Russian Defence MinistryTASS through Getty Photos
Add Kazakhstan to the listing of former Soviet republics whose independence is now being threatened by Russia. Russian chief Vladimir Putin is utilizing the same playbook in Kazakhstan to at least one that he has used over nearly a decade to threaten the sovereignty of Ukraine.
What started as protests over rising gasoline costs on Jan. 2, 2021, rapidly escalated into violent clashes on the streets of Kazakhstan. On Jan. 5, Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, a agency ally of Putin’s, requested help from the Collective Safety Treaty Group, of which Putin’s Russian Federation is the main member. Russia has responded decisively by sending paratroopers, particular operations troops and gear as a part of a virtually 3,000-strong pressure to Kazakhstan.
Tokayev defined his request by claiming that protesters are actually “a band of terrorists” educated overseas. On Jan. 7, Tokayev escalated the battle: “I’ve given the order to regulation enforcement and the military to shoot to kill with out warning,” Tokayev mentioned.
As a scholar of post-Soviet Ukraine, Russia’s involvement in Kazakhstan seems very acquainted to me. It’s just like what occurred in Ukraine starting in 2014, when peaceable protesters had been met with violence by the federal government and a protest grew right into a revolution that in the end overthrew the Russian-backed management of the nation.
AP Picture/Vladimir Tretyakov
Seizing on that second of home unrest in 2014, Putin gave direct orders to annex Crimea, a Ukrainian territory house to a key Russian naval base. Shortly afterward, he supported a battle mounted by so-called Russian-speaking separatists in Ukraine’s japanese areas.
For greater than eight years now, the Russian Federation has continued to help that battle in Ukraine and has just lately threatened Ukraine with a full invasion. This most up-to-date model of Putin’s aggression towards Ukraine got here in November 2021, when he staged 175,000 troops alongside the Ukraine border. His purpose: to make use of a possible invasion as leverage to cease Ukraine from becoming a member of the alliance of Western international locations often known as NATO.
In Kazakhstan, as in Ukraine in 2014, the Russian authorities explains its navy presence as acceptable and requested by a reputable authorities. As in Ukraine, the Russian authorities emphasizes that exterior forces are liable for unrest within the former Soviet republic. As in Ukraine, the Russian Federation has identified the necessity to shield a Russian-speaking inhabitants.
These tendencies of the Russian authorities to say dominion over former territories that it misplaced through the breakup of the Soviet empire exhibit that Russia is prepared to behave rapidly and do something to maintain management of its neighborhood. I see this as an necessary message about what the Western leaders can anticipate from a gathering with Russian officers in Geneva on Jan. 10 to debate the battle constructing once more alongside Ukraine’s border and Russia’s calls for that NATO not increase to Ukraine.
Soviet and Russian legacies
Russia has lengthy seen Kazakhstan as inside its sphere of affect. In a press convention on Dec. 23, 2021, Putin referred to as Kazakhstan a “Russian-speaking nation in each sense of the phrase.”
Earlier Putin claimed that earlier than the collapse of the Soviet Union, “Kazakhs by no means had a state of their very own.” In December 2020, two members of Russia’s parliament claimed that territories of northern Kazakhstan had been “an enormous reward” from Russia to Kazakhstan.
Such claims are paying homage to the language that Putin has utilized to Ukraine. He has typically claimed that Ukraine was not an actual nation, together with in an article printed by the Kremlin in July 2021, wherein he claimed that “fashionable Ukraine is totally the product of the Soviet period.”
The usage of the identical terminology doesn’t bode properly for Kazakhstan.
Putin’s references to a Russian-speaking inhabitants in Kazakhstan are paying homage to the expertise of Ukraine’s Crimea area. In April 2014, Russian troopers appeared on the streets of Crimea, compelled Ukrainian troopers to depart their posts, and oversaw a so-called referendum that allowed for Crimea to be built-in into the Russian Federation. The Russian Federation mentioned then, and continues to say, that its curiosity in Ukraine is a continued concern for the welfare of the Russian audio system in Ukraine, which in Russia’s view is being oppressed.
Controversial Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovski claimed on Jan. 6, 2021, that Russian audio system in Kazakhstan are equally oppressed by Kazakh language necessities. Zhirinovski is a radical determine in Russian politics, however it’s normally assumed that he voices the extra excessive claims of the Russian authorities.
AP Picture/Vladimir Tretyakov
Defending from international invaders
Kazakhstan’s President Tokayev claimed that the protests in his nation had been fueled by the “free press” and international forces who had been sponsoring terrorist exercise in his nation. The Russian authorities willingly accepted this terminology. Tokayev didn’t specify which exterior forces he meant.
Putin has lengthy claimed that the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine in 2014, which ousted his ally, President Viktor Yanukovich, was actually a coup sponsored and coordinated by the U.S.
Related arguments about outdoors influences had been made by the embattled Belarusian dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, concerning the anti-government protesters in Russia-aligned Belarus in 2020.
The spokesperson for the Russia Overseas Ministry, Maria Zakharova, mentioned on Jan. 6 that there’s a must cease extremism in Kazakhstan. Her phrases got here in response to European Union international coverage chief Josep Borrell’s issues over the Russian troop deployment.
This constant message helps Putin’s narrative about the necessity to shield Russia and the international locations in its neighborhood in opposition to what he regards as destabilizing influences just like the U.S. and NATO, which, in line with Putin, help and promote anti-government extremists and revolutions within the area.
Present of energy
Putin continues to domesticate a picture as a decisive chief who responded to a name from a neighboring nation to “assist Kazakhstan overcome this terrorist risk.”
His actions in Kazakhstan, I consider, are geared toward each inner and international audiences.
Domestically, Russian media see Russian troops as part of a multilateral peacekeeping response, which incorporates troops from Belarus and Armenia. Deployment of so-called peacekeeping forces in Kazakhstan in the course of instability and violence shall be portrayed in Russia as an enormous achievement for Putin.
That is additionally a message to Ukraine and the West. Putin is not going to hesitate to indicate energy to realize Russia’s objectives. Russia now has almost 100,000 troops alongside the Ukrainian border. And whereas there was a reported withdrawal of 10,000 troopers in late December in a de-escalation effort, a lot of the troops and navy gear stay.
Negotiations in diplomacy require compromise. Nonetheless, Russia is coming into the talks in Geneva with an ultimatum towards NATO and the U.S.
Russia’s calls for, in line with Reuters, embody a “halt to NATO enlargement, no deployment of its weapons programs in Ukraine and an finish to “provocative” navy workouts” within the area.
Russian motion in Kazakhstan ought to function a sobering reminder to Western international locations that Russia is prepared to behave decisively to guard its pursuits and retain its affect within the neighboring international locations.
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Lena Surzhko Harned doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that might profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.