Russia takes advantage of Kazakhstan crisis to consolidate military alliance in Eurasia

In the early days of 2022, protests initially fueled by rising gas prices in Kazakhstan spread across the country, causing an unprecedented crisis in Central Asia’s largest country. The escalation of tension led to intense clashes between protesters and security forces, attacks on government buildings and, according to the most recent data, 164 people were killed. Authorities declared a state of emergency across the country until January 19.

Alleging a “terrorist threat”, the current president of Kazakhstan, Kasim-Jomart Tokayev, requested help from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (OTSC), which sent a total of 2,500 troops, most of them Russian military, to normalize the situation in parents.

The CTO was created in 2002 based on an old agreement on collective security of the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), adopted in 1992, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, to resemble the structure of NATO or the defunct Pact. from Warsaw. It currently comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.

Last Wednesday (12), the Kazakh president declared that the main mission of the CSO forces, which he classified as a “peacekeeping contingent”, had been “successfully concluded”, announcing a gradual withdrawal of troops.

While Kazakhstan seeks to recover its stability internally, in the regional and international scenario the crisis in the country already has significant geopolitical effects. This is what the deputy director of the Institute of History and Politics of the Moscow State Pedagogical University, Vladimir Shapovalov, says. In an interview with Brazil de facto, he notes that the CTO’s operation in Kazakhstan set a great precedent not only in the post-Soviet space, but in Eurasia in general: “a third military alliance has emerged in the world”, he said.


Protests erupt in the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan, and government building is hit, in January 2022. / AFP

The researcher points out that until recently the SCTO was treated with great skepticism, being seen, both in Russia and abroad, as a structure of formal existence, but in reality not prepared to perform certain functions. Now, with the unprecedented operation of mobilizing troops in a very fast time with the unanimous adhesion of all allies, the SCTO emerges as a new military alliance, competing with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and, mainly, with NATO.

“The actions of the CTO peace operation create an absolutely new situation, not only in the post-Soviet space, but in Eurasia in general, because they demonstrate the preparedness of the allies for quick and effective actions. And that I think is the main result of the crisis in Kazakhstan,” he says.

Fear of a new “color revolution”

Located in the border region between Russia and China, Kazakhstan is the largest country in Central Asia and an important ally of Moscow, both in the economic area with large investments in oil and uranium extraction, and in the aerospace sector — the Baiconur space base is located on Kazakh territory and is leased by Russia.

For Russia, therefore, a scenario of chaos and instability in Kazakhstan is far from interesting. This explains the Moscow-led quick resolution to send CSO troops to stabilize the situation in the neighboring country.

Political strategist and head of the political consultancy agency “Ignatov Consulting”, Alexey Ignatov, told the Brazil de facto that Kazakhstan is traditionally included in Moscow’s “sphere of influence”, so it is not in Russia’s national interest to let the development of the neighboring country’s internal situation “take its course”.

According to him, Russia’s instantaneous reaction to the events in Kazakhstan, with the introduction of a strong military contingent through the CTO mechanism is, first of all, “a signal to external ‘partners’ and their internal ‘representatives’ in Russia”. ”.

The political scientist said that Russia’s main fear with the crisis in Kazakhstan is the emergence of a new “color revolution”, a term attributed to political demonstrations of a pro-Western character in the territory of the former republics of the Soviet Union.

“The signal is simple and unequivocal: the authorities will not allow any ‘color revolution’ in Russia and will also act decisively and quickly in the external circuit”, highlights Ignatov.

The most emblematic case of instability in Russia’s sphere of influence in recent years is that of Ukraine. In 2014, protests against the pro-Moscow and pro-Western government resulted in a coup d’état and divided the country, sparking a civil war. The Ukrainian crisis was the trigger to deteriorate the relationship between Russia and the West. Moscow and Washington accuse each other of interfering in the Eastern European country and generating instability in Ukraine.

During the CTO summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that methods similar to “Maidan” were used during the chaos in Kazakhstan, referencing the Maidan Square protests in Kiev that resulted in the Ukrainian crisis in 2014.

Alexey Ignatov notes that one of the most unique aspects of Moscow’s action in the case of the crisis in Kazakhstan is the fact that Russia would have learned, following the example of the Americans, to use the mechanisms of international support for its actions and defend its national interests.

“The United States always camouflages all its operations in all countries of the world with some general decisions of ‘progressive humanity’: through the actions of the NATO bloc or of various international coalitions of some countries. And here Russia used the CSO mechanism to introduce a contingent of peacekeepers from different countries – with the obvious leadership role of the Russian military”, he argues.

Crisis is also an opportunity for Russia

In this way, the unprecedented operationality of efficiently and quickly mobilizing a contingent of the CTO appears, at the same time, as an opportunity for Russia to play its cards in the international arena and to reinforce a counterbalance to the performance of NATO in the post-Soviet territory.


Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is the current president of Kazakhstan / Vyacheslav Oseledko / AFP

For political scientist Vladimir Shapovalov, the CTO peace operation must be understood in the context of the complicated relations that exist between Russia and NATO, as well as the current negotiations that take place between Russia, NATO and the USA.

“In practice, on the one hand, Russia demands that NATO stop and pull back, and on the other hand, it demonstrates the capacity for rapid reaction and collective action on the part of its military alliance. With that, Russia says: ‘look, we have our military alliance’”, he adds.

The Moscow-led operation did not go unnoticed in Washington and drew criticism from the US Secretary of State, who said that Kazakhstan could have difficulty getting rid of Russian troops: “A lesson from recent history is that once that the Russians are in your house, it is sometimes very difficult to get them to leave,” said Antony Blinken.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, for its part, called Blinken’s comment “typically offensive”, adding that the US should analyze its own history of interventions in countries such as Vietnam and Iraq: “This is taught to us not only by the recent past, but for the entire 300 years of the existence of an American state,” the Russian ministry published.

For political scientist Vladimir Shapovalov, the precedent set by the operation of CTO troops in Kazakhstan also concerns the fact that until recently the “US has always acted as the world’s police force, and in that role it did not do very well, allowing a lot of arbitrariness” . According to him, at the same time, there was in fact no alternative to playing this role in crises and conflicts in the world. “Now this alternative exists: the CTO”, he adds.

Editing: Thales Schmidt

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