Monday, January 24, 2022

Whither Kazakhstan?

 Should I not be posting on the ongoing threat by Putin against Ukraine that is current dominating the news? Nobody is talking about Kazakhstan.  Yes, that is right, which means maybe somebody should, if just to sort of check up on what was The Big Crisis very recently.

So indeed it looks that the uprising that cost quite a few lives and resulted in a lot of damage is completely over, along with having several thousand people get arrested.  The Putin people are all praising him for bringing it to and end by sending in a couple of thousand troops that guarded a few buildings not under attack. But it looks that the Kazakhani security forces pretty much put the uprising down themselves prior to any of those forces arriving.  Crucial was the "shoot to kill" order put out by President Tokayev, which was carried out, with several hundred dead in the end.

One loose end is what really caused this and was there a major role by outsiders? The latter was claimed by the Kazakhstani government, but their only "evidence" of this was a completely goofball story about a jazz musician who entered Kazakhstan from Tajikistan. There have been vague reports that the CIA was training people in the countryside who poured into the cities, especially Almaty, and caused the worst trouble.  It does seem that indeed people did come in from the countryside, but nobody has provided any evidence of this supposed training.

The hard fact is that it seems nobody was expecting this or even vaguely predicting it. The widespread view was that the place was one of the more competently run former Soviet republics, despite lots of corruption and inequality. But most of them have that.  Its real per capita income had risen more rapidly than in almost all others, and it had risen in the ranking of these with each other.  It looked well off and stable. What happened?

I think this may have been an example of the "revolution of rising expectations," that we sometimes see upheavals in places where things are improving because people have hopes of them improving a lot more and demand it.  This really does look like a spontaneous outbreak against this entrenched corrupton and inequality that spread suddenly, but then after getting pretty fierce, was fairly easily put down, being spontaneous and not well organized.

What does seem to have come out of it is that Tokayev has cemented his power, especially against former president and "Father of the Nation," Nursultan Nazarbaev. The latter was removed from his position as leading the National Security Council, and the security chief, Kassimov, an ethnic Uighur, was removed from his position and arrested, with him reportedly a close ally of Nazarbaev. The premier was also replaced, and the security forces are being reorganized.  It is probably the case that the real import of Putin sending some forces, now reportedly being removed, is that he signaled his support for Tokayev in this power struggle, with Tokayev apparently having attending the KGB higher academy for a while during the Soviet period.

The most recent development is that after disappearing for awhile, Nazarbaev has resurfaed. He has publicly denied that there was a power struggle or any differences.  But it looks that he is accepting his loss of position and allies.  He has been around and knows what he needs to say to preserve what he can of his standing and power.

Oh, on the Ukraine matter, I do not know what will happen, but here is an action Putin can probably get away with without getting sanctions imposed on him, but that will also allow him to save face, given that the US and NATO will not meet his demands.  He can recognize the independence of the Luhanks and Donetsk separatist republics, something he has also done for South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transdniestria, even though nobody else has recognized them. He can also supply them with a lot more arms and maybe some deniable green men to allow them to expand their territory of control somewhat in a couple of places, with an obvious one to have them retake the Sea of Azov port they briefly held of Mariupol.  Probably Putin can get away with these moves, which will provide him with face.

Barkley Rosser


Anonymous said...

what you left out.

kazakhstan is an faltering energy state.

that us forces staged in kazakhstan on the way in to afghanistan. a long time for the cia to network.

since the afghan bug out debacle the us no longer uses it as a supply chain node.

there are reports of iraqi, syrian and even american rounded up the pre isil gang us funded. but those reports are unfirmed as are your cherry picking.

there were more than red army sof/airborne, the csto side says they put down a color revolution....

as they said on cnbc this am, ukraine is a failed state and us has no valid reason to insist they join nato.

biden is rattling the saber for nato to move up to the dneipr.......

i get that putin is so evil that war and huge human tragedy is justified. said...


Some of your information is inaccurate. In 2002 China accused the US of seeking the use of a former Soviet air base in Kazakhstan, but to the extent the US sought that use, it was not granted. Later in 2015 Kazakhstan offered the use of a base for the US, but that was not taken up. The main US military activities in Kazakhstan have been that the latter allowed transit to Afghanistan of US troops, but there have never been any stationed there. There have also been US troops participating in the international Stepp Eagle exercise that involved something like 13 nations, with those troops only briefly in Kazakhstan. There simply has never been any longterm stay of any US troops there.

I am not surprised that China may have revived these old and false accusations in the current situation, but there is nothing to this. I am not going to claim that there never have been CIA operatives in Kazakhstan or that there are not any now. But in fact the US and Kazakhstani governments have maintained friendly, if somewhat distant, relations. Under both Nazarbaev and his successor Tokayev, the government there has sought to have friendly relations with Ruaaia, China, and the US, without tilting too strongly to any of them, although there has since 1991 always been more of a tilt towards Russia than towards the other two.

At the bottom line, even if there are some CIA people running around in Kazakhstan, no evidence has been put forward supporting the claim that it is behind all these people rising up recently in Kazakhstan.

As for Putin, I certainly hope there is no war. He is the only party in all this that is threatening war, and if there is war, he will be the one starting it, although there is and has been since he supported those uprisings, an ongoing war in eastern Ukraine between the central Ukrainian government and the separatist republics of Luhansk and Donetsk. As noted in my main post, I think it quite likely that Putin will up his aid to those republics and perhaps formally recognize them, although no other nation on the planet will do so, not Belarus, not China.

Anonymous said...

never mind the two routes of the northern distribution system into afghanistan through kazakhstan.

imagine: putin, lavrov and their war dept playing a 'schelling' game against biden/harris, milley and austin.

the biden liberal neocon regime is scarier than (the carter admin) anything i saw during the cold war,

the ukraine game is both immoral and insane.

Anonymous said...

China formed a permanent "strategic" partnership with Kazakhstan in September 2019. From that time on, a successful Color Revolt became as impossible as such a successful revolt against US interests would be in Mexico. Simply looking at the map and understanding US policy has become "containment" of China, explains the strategic partnership.

The turn to organized violence in Kazakhstan was immediately openly identified by China as an attempt at a color revolution.

Anonymous said...

Even as the US has adopted a containment policy toward China, China has become increasingly global in perspective. Chinese globalizing policy will not change. Neighboring countries from Kazakhstan to Thailand, to Sri Lanka and beyond, are becoming increasingly close, though US or British policy analysts may write otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Also, I much appreciated this fine post. said...


Just a couple of points.

One, not sure why you called Kazakhstan "a faltering energy state." Oil production down a bit from a 2019 peak, but hardly enough to warrant the label "faltering." Again, Kazakhstan has been one of the better performing former Soviet republics economically. This is part of why so many surprised and taken aback by the strength of this sudden uprising.

Not all color revolutions have simply been due to US actions, although Putin has made such claims. Most of them have reflected genuine popular unhappiness of population, usually on legit grounds, as in Ukraine and Georgia. While Kazakhstani growth has been quite strong, it has been poorly distributed with too much going to oligarchs there. Those rising up accurately argued they have not gotten much and remaining poor, even as economy growing.

I also think you way overplay importance of Chinese role. US much more concerned with its own deals in the nation and the Russian role than that of China. China may think this is all about it, but that just looks like overblown paranoia from where I sit. I really think this uprising was spontaneous and about local conditions, not China or Russia or the US. That it was so easily put down while being so widespread pretty much supports this.

Anonymous said...

"I also think you way overplay importance of Chinese role...."

Please do look at a map. China has a "strategic" partnership with Kazakhstan along with the other 4 Central Asian countries, and Kazakhstan has become a critical part of the Belt and Road. The heads of state of each of the 5 Central Asian countries will be at the Beijing Olympics, and this symbolism is entirely meaningful. said...


Sorry, you are being way too Sinocentric on this. Kazakhstan has maintained friendly relations with its neighbors as well as more distant powers in a careful balancing act. PRC has already built the major BRI piece in Kazakhstan, a major rail link across it, which is suffering from not much economic support. Perhaps Beijing wants the government to fall so as to get one that will provide more economic support for this important part of the initiative.

The government has had good relations with the US. Several US oil companies have been allowed in to work in its not-failing oil and gas industry. There are many Kazakhstani students studying in the US. We have had many on my campus, some of whom I and my wife have gotten to know personally. It is not obvious that if the current government were to be replaced, a successor would be friendlier to the US than the current one.

But indeed while China has recently signed a security agreement with Kazakhstan, its relations have been and remain much closer to Russia. It was Russia-founded CSTO whose troops were invited in to support the government, not the entity associated with the Chinese security agreement. Something Putin really cared about was the 75th anniversary Victory Day celebration in 2020. While many were invited, including Xi Jinping, only six national Heads of State attended this celebration. Four of these were CSTO members: Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgzstan, and Tajikistan. The other two were Serbia and Moldova. said...

BTW, A., if looking at a map is supposed to determine this, well, it is obvious that the Kazakhstani-Russian relationship is far more important than the Kazakhstani-Chinese relationship. The boundary between Russia and Kazakhstan is several times longer than that between China and Kazakhstan. Indeed, I think it is the second longest international boundary in the world, only exceeded by that between the US and Canada.

Anonymous said...

PRC has already built the major BRI piece in Kazakhstan, a major rail link across it, which is suffering from not much economic support....

[ Sorry, I had no idea. I did not understand, and thought the Belt and Road was entirely successful and becoming more so. I was entirely mistaken and greatly appreciate the corrections. In any event, Russia and China made clear there will be no color revolution in Kazakhstan. Russia and China will not be contained, and will secure their borders since they must to continue to develop.

You are right, I was wrong. Thank you so much for all the wonderful explanations. ]

Anonymous said...

PRC has already built the major BRI piece in Kazakhstan, a major rail link across it, which is suffering from not much economic support....

[ That is why I suggested looking at the map. Kazakhstan is landlocked and the Belt and Road is and will be a critically important way to overcome this. Having pretty much ended the economic control of the last President, Kazakhstan can take advantage of the BRI and China's economic strength, and I think will surely do so. The BRI is what the country needs beyond energy.

The current President is acknowledging just this. The BRI is a wild success in all, but building strength gradually. ] said...


Regarding the rail link that PRC has built in Kazakhstan as part of the initiative, it is a crucial part for China, but not so much for Kazakhstan. It is the rail link that most directly links China to Europe, thus the part of the whole initiative that more than any other looks like the old Silk Road that has inspired the intiative.

The problem for Kazakhstan is that it does not go through areas that are that important for Kazakhstan to load things onto such trains going to Europe. This is why Kazakhstan has not built sufficient support facilities along it such as refueling stations and such like. This is where the problem is. This does not prevent the trains from running, but makes it more difficult and more costly for them to do so.

I would also add that it is not the right of China to tell Kazakhstan or any other nation that they "cannot have a color revolution," with it also not being the right of Russia to do so either, with it being louder about this than China has, indeed using such events as excuses for it to violate international law to invade such nations to seize territory or to attempt to overthrow their governments. Doing this involves violating the UN Charter, the Helsinki Accords, and for Kazakhstan and Ukraine, the Budepest Accords, although I do not think PRC is a signatory on those latter two, while Russia is.