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

In the early days of 2022, protests initially fueled by rising gas prices in Kazakhstan spread across the country, sparking an unprecedented crisis in Central Asia’s largest country. The escalation of tension led to intense clashes between demonstrators and security forces, and attacks on government buildings. According to the most recent data, 164 people died. The authorities declared a state of emergency throughout 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 (CSTO), which sent a total of 2,500 soldiers, most of them from the Russian military, to normalize the situation in the country.

The CSTO was created in 2002 on the basis of an old collective security agreement between 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 former Warsaw Pact.

Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan are currently part of it.
On Wednesday the 12th, the Kazakh president declared that the main mission of the CSTO forces, which he classified as a “peacekeeping contingent”, had been “successfully concluded”, announcing a gradual withdrawal of troops.

While Kazakhstan seeks to regain its stability internally, on the regional and international stage the crisis in the country is already having 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 Brasil de Fato, he points out that the CSTO 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 break out in the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan, and the government building is attacked, in January 2022. / AFP

The researcher points out that until recently the CSTO was treated with great skepticism, being seen, both in Russia and abroad, as a formally existing structure, but not really prepared to perform certain functions. Now, with the unprecedented operability of mobilizing troops in a short time with the unanimous support of all the allies, the CSTO emerges as a new military alliance, competing with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and, mainly, with NATO.

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

Fear of a new “color revolution”

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

Therefore, Russia is not in the least interested in a scenario of chaos and instability in Kazakhstan. This explains the quick decision led by Moscow to send CSTO troops to stabilize the situation in the neighboring country.

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

According to Ignatov, Russia’s instantaneous reaction to the events in Kazakhstan, with the introduction of a strong military contingent through the CSTO 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 nature 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,” Ignatov stressed.

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 government and in favor of the West resulted in a coup and divided the country, sparking a civil war. The Ukraine crisis was the trigger for the deterioration of relations between Russia and the West. Moscow and Washington accuse each other of intervening in this Eastern European country and creating instability in Ukraine.

During the CSTO summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that “Maidan”-like methods were used during the chaos in Kazakhstan, referring to the Maidan Square protests in Kiev that led to the crisis of Ukraine in 2014.

Alexey Ignatov points out that one of the most unique aspects of Moscow’s actions in the case of the Kazakhstan crisis is the fact that Russia has learned, following the example of the Americans, to use international support mechanisms to carry out its actions. and defend their national interests.

“The United States always camouflages all its operations in all the countries of the world with some general decisions of ‘progressive humanity’: through the actions of the NATO bloc or various international coalitions of some countries. In this case, Russia used the CSTO mechanism to introduce a contingent of peacekeepers made up of different countries, with the obvious leadership role of the Russian military,” he argued.

The crisis is also an opportunity for Russia

In this sense, the unprecedented operability of efficiently and quickly mobilizing a CSTO contingent appears, at the same time, as an opportunity for Russia to play its cards in the international arena and reinforce a counterweight to NATO’s action in post-Soviet territory.


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

For the political scientist Vladimir Shapovalov, the CSTO 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 are taking place between Russia, NATO and the US.

“In practice, on the one hand, Russia is demanding that NATO stop and back off, and on the other, it is demonstrating the capacity for rapid reaction and collective action on the part of its military alliance. With this, Russia says: ‘Look, we have our military alliance,'” he concluded.

The Moscow-led operation did not go unnoticed in Washington and drew criticism from the US secretary of state, who said Kazakhstan might have a hard time getting rid of Russian troops: “A lesson from recent history is that , once the Russians are in your house, sometimes it’s 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 look at its own record of interventions in countries like Vietnam and Iraq: “This teaches us not not just the recent past, but the entire 300 years of existence of an American state,” the Russian ministry said.

For political scientist Vladimir Shapovalov, the precedent set by the operation of CSTO troops in Kazakhstan also has to do with the fact that until recently “the United States has always acted as the world’s policeman, and has not fulfilled this role well. , allowing many arbitrariness”. According to him, likewise, there was in fact no other organization that could play this role in crises and conflicts in the world. “Now this alternative exists, it is the CSTO,” he said.

Edition: Thales Schmidt

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