Togzhan Kassenova

Articles by Togzhan Kassenova

28 September 2009

The lasting toll of Semipalatinsk's nuclear testing

Togzhan Kassenova

During the rainy, windy early morning of August 29, 1949, the Soviet Union conducted its first nuclear explosion--code-named "First Lightning"--at the Semipalatinsk Test Site in eastern Kazakhstan. Witnesses remember feeling the ground tremble and seeing the sky turn red--and how that red sky was quickly dominated by a peculiar mushroom-shaped cloud. The Soviet military and scientific personnel conducting the test knew that the rain and wind would make the local population more susceptible to radioactive fallout.

22 December 2008

The struggle for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia

Togzhan Kassenova

When Kazakhstan's Parliament ratified a treaty establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia earlier this month, the effort to ban nuclear weapons from the region took its final step. Throughout the Cold War, Central Asia had been the epicenter of the Soviet nuclear testing program--with the Soviet military conducting 456 nuclear tests in Kazakhstan alone. Appropriately then, the treaty was signed by representatives from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan in September 2006 at Semipalatinsk, the main Soviet test site in Kazakhstan.

18 July 2008

Biological threat reduction in Central Asia

Togzhan Kassenova

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union weaponized plague bacteria for possible use against the United States. Earlier this year, the deadly bacteria finally made its way into the country--albeit under peaceful circumstances. After five years of negotiation between U.S. and Kazakh officials, a U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo plane transported samples of bubonic and pneumonic plague bacteria from laboratories in Kazakhstan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Fort Collins, Colorado. U.S.

28 April 2008

Kazakhstan's nuclear ambitions

Togzhan Kassenova

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the international community anxiously watched to see what newly independent Kazakhstan would do with the thousands of nuclear weapons left on its territory. If Kazakhstan had decided to prevent their withdrawal, it would have become the fourth largest nuclear power in the world. Thankfully, the country decided to disarm--a choice it reached due to a combination of international pressure, a desire to integrate into the international community, and assured Western assistance with dismantling its nuclear weapons and facilities.