HomeWorld NewsOpinion: For Putin, Kazakhstan is a domino too big to fall

Opinion: For Putin, Kazakhstan is a domino too big to fall

The roughly 100,000 Russian troops stationed close to Ukraine constitutes the largest safety disaster in years for Europe and its allies, together with the US. While in Kazakhstan, Russian President Vladimir Putin took this month’s brutal crackdown from the regime’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as a possibility to remind protesters revolutions won’t ever be allowed to unfold within the area and by deploying Moscow-led safety alliance troops to assist quell the unrest, the central Asian nation stays firmly in his sphere of affect.
The tone of Putin’s rhetoric and the trajectory of navy deployment go away little doubt over his intentions: to regain management over a large swath of the previous Soviet Union — even to the purpose of rolling again the footprint of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to the Cold War years. Indeed, throughout high-stakes NATO-Russia talks in Brussels final week, the chief US negotiator, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, told CNN Moscow had made no commitments to deescalate on the Ukrainian border.
Overhanging the US negotiations is a need by the Biden administration to keep away from a distraction from its supposed pivot to the Indo-Pacific, particularly resetting relations with China. But with many analysts agreeing threats of recent, stinging sanctions haven’t deterred Russia’s adventurism in Europe, western diplomats could also be negotiating with a largely empty toolbox.
The stakes for Putin are equally excessive. In the span of lower than two years, Russia has had to handle two shock uprisings on its doorstep: in Belarus and Kazakhstan. But from the Kremlin’s perspective, Kazakhstan, the most important of the previous Soviet republics in central Asia, is a domino too necessary to fall.
Allowing Kazakhstan to drift additional into a western orbit — for instance, permitting for western-style democratic elections or responding to the favored outcry with extra political freedoms — can be a blow to Russian satisfaction and would point out Moscow’s loosening the grip over an space wealthy in pure assets that has attracted billions in funding from the US and China. Kazakhstan has the world’s 12th-largest confirmed oil reserves and is 14th for gas. In 2019, it produced nearly half of the world’s uranium, according to the World Nuclear Association. The final thing the Kremlin desires is one other so-called colour revolution to flourish which might encourage protest actions in Russia and different former Soviet republics.
The latest unrest in Kazakhstan was prompted by rising gas costs and frustrations with every part from unemployment and inflation to corruption. It spiraled into protests reflecting “anger, misrule against a corrupt government that has been very authoritarian and social inequality,” stated Edward Lemon, president of the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs. The subsequent authorities crackdown resulted in at the least 164 deaths and 1000’s of arrests.
True to kind, techniques used to suppress uprisings in Belarus have been employed in Kazakhstan: a brutal crackdown, sowing disinformation, blaming unspecific overseas troublemakers, the throttling of social media — including for the primary time the favored Chinese app WeChat — and creating no area for dialogue.
Moscow rapidly agreed to President Tokayev’s request for the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led regional safety alliance, to send “peacekeepers” to assist restore order. Putin had each purpose to step in. If Russia loses Kazakhstan from its sphere of affect, it might encourage pro-democracy actions in different former republics.
But of grave significance is what the remainder of the world — significantly China — learns from how the present drama performs out. Chinese President Xi Jinping will doubtless be observing intently how far Putin can push the West, and can nearly absolutely apply that studying to Taiwan and different potential territorial adventures. Russia’s participation in high-level diplomatic conferences whereas sustaining a threatening posture, solely to stroll away declaring talks had hit a “dead end” and it’ll have to take action to “eliminate unacceptable threats to our national security” is a grasp stroke of tantrum diplomacy probably applauded in Beijing.
Now, with Beijing and Moscow ramping up their coordination efforts on overseas coverage, China can draw helpful classes watching how far Putin can take a look at the West’s resolve. For a China bent on “reunification” with Taiwan — the breakaway island the place the US is a safety guarantor — and urgent its territorial claims within the South China Sea, it is properly value observing intently the place the West units its redlines and the way it does (or does not) uphold them.
While Kazakhstan could also be a wobbling domino on Putin’s regional sport board, the nation has additionally turn out to be an necessary piece within the geopolitical technique of China for vitality independence, which means the unrest there is of direct significance to Beijing. China-linked corporations reportedly have as a lot as $26 billion in investments in Kazakhstan, together with in an oil pipeline which crosses the roughly 1,100 mile Sino-Kazakhstani border. In 2017, Kazakhstan was additionally a main recipient of Chinese cash from its multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative.
China’s financial pursuits in Kazakhstan might have western diplomats hoping Beijing encourages the Kremlin to train restraint when sustaining stability within the nation. China stated it supported the Russian-led forces deployed to Kazakhstan to quell the rebellion.
Meanwhile, the US, which has loads at stake because the leading overseas investor in Kazakhstan and with three many years of fine bilateral relations, should proceed to interact with the brand new circle of officers created round Tokayev, and press its case on why suppressing freedom of expression makes for a poisonous funding local weather. But the US does so with the belief that traders from international locations accused of disregarding human rights such as China will fortunately fill any enterprise void.
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