First A400M Destined for Kazakhstan Rolled Out by Airbus

Foreign Affairs

Milan: The first A400M aircraft for Kazakhstan has rolled out of the paint shop at Airbus Defence and Space facilities in Spain, the company announced in an April 15 statement. The upcoming delivery of the cargo plane comes at a time when the Central Asian country is balancing its ties to the West while managing neighbourly relations with Russia.

Ahead of the war in Ukraine, in 2021, Astana ordered two copies of the aircraft, with the first one expected to be delivered later this year, according to Airbus.

Kazakhstan has faced a complex political conundrum in recent years, as it shares border with Russia 4,500 miles in length. The government has increasingly shown that it pursues its own independent policy, having opted to maintain a neutral position toward the war in Ukraine and pledged to uphold Western sanctions on Moscow.

While many experts have noted that the country appears to want to distance itself from the Kremlin, this might be harder to accomplish in practice for the former Soviet Union state. In a recent report, the British think tank Chatham House highlighted that the economic trade between the two countries reached record highs in 2022 and 2023, coming to $26 and $27 billion, respectively, including exports of dual-use goods.

“Almost half of all foreign companies working in Kazakhstan are now Russian, and there is huge interest in the country from Russian state-owned enterprises and private companies with links to the Kremlin,” the report stated.

An Airbus spokesman said the company is unworried by the customer’s Russia ties. “Airbus is firmly committed to conducting its business ethically, based on company values, and in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, which also applies to the A400M Kazakhstan contracts,” the spokesman said.

The Central Asian state is already an Airbus customer before the flagship A400M purchase, having bought two of the company’s C295 military airlifters in 2017.