation and the Israel-Kazakhstan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Kazakh farmers, managers, scientists and medical workers have been trained in Israel.
President Nazarbayev visited Israel in 1995, 2000 and 2013.Israel and Kazakhstan: Assessing the State of Bilateral Relations Israel’s president visited Kazakhstan several times. Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu visited Kazakhstan in 2016 and met with president Nazarbayev. They talked about economic cooperation as in cooperation in spheres of investment, innovative technologies and agriculture. He took part in a Kazakh-Israeli business forum in Astana.Israeli Prime Minister Visits Astana, Strengthens Ties
Little comprehensive data exists in open sources regarding the total volume of bilateral trade between the two countries because figures from Israeli official sources exclude strategically sensitive energy imports and defense exports. The actual scope of trade between Israel and Kazakhstan is higher than published, due to Israel’s oil imports from Kazakhstan, which are excluded from official records.Israel and Kazakhstan: Assessing the State of Bilateral Relations Kazakh oil exports cover 15-25 percent of Israel’s oil needs.Israel and Kazakhstan: Assessing the State of Bilateral Relations
According to International Monetary Fund figures, two-way trade between the countries was about $370 million in 2021, down from $1.6 billion in 2014. Daniel Tartakovski, executive director of the Kazakhstani-Israeli Business Association, estimates there are about 140 companies involving Israelis registered in Kazakhstan, engaged mainly in agriculture, pharmaceuticals, energy and construction. He puts Israeli investment in the country at some $220 million.Oil, Cyber and Weapons: Inside Israel’s Relationship With Kazakhstan
According to Gabriel Mitchell from Mitivm, the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, around 10 to 20 percent of Israel’s imported oil comes from Kazakhstan.Israel is worried about its secret deals with Kazakhstan
In July 2022 an official Israeli delegation visited in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan and met among others Kazakhstan’s Deputy Prime Minister and other ministers. It was the ninth meeting of the Israel-Kazakhstan Joint Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation. They talked about collaborations in different economic sectors such as cyber security, renewable energy and agriculture.Israel, Kazakhstan host meeting on trade and economic cooperation
Defense relations between Kazakhstan and Israel began in 2001. Kazakhstan was identified by SIBAT as a potential trade partner.Israel and Kazakhstan: Assessing the State of Bilateral Relations Israeli companies as Elbit, IAI, IMI and Gilat Satellite Networks have participated in the Kazakhstan Defense Expo (KADEX) trade fairs in 2010 and 2012.Israel and Kazakhstan: Assessing the State of Bilateral Relations
In 2007 cooperation was developed around armament modernization programs, artillery rockets, UAVs, simulators, command and control systems, advanced communications, and air defense radar systems.
With the assistance of Israel defense companies IMI, Soltam Systems and Elbit, Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Defense developed its indigenous defense industry to manufacture three modern artillery systems that incorporate advanced sensor technology, utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) both for target acquisition and post-conflict assessment.ISRAELI-KAZAKH COOPERATION GROWS The Israeli contracts, besides providing for joint production of the new armaments, included training personnel to service the new artillery systems. The new artillery systems are not solely for Kazakhstan’s internal use, as Astana intends to export the armaments to the countries of the former USSR as well, reportedly supplying “several fully equipped artillery brigades” to its Central Asian neighbors.ISRAELI-KAZAKH COOPERATION GROWS
All of Israel’s big defense companies have sold products to Kazakhstan’s armed forces and police, including drones, precision rockets, radar systems and communications equipment. In May 2021, a factory and service center run by Kazakhstan Aviation Industry began producing Skylark unmanned aerial vehicles under license from Israel’s Elbit Systems.Oil, Cyber and Weapons: Inside Israel’s Relationship With Kazakhstan The Skylark has been in service with the Kazakh army since 2014.Factory for production of SkyLark-1LEX UAVs opens in Kazakhstan
Defense ministers of Kazakhstan and Israel signed a security cooperation agreement in 2014 in Tel Aviv. The agreement formalized military and defense industry ties between the two nations. Regarding military equipment, both sides agreed to cooperate in unmanned systems, border security, command-and-control capabilities and satellite communications.Kazakhstan, Israel Strengthen Military Cooperation There are also reports for the delivery of 17 crowd control vehicles, manufactured by the Israeli company Beit Alpha Technologies in a factory in Turkey, to Kazakhstan.The kibbutz that sells riot control weapons to war criminalsKazakhstan- whoprofits
A large investigation by Privacy International in 2014 uncovered that two Israeli companies, NICE Systems and Verint Israel, have supplied monitoring centers to Kazakhstan’s KNB. The monitoring systems allow unchecked access to citizens’ telephone calls and internet activity on a mass and indiscriminate scale.Privacy International uncovers widespread surveillance throughout Central Asia, exposes role of Israeli companiesReport: Israeli technology companies help repressive regimes spy on citizens
According to a report by CitizenLab, Elbit’s subsidiary Cyberbit provided demos to clients in Kazakhstan.Citizenlab Champing at the Cyberbit One of them is the company Kazimpex, that is linked with the “National Security Committee of the Republic of Kazakhstan”, an intelligence agency in Kazakhstan.
Also, the spyware Pegasus by the Israeli company NSO Group has been reportedly used in Kazakhstan.HIDE AND SEEK: Tracking NSO Group’s Pegasus Spyware to Operations in 45 Countries In 2021 an investigation found out that up to 2,000 Kazakhi phone numbers were found in a leaked list of potential Pegasus targets, including former prime minister of Kazakhstan.Israeli NSO Spyware Found on Activists’ Phones in Kazakhstan In December 2021 Amnesty International reported that the phones of four activists from the progressive civil society group “Wake Up Kazakhstan” were infected with the Pegasus spyware in the summer of 2021.Israeli NSO Spyware Found on Activists’ Phones in Kazakhstan
Usage of Israeli Arms
Cardom 120mm mortar – In use by ground forces of Armed Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Used with the designation: Aybat.
Semser 122mm SPH – In use by ground forces of Armed Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Lynx MRL – In use by ground forces of Armed Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Used with the designation: Nayza.
Extra (guided rocket) – used on Lynx MRL.
Sandcat – used with designation: Alan
Litening III – used on Sukhoi SU-27 combat aircraft in the Kazakhstan Air Force.
Surveillance Systems by Verint and NICE Systems – Kazakhstan used this electronic surveillance technology to spy on activists and journalists in the country, and exiles abroad. Agencies in Kazakhstan use distributed monitoring nodes known as Punkt Upravlenias (PUs) to conduct surveillance. Placed strategically throughout the country, including oil-producing region Aktobe and populous Almaty, PUs collect and decode audio information and IP data on an automated basis, before presenting the information to the agencies through a handler interface. The installation of these nodes was tendered to local companies but was likely marketed and supplied by foreign surveillance companies.Privacy International uncovers widespread surveillance throughout Central Asia, exposes role of Israeli companies
Pegasus – Phones of at least four activists who are critical of their government in Kazakhstan were infected with the Pegasus software, according to Amnesty International.
Human Rights Violations
Kazakhstan’s political structure concentrates power in the presidency. President Nazarbayev, was the country’s leader between 1989-2019. In snap presidential elections on June 2019, former Senate speaker Kassym-Jomart Tokaev won. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) declared the vote was marred by “significant irregularities.”Kazakhstan: Events of 2019 The country has never held an election judged to be free or fair by Europa and the U.S.Kazakhstan’s long term president to run in snap election – again In the four days after the 2019-election, 4000 people were detained (677 were sentenced to imprisonment) for protesting the vote. Other protests against growing Chinese investments resulted in dozens of arrests and 100 people that were detained. According to human rights activists and media, police and special forces indiscriminately detained those in the protest areas, sometimes with bodily force, including passers-by, senior citizens, and journalists.KAZAKHSTAN 2019 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT
According to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, Kazakhstan heavily restricts freedom of assembly, expression, speech and religion, Government critics, including opposition leaders were detained. Opposition leader Vladimir Kozlov, that has been designated by Amnesty International as a “prisoner of conscience” was imprisoned for 4 years, he was released in 2016. In 2016 rights activist Max Bokaev was unfairly jailed for peacefully protesting. He is serving a five-year sentence.Kazakhstan: Events of 2019
In 2019 alone, according to HRW there were 54 detentions, arrests, convictions, or limits on the freedom of journalists.Kazakhstan: Events of 2019 The government limited freedom of expression and exerted influence on media through a variety of means, including detention, imprisonment, criminal and administrative charges, laws, harassment, licensing regulations, and internet restrictions.KAZAKHSTAN 2019 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT
Minority religious groups continue to be subjected to fines and detention for violating restrictive religion laws. In 2006 the authorities evicted Hare Krishna followers from their homes. OSCE defined the action as a “targeting on the basis of religious affiliation.”Local Property Dispute Grows Into International Issue for Kazakhstan A legislation in 2011 shuttered some two-thirds of “nontraditional” religious groups in the country.USCIRF- Kazakhstan
January 2022 Events
According to official figures from the General Prosecutor’s Office, between 4 and 6 January, 2022, protests across the country and the response of Kazakhstani security forces led to the deaths of 241 people. The authorities have not published an official list of those who died, except for 19 security officials.Kazakhstan: Joint Statement on January 2022 events
Hundreds of people were arbitrarily arrested and held in detention, where they faced further violence including beatings and electric shocks. In four documented cases, the security forces forcibly removed injured protesters from hospital, took them for interrogation and subsequently beat them.HRW Kazakhstan: No Justice for January Protest VictimsKazakhstan: Joint Statement on January 2022 events
As of 11 July, 2022, the Coalition Against Torture, a Kazakhstani non-governmental organisation, received 172 reports of torture and other ill-treatment, including cases of rape and other sexual violence, in some cases against children.Speech at an event dedicated to the January eventsKazakhstan: Joint Statement on January 2022 events