Kazakhstan: How the crisis likely boosted Russia’s post-Soviet sway

Kazakhstan: How the crisis likely boosted Russia’s post-Soviet sway




Despite a week of now-ended disorder – set off by protests over the doubling of gas prices – Kazakhstan’s authoritarian regime seems more firmly entrenched than ever.

That is due in part to the intervention of Moscow, by its post-Soviet military alliance, the six-member Collective Security Treaty Organization. The crisis in Kazakhstan has turned the CSTO from what formerly looked like a paper tiger into a functioning tool of regional elite solidarity.

Why We Wrote This

Though the chaos in Kazakhstan appears to have ended, it has highlighted ineffective nation-states in much of the post-Soviet sphere. Now Russia seems set to manage that vacuum.

“Moscow was afraid that the state system in Kazakhstan might collapse, and if that happened the consequences for Russia and the vicinity would be huge,” says foreign policy analyst Fyodor Lukyanov. “Turmoil across this vicinity is shared, and to be expected, so there are signs that Russia has been developing these tools for some time.”

“There are no mature democracies in this vicinity, and none likely to appear soon,” says Andrey Kortunov, head of the Russian International Affairs Council. “This intervention will set a precedent, raise stability, and create more confidence in Moscow” as it deals with the myriad challenges confronting the post-Soviet vicinity. In the past three years alone, political crises have hit Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and now Kazakhstan.

Moscow

Peace and order appear to be returning to the major cities of Kazakhstan. But the political scenery, both at home and in Kazakhstan’s relations with its neighbors, is greatly changed.

Despite a week of the most violent and destructive disorder in Kazakhstan since the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago – set off by seemingly instinctive protests over the doubling of gas prices at the start of the new year – the Central Asian republic’s authoritarian regime seems more firmly entrenched than ever. That is due in part to the intervention of Moscow, by its post-Soviet military alliance, the six-member Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

The crisis in Kazakhstan has turned the CSTO from what formerly looked like a paper tiger into a functioning tool of regional elite solidarity. Now, its future goals will likely be to grind attempts at regime change and enforce pro-Moscow geopolitical alignment across a space that contains several emerging states that have in addition to solidify strong national identities amid the turbulence and strength struggles of the nevertheless-collapsing former USSR.

Why We Wrote This

Though the chaos in Kazakhstan appears to have ended, it has highlighted ineffective nation-states in much of the post-Soviet sphere. Now Russia seems set to manage that vacuum.

“Moscow was afraid that the state system in Kazakhstan might collapse, and if that happened the consequences for Russia and the vicinity would be huge,” says Fyodor Lukyanov, a leading Russian foreign policy analyst. “Turmoil across this vicinity is shared, and to be expected, so there are signs that Russia has been developing these tools for some time.

“During the recent unrest in Belarus, it was enough to just signal a readiness to intervene, but in Kazakhstan they found it necessary to go in militarily,” he says. “Russia is reassuring local authorities that they won’t be overthrown. But given the symbolic character of the deployment, the message is that it’s up to those governments to stabilize their own societies.”

What happened?

There are nevertheless very different theories about the root causes of the unrest.

Last week a wave of peaceful displays broke out in the impoverished west of the country, seemingly over rising fuel prices. The government initially tried to assuage the protesters by capping prices, dismissing the Cabinet, and removing the former president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, from his post as chairman of the Security Council of Kazakhstan.

But that failed to stop the protests, which quickly spread and became violent riots, which some claim were highly organized. The upheaval left the downtown of Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, almost in ruins. Well-armed gangs reportedly fought pitched street battles with police, while mobs ransacked shops and public buildings.

/> </p>
<p> Vladimir Tretyakov/NUR.KZ/AP </p>
<p>Vendors clean up their store that was broken into and looted during clashes in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Jan. 10, 2022.</p>
<p>Following a ferocious crackdown by security forces, with at the minimum 164 dead and almost 6,000 arrested, the former Soviet republic is now firmly under control of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the hand-picked successor of longtime leader Mr. Nazarbayev, and the immediate danger has seemingly receded.</p>
<p>“already yesterday there was gunfire in the streets, and it was impossible to go out,” Vyacheslav Abramov, founder of the Vlast online magazine in Almaty, told the Monitor Monday. “Today there are buses running, the streets are being cleaned up, things seem to be returning to normal. … But we have only fragmentary information, and it’s hard to know what’s really happening.”</p>
<p>At an emergency meeting of the CSTO’s Security Council on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin placed the blame squarely on “international terrorism,” claiming that the violence came from “well-organized and well-controlled militant groups … including those who had clearly been trained in terrorist camps oversea.” The Islamist threat to Central Asia has been a thorough Russian concern for many years, and has only been magnified since the disorganized U.S. retreat from Afghanistan last year left behind a dangerous vacuum.</p>
<p>But Kazakh leaders have offered a different explanation, pointing to high-ranking internal traitors who utilized the pretext of price increases to cause protests, then unleashed specially trained armed units in an attempt to stage a coup d’état. at the minimum one top former official, the recently dismissed head of the security sets, Karim Masimov, has been arrested and charged with plotting against the state.</p>
<p> <img src=See details




leave your comment

Search

Top