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TOPIC: kazakhstan russia

Geopolitics

How Putin "Lost" Kazakhstan, And Squashed His Own Soviet Revival

For Vladimir Putin, invading Ukraine was the first massive step in reviving the power of Soviet times. His war has done the opposite. Kazakhstan is the first former Soviet republic to distance itself from Russia and turn to the West. But the Central Asian country may not be able to free itself of Russian influence as quickly as it would like.

-Analysis-

Less than three months ago, the president of Kazakhstan asked the Kremlin to send troops into his country. In January, shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the vast Central Asian country was rocked by uprisings, with tens of thousands of citizens protesting high prices for the liquid gas that they use as fuel for cooking, heating and cars.

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Militant groups attacked police stations and the capital’s airport. Head of state Kassym-Jomart Tokayev feared a coup. He called for help from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an intergovernmental military alliance between former Soviet states, long dominated by Russia.

Vladimir Putin responded within a few hours – and for a while, the eyes of the world were on Kazakhstan as Moscow sent in “peacekeeping forces.” According to official figures, at least 250 people died during the two weeks of unrest, while thousands were arrested.

Much of what happened remains shrouded in secrecy: the brutal actions of the state, but also the identity of those protestors who were armed. “Traitors,” according to the government.

The involvement of CSTO troops has no historical precedent in the post-Soviet era. In January, experts feared that Putin would refuse to withdraw his troops from the country, which has rich reserves of oil, natural gas and other natural resources. It would have been a turning point if the Kremlin had used the alliance to establish a military presence in Central Asia. Although it wouldn’t have been surprising given Putin’s strategy: at a recent patriotic rally that packed out Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, songs were played that referred to Kazakhstan as part of Russia.

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