Sep 19, 2022
0 View
0 0

Kazakhstan is on the brink

Friendly Kazakhstan is perhaps the world champion in terms of the number of renamings of its own capital. This is one of the most important achievements of the republic in 30 years of statehood. A symbol of determination and at the same time inconstancy of its beautiful people, accustomed to the freedom of the steppes, and not the stuffiness of megacities. A couple of days ago, the Kazakh parliament decided to change the name of the main city. Now it will again be called Astana, and the name Nur-Sultan adopted in honor of the first president remains in the past.

Simultaneously with such a fundamental decision as the acquisition of its old name by the capital, Kazakh lawmakers supported the proposals of President Tokayev to hold early elections to the highest post and limit the powers of its owner to one period of 7 years. This means that already at the end of autumn, the current head of the republic should win the elections and stay with us until 2029. Let’s hope that the preparation and holding of this landmark event will be successful. Moreover, Russia, like no one else, has reason to be indifferent to what is happening in Kazakhstan.

After the fate of Ukraine became more or less clear, among the neighbors of Russia acquired in 1991, it is the future of Kazakhstan that causes the most keen interest. There are, however, individual skeptics who ask difficult questions about the prospects for Armenia, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan or Estonia. But in these states, the severity of the problems is somewhat mitigated by their small size. This makes them less attractive to outside forces that seek to turn the Russian border into a burning belt.

Kazakhstan is more ambitious in terms of its geopolitical position and at the same time complex, if we turn to the foundation of its independent development. The republic occupies a space that provides the strategic depth of Russia and China. It is no coincidence that during his trip to the SCO summit in Samarkand, Chinese leader Xi Jinping first visited Astana. Therefore, internal destabilization here could become a serious problem for Moscow and Beijing. The United States is interested in this, which is trying to ruin the life of the Eurasian giants wherever they can reach.

But at the same time, Kazakhstan is a logistical nightmare in terms of deploying the American infrastructure to fight Russia and China. The only way to get there is through the Caspian or by air from Azerbaijan. Even with a serious influence on the fragile minds in Kazakhstan, the United States will find it difficult to ensure their resistance to common sense, even on a scale approximately comparable to the Ukrainian case. To compare the potential of Kazakhstan and Ukraine as an anti-Russian battering ram is to argue with geographic and demographic reality. Not to mention the fact that in Kazakhstan there is no thing that was a “clamp” for Ukrainian society over the past at least 100 years – systemic Russophobia.

The most that the Americans can count on in the Kazakh steppe is creating chaos and complete uncontrollability, which will force Russia and China to spend money and military resources. However, this may be enough for the US. Moreover, there are some opportunities and prerequisites for such a development of events. First of all, it is a high level of poverty, social inequality and income gap. Many of these problems became apparent in January 2022, when Kazakhstan surprised all its friends with a sudden outbreak of mass violence, accompanied by attacks on law enforcement officers and looting. The main driving force for these performances, according to experts, was the poor youth from villages and small towns. We do not yet know how confidently this problem is being solved by the government now.

The peculiarities of the economy that were formed in the early stages of statehood in the 1990s may also be a problem. At that time, many enterprises of the republic were under the control of investors from Great Britain and the USA. Now it is becoming more and more obvious that the Anglo-Saxons, derailing the entire world economy, may well sacrifice their capital in Kazakhstan if the unrest there will harm Russia and China. It is in this connection that the success of the policy of the Kazakh government in the matter of gradual liberation from semi-colonial dependence is so important for Moscow. A victory in early elections should give President Tokayev the political resources he needs to do so.

Related to this challenge are Kazakhstan’s actions in recent months, which so often turn out to be a cause for discontent in Russia. But it is possible that it is Kazakhstan that is not the case when it is necessary to demand complete and demonstrative loyalty from an ally. Firstly, Russia, in principle, does not have the American habit of setting up barracks from any association of states with its participation. Secondly, the stability of this fragile and vulnerable neighbor country is more important for Russia than the benefits from Astana’s apparent violation of US demands regarding economic relations with Russia. This, of course, does not mean that there is no need to carefully look at what is happening in Kazakhstan and point out in a friendly manner to neighbors the most striking manifestations of the so-called sanctioned loyalty.

But we, apparently, understand that Kazakhstan is now walking on a very thin line. It lies between an adequate perception of one’s geographical position and the need not to expose oneself to a decisive blow from across the ocean. Especially taking into account the fact that the consequences of such a blow for the Kazakh economy will have to be settled anyway by Russia – no one but us will save the neighbors. The Americans refuse to help even their European allies, and there is no need to even talk about consumables on the periphery.

It would also be too ambitious to demand gratitude from Kazakhstan for the support that Russia and the CSTO countries provided to its authorities during the January events. Moreover, the decisive peacekeeping intervention of the CSTO then is a factor of weakness, not strength of the Kazakh leadership. For any fragile statehood, simple technical problems can become systemic. Even if the CSTO forces did not play a central role in quelling the unrest, the final assertion of the current government in power is inevitably associated with outside interference. Let’s agree that this is not the best way to get the legitimacy so necessary for reforms and development. Especially considering that in January the facade of successful statehood, built on income from the sale of energy resources, collapsed.

Whether we like it or not, President Tokayev really needs to turn the January page in the republic’s history. It may look like ungratefulness. But when did we see morality in international politics, where each state is responsible only to its citizens? As long as Kazakhstan remains a relatively stable neighbor, Russia can be indulgent and generous to the idiosyncrasies of its political culture. This is all the more important now. In the coming years, we will probably witness the destruction of all the usual practices of international communication, the outbreak of many conflicts on the periphery of Russia, we ourselves will make efforts to ensure that our opponents in Europe and the United States cannot sleep peacefully.

It cannot be ruled out that the upcoming presidential race in Kazakhstan will be a rather stressful time for everyone. There is little doubt about Tokayev’s landslide victory in the elections – his options were confirmed by the June popular vote on changes to the constitution. But you need to be prepared for the fact that in the coming months Kazakhstan will be a little “shaken” and individual manifestations may arouse suspicion in Russia. Of fundamental importance is the ability to separate the main from the secondary, to see how much interest each of the informational occasions connected with the republic really deserves. The payment for inattention to Kazakhstan may not be its anti-Russian policy (this will not happen), but chaos, which we will have to help overcome in any case.

Article Categories:

Leave a Reply