What is going on in Kazakhstan?

China and Russia close ranks in the face of Kazakh upheaval. Does someone want to set fire to Eurasia?

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Anthony Blinken remarked: "The lesson from recent history is that once Russians are in your house, sometimes it's very difficult to get them to leave."

The Russian retort, to paraphrase, was that it was a bit rich from a country which has up to 750 military bases in more than 80 countries. Just one example. Twenty thousand US troops are still billeted in Stuttgart, Germany while the "Iron Curtain" and old Russian bases have long rusted away. How did they keep themselves busy for three decades with no sign of Russian invasion? They found themselves another mission of running Africa Command from there. Then the Poles offered to build barracks for them, much nearer Russia. They suggested calling it "Fort Trump."

Less comically, there seems to be an enveloping pattern of instability all along the lands of the former Soviet Union. Over the past few months, of the six members of the Collective Security Organization (CSTO), four (Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan) have seen either attempted coups, "colour coded revolutions" (regime change) or heavy Turkish military involvement in the case of Armenia.

Kazakhstan is as large as three Pakistans (with a population of Karachi only). The oil, gas and uranium rich country is no doubt run by an odious regime, as nasty as Western-backed fossil fuel Gulf states.

Who benefits if Central Asia falls apart?

Had the Kazakh uprising succeeded in toppling the regime, then another Ukraine-Donbass would have been created. One quarter of the population of 19 million is ethnic Russian, mainly to the north of the country. Two thirds are Kazakh. Curiously, one percent is German (courtesy of tyrannical Stalin). So, is that why the German army has a bio-security lab in the country today? And it seems the US Pentagon also has a bio-security lab in Almaty too.

According to a former Indian diplomat, Western spies have the number on a whole section of the utterly corrupt elite, which became handy in preparing the ground for the putsch.

What would have happened if it had succeeded? Domestic Kazakh politics would have shifted towards sectarianism, division, secession, and the rest. Which would have driven a coach and horses right through China's Belt and Road Initiative. Kazakh lands lie smack in the middle of the BRI. To the east, China. To the north, Russia. To the west, the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to the south. Beyond which are Afghanistan and Iran.

How did simultaneous armed uprisings occur in such a vast country? Normally, protests over price hikes on gas would gather force over weeks and months. Certainly, the appalling Kazakh kleptocracy limits riches for only the well-connected few, but how is it that so many weapons became so widely available?

Was something else going on? Karim Masimov, the head of the domestic intelligence agency (and a two-time former prime minister), has been arrested for high treason. This suggests an intra-regime power play (an attempted coup), with perhaps a colour coded revolution layered on top? The latter has been vehemently denied by the White House.

Both Beijing and Moscow have not minced words in saying what they believe happened. State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, have talked this week by telephone and agreed to align the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) with the Russian led CSTO.

The timing of the upheaval in Kazakhstan, just before crucial US-Russian talks, is also quite a coincidence. It is as if some do not want peace to break out to the west in Ukraine.

Which brings us to Nato

Why is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato ) expanding eastwards, so far from the Atlantic Ocean? On February 9, 1990, James Baker, the US secretary of state, told Mikhail Gorbachev that Nato would expand "not one inch eastward." Well, a couple of years before, his boss, President Bush Senior, also promised "read my lips, no new taxes.” Same result.

Today, Russian tanks no longer rev their engines on the Elbe River, but Nato is approaching the borders of Russia. Even if you loathe Putin, do you kind of understand why he no longer wants a verbal commitment and instead insists on written documents declaring that Nato will stop its Drang Nach Osten (Drive to the East) which conjures up a primordial fear for Russians? However, in reverse, Putin is being compared to Hitler in the Western narrative, as in "it is all the fault of the Russians." Whatever.

Geo-politically, it is a contest between Russia claiming a sphere of regional influence, while the US insists on influence everywhere. Note how geo-economics (Gazprom gas to Germany or Silk Roads through Eurasia) has come under such pressure from Washington.

We know that in 1962 the USSR attempted to station nuclear missiles in Cuba in response to a US-backed invasion (the Bay of Pigs). JFK ordered a naval blockade and the Soviet navy had to retreat in the face of overwhelming American power. What is not as well known is that, as a quid pro quo, the Americans later quietly withdrew their own Jupiter nuclear warheads from eastern Turkey (right next to the USSR).

Today, Moscow claims Nato expansion towards its borders will mean missiles being stationed way too close, only several minutes launch time away. Blinken surely knows his history , right?

 

Farid Erkizia Bakht is a political analyst. @liquid_borders

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