Ukraine in Central Asia: More War Threatened

Some of you may have missed it, but at the summit in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, on 14 October the get together did not go well. It is obvious they have no liking for the big chief from Moscow. Putin had a very uncomfortable public moment when he was openly castigated for his high-handed treatment of Tadzhikistan.

The recent fighting on the border with Kirgiziya led the latter to complain that the Russians did nothing to weigh in against Tadzhikistan to make it back down against its neighbour. At the summit Putin talked to both the Tadzhik and Kirgiz presidents in an attempt at mediation. Obviously his manner and tone were not entirely to everyone’s liking. They felt like schoolboys up before the headmaster. The Tadzhik dictator Emomali Rakhmon subsequently tore into the Russian President: “We want respect. Nothing else. Respect.”

But it was not just the Tadzhiks. The Kazakh hosts were not exactly happy either. No bilateral meetings were held with Putin by Tokaev. The Russians are demanding that the states of the region help Russia out to evade trade sanctions imposed by the West. The problem is that Russia has nothing to offer except an unending tide of refugees from the homeland escaping the war with Ukraine. Any Russian encountered on the street is assumed to be a refugee. All very humiliating. Yet the Kremlin still behaves as though these independent countries are constituent republics of the Soviet Union, indeed false nations created for convenience by Moscow, and that the Kremlin can instruct them from on high how they should behave. These countries have in some cases enormous wealth under the ground but little above ground to show for it and have succumbed to Chinese interest in their minerals.

On the other hand, their first instinct is to call Moscow when in trouble. Like teenagers these states want to be accorded the respect of adults but be helped out when they start squabbling among one another or with their own restive population. So no one is happy.

When the Kazakh leader Tokaev got in difficulties with domestic unrest back in January – not least because the régime seemed still to be run by his corrupt former patron, dictator Nazarbayev and family – he had to appeal to the Russians to help him out, which they did, restoring him to his “throne” through force. How gratifying. Now reinstalled, however, he has taken on the role of the leader most critical of Russia, evidently to win back the hearts and minds of his people with Russophobia.

The Russians find this extremely objectionable and accuse Kazakhstan of going the way of Ukraine. “Only behind Tokayev, unlike Zelensky, there are no NATO and European ‘partners’. No one will drop weapons. Worth thinking about”, warns the Russian deep state press.

The warning gathers pace: “The path that today’s Kazakhstan has chosen, with its Russophobia and encouragement of nationalists, will sooner or later lead to the same thing that is happening in Ukraine now – the protection of the Russian population and the return of primordially Russian lands…Today, Russia is closely occupied with Ukraine, more precisely New Russia, which must finally be protected from any encroachment. The Kazakh rulers still have time to think about what the Ukrainian course for the country’s development could lead to. And to estimate what might remain of the great Kazakhstan after events take that course.”

Contiguous colonial expansion and long term settlement has always made the entire process of decolonisation particularly painful. And the deep state press laments the lack of concern by the Russian élite for Russians in the Near Abroad. So if Putin succeeds in Ukraine, Russia looks like lashing out at other “Maidans” in the vicinity, the new normal. And given Russia’s claims on neighbouring territory wherever Russians once settled in the colonial and Soviet era, we can expect no end of wars. There is behind the facade an implicitly racist edge to recent official commentary on the region that once dominated Russian cities during the Chechen wars, where anyone who looked at all swarthy would be immediately asked for their papers. Colonel Blimp in pith helmet is evidently still alive and well in Moscow. Tokaev has been warned. We have all been warned where all this bluster could ultimately lead.

Voennoe obozrenie:

Казахстан: майдан, русофобия, СВО?

Вчера, 16:00