Relations between Kazakhstan and Russia are crumbling

Russia and Central Asian nations have historically had close ties. These countries were members of the Soviet Union, and after it disintegrated, Russia maintained its influence in the region. By sending troops to deal with protesters a few months ago, Russia significantly contributed to the maintenance of Kazakhstan’s current government.As a result, Kazakhstan’s president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, assumed control of the nation. Russia, which is economically and politically isolated, hosted the 5th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in June and invited its “allies” including Kazakhstan. It is critical to note that Russia attempts to emphasize that it is not alone and has “powerful” allies. Such forums are excellent venues for demonstrating this to the rest of the world. Tokayev was the only high-level in- person guest and it would not be an exaggeration to state that even the center of everyone’s attention. During the main panel of the forum, Putin, Tokayev, and Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of Russia Today and a key Kremlin propagandist, discussed primarily economic issues. It is worth noting that one of the key political issues that also widely discussed by these figures was “the special military operation,” as Russia refers to the barbaric invasion of Ukraine. Margarita Simonyan directly asked the president of Kazakhstan about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine at one point in the conversation, and Tokayev replied emphatically that Kazakhstan would not recognize quasi-states, Tokayev stressed:

“Modern international law is the UN Charter. But, two principles of the UN came into contradiction – the territorial integrity of the state and the right of a nation to self-determination. Since these principles contradict each other, there are different interpretations of them. If the right of nations to self-determination were actually implemented across the globe, then instead of the 193 states that now make up the UN, there would be more than 500 or 600 states on Earth. Naturally, it would be chaos. … In all likelihood, this principle will be applied to quasi-states, which, in our opinion, include Luhansk and Donetsk.”

The president of Kazakhstan also stated that he shares the same opinions as regards Georgia’s Abkhazia and so-called South Ossetia, which are occupied by Russia. Such a statement in Petersburg, in front of Putin and his main propagandist, is a courageous step toward rejecting modern Russian politics, which is based on ignoring international laws and meddling in neighboring states domestic and foreign affairs. His statement went viral on the internet, and western media interpreted it as a watershed moment in Kazakhstan history and its relations with Russia. The general consensus is that Russia “lost” Kazakhstan, meanwhile Russian media outlets were obviously perplexed, with some simply stating that the president just sees events from a different perspective(Nothing to be concerned about),while others saw this statement as a complete betrayal.

To provide further insight into the president’s position, it should be underscored that   even at the outset of the Russian invasion, Putin asked Kazakhstan to join Russian forces, but faced nothing but a rejection. The government of Kazakhstan also stated that it did not intend to recognize Donestsk and Luhansk. In addition, Tokayev frequently offered to act as a mediator and personally urged Putin to settle this dispute amicably.

Although the president’s statement was undoubtedly the focal point of the forum, there were other significant remarks that should also be considered in order to determine whether or not the state of relations is actually deteriorating or if it is merely an illusion. The president of Kazakhstan strongly criticized Russian lawmakers and media figures for disseminating disinformation regarding Kazakhstan. The president unmistakably “targeted” individuals who perpetually cast doubt on Kazakhstan’s legitimacy as a sovereign state, those who hold unjustified imperial territorial claims, and those who circulate claims that Kazakhstan discriminates against minorities who speak Russian. Additionally, these figures consistently show that Kazakhstan and its government are unappreciative of Russia. This argument was strengthened when the government of Kazakhstan ordered the cancellation of the Victory Day celebration. The president’s criticism of such figures in front of Margarita Simonyan was also an interesting moment that should not be overlooked, because her husband was one of these figures who claimed Kazakhstan is ungrateful to Russia, and Tokayev forgot that Moscow saved him from riots. Many people, including Margarita Simonyan’s husband and Kadyrov, were outraged by Tokayev’s comments after the forum. Furthermore, another noteworthy “occurrence”, President Tokayev refused to accept the Order of Alexander Nevsky. This is just another clear indication of the deterioration of Russia-Kazakhstan relations, and it raises the prospect of changes in Kazakhstan and maybe even in the whole Central Asia.

The president addressed these controversies further to the Rossiya 24:

“In Russia, some people have distorted this whole situation, asserting that Russia supposedly “saved” Kazakhstan, and we should now eternally “serve and bow down to the feet” of Russia… I believe that these are totally unjustified arguments that are far from reality … Indeed, we do not have any issues that can be agitated in one way or another and which sows discord between our peoples and causes damage to our people and to the Russian Federation. I do not really understand these statements. I don’t really understand why these individuals, who in some strange way, comment on the decisions made by the Kazakh leadership or the events taking place in our country.”

Another critical point to emphasize is that Russia has shut down Kazakhstan’s main oil export routes. Everything started when Kazakhstan asked EU Council President Charles Michel to assist in stabilizing energy market, after one day of this, on July 5, the Primorsky district court in the southern Russian city of Novorossiysk ruled that the Caspian Pipeline Consortium had allegedly violated environmental laws and ordered to suspend the operations of the pipeline for one month. According to some economists, even this one-month suspension cost Kazakhstan more than $500 million.

Finally, the most recent sign of rapidly declining relations needs to be stressed .Kazakhstan’s government  has decided to withdraw from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) agreement that has existed since 1995 — the Interstate Monetary Committee. According to the information of the Kazakh media, the President of Kazakhstan Kasim-Zhomart Tokaev has already issued a decree on this and the Protocol to the Agreement on the Monetary Committee has already been terminated.

Future developments between these two nations are worth keeping an eye on, because changes in Kazakhstan-Russia relations will inevitably cause changes in the country, in the region, because Kazakhstan is the largest nation in Central Asia and even in the European continent, as is well known, Kazakhstan is rich in natural resources and can play a significant role in reducing Russia’s influence in the EU’s energy market.

Lasha Gamjashvili

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