The world is turning its eyes towards Kazakhstan, but is it also aware of the far-reaching supraregional significance of the events taking place there, or is it just being swayed by yet another media flash of indignation about a country that is too far away for most to truly care about? Worryingly, an “Almaty Maidan” cannot be ruled out, and it could potentially cause more dangerous collateral security damage than even the Ukraine-Russia conflict – and possibly even on a global scale.
Kazakhstan is undoubtedly anything but a mature democracy, especially by Western standards. However, the protests there also have some dubious aspects that cannot simply be swept under the carpet with an unreflective reference to an undefined desire for freedom on the part of the citizens. Furthermore, would the idea of another potential US-led attempt at regime change really be so absurd, given the geopolitical dominance of the Rimland Doctrine of the United States since Spykeman and its NATO-enforced encirclement policy towards Russia?
Did the US Embassy Know About the Protests in Advance?
The protests were initially triggered by increases in the price of liquefied petroleum gas, but they eventually degenerated into veritable orgies of violence, even though the government managed to lower the prices, imposed a cap on them and also met particular demands for a government reshuffle. Suddenly, demands by the protestors were also made against economic and military alliances with Russia. Astonishingly, despite the Kazakh Government’s blocking of internet communication, the protests nevertheless swelled “highly professionally” across the board. Two questions should be raised, in this regard:
- Why did gas prices suddenly rise for the local population in Kazakhstan, which is rich in natural resources, when they were not raised prior, due to a legal cap? – Since liquefied gas was also subjected to electronic trading on the neoliberal world market in Kazakhstan in 2019, the latter was no longer possible as easily as before.
- Was it possible that the global capitalist system was exported as a type of Trojan horse? – Watertight proof of this will probably have to be shown, but it is thought-provoking that the American Embassy had previously warned of mass protests in Kazakhstan already in mid-December.
Neuralgic Significance in „The Great Game“
Considering the increasing political, economic and military pressure that the United States has been building up against China and Russia for quite some time now, it is easy to explain Kazakhstan’s highly neuralgic importance in the geostrategic “Great Game” of the world powers. Its location makes it the main transit route to the other former Soviet republics in Central Asia, as well as China, an important trading partner for Russia. For China, Kazakhstan is of outstanding relevance for its New Silk Road project. Moreover, for years the Government of Kazakhstan has sought to play a mediating role in geopolitically significant regional conflicts – whether it be the Syrian conflict or regarding Iran’s nuclear programme – as well as acting as a liaison centre for economic alliances, whether these be the Silk Road or the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). However, in each case, this “multivectoral foreign policy” – as the Kazakh Government itself describes – involved projects that were not subject to US hegemonic control. Given all this, it should be quite legitimate to look for Washington’s sufficiently well-known signature concerning the protests. After all, according to the Ministry of Public Development, there are said to be 53 international organisations, 30 foreign government organisations and 77 foreign NGOs and foundations in Kazakhstan, with 70% of all funding flowing from the US.
The Battle for Raw Materials
The raw material deposits of oil, gas, uranium, iron, copper, zinc, chrome, vanadium, bismuth, fluorine and other metals and minerals arouse significant geopolitical desires for economic access to such reserves. Still, the Russian state-owned enterprise Gazprom is the owner of some of the pipelines, as well as the Russian spaceport Baikonur, which is located on Kazakh territory, as well as the Russian missile test site in Sary-Shagan. These already represent concrete legal interests for Russia. Moreover, in the event of a conflict, Moscow is likely to see itself as representing the interests of the world’s largest Russian-speaking community after Ukraine – about 3.5 million people – outside of its own territory. Apart from all of this, Russia will not be keen on tolerating American presence in a direct neighbouring country with which it shares a border of some 7,600km, as, conversely, Washington would be unhappy about Russia’s presence in Mexico or Canada, for example. Furthermore, 51% of Kazakh citizens speak Russian.
CSTO Sends Peacekeeping Troops
Is the situation so far only tense in nature, or is it already becoming potentially explosive? Only the relevant actors can pass judgement on this matter with certainty, but the West should not underestimate the fact that on the 6th January, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), a union of six former Soviet republics – Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan (Serbia is a non-member observer state) – decided to send a military peacekeeping force to maintain order in Kazakhstan. However, the CSTO has so far avoided explicit intervention in the conflicts in Kyrgyzstan and Armenia. This is due to the „internal characteristics“ of proposed intervention by the Alliance not being considered necessary by its commanders. The CSTO seemingly harbours an entirely different impression in the present case of Kazakhstan. Interestingly, ex-banker Mukhtar Ablyazov, who fled to Paris, also declared himself the leader of the protests in the meantime. Ablyazov is accused of stealing $6 million from a Kazakh bank.
It will be interesting to see how the events in Kazakhstan will affect the upcoming NATO-Russia Council talks scheduled for the 12th January, in Geneva, but this may even be the intention of the participating actors and others. Who knows for sure at the moment, however, one would be well-advised to take a close look at Kazakhstan and think for oneself so as not to sleepwalk into further media manipulation. As is well known, truth is the first casualty of war.
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