Kazakhstan, which is economically one of the largest states in its region, entered the New Year with a nightmare. Citing the increase in gas prices, the people took to the streets. The country’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who initially sympathized with the public's reaction, blamed “external circles” after the demonstrations got out of control. He then asked for help from Russia, which has a 700-kilometer (435-mile) border with Kazakhstan. The Kremlin rapidly responded to Tokayev’s request and supported Tokayev's “external circles” rhetoric without a specific name. Moscow immediately sent the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), formed by the former Soviet republics, to Kazakhstan.
The United States is accordingly on alert! “Russia never easily leaves from where it enters,” the country officially believes. Despite that, the Kazakh president announced that the CSTO forces are set to withdraw in two phases, within a maximum of 10 days. No matter what, it’s clear that Russia is the winner as, in the end, it will have a more decisive role in Kazakhstan’s future direction.
Meanwhile, there is no opposition to the government in Kazakhstan for its closeness to the Kremlin. It can be said that some circles in contact with the U.S. – particularly though the commercial bonds – have lost a great deal of power. For example, Mukhtar Ablyazov, former energy minister and businessperson who has been living in France since 2013 and confessed to financing the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan in 2005, is one of them. The next days are likely to be tough for him, as he is said to be among the shadow leaders of the recent unrest, and the circles close to billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros, whose name has been mentioned in several similar cases of unrest across the world.
In addition, the turmoil has given Tokayev the opportunity to restructure some strategic state institutions. Karim Masimov, the head of intelligence in the country, has been arrested on charges of treason. Masimov is allegedly said to have a secret partnership with U.S. President Joe Biden’s family, which has investments in Kazakhstan. He is accused of not being able or unwilling to reveal the violent attempt “prepared by professionals.” The intelligence organization left its buildings with weapons and confidential documents to the activists in a number of cities, Tokayev said, and then announced that the organization would be reorganized.
From this perspective, the winner seems clear. It sounds logical that Russia stirred up things to benefit from the situation and enter Kazakhstan. However, there are still some problems in this scenario as well. First of all, there is no perception of "imminent threat" that would require Putin to organize such a big conspiracy in Kazakhstan. His attention is currently on Belarus and Ukraine.
Meanwhile, there are some media allegations, especially in France, that Russia has given a lesson to Tokayev, who is trying to get closer to the West through Turkey. These claims are rather amusing, as the Organization of Turkic States, led by Kazakhstan and Turkey and shown as evidence for such claims, is not an attempt to exclude Moscow. In fact, as said by Binali Yıldırım, a heavyweight of the Turkic alliance, both Russia and China are “natural members of this community.”
In this context, it seems probable that another power attempting an operation in Kazakhstan, Russia's gateway to Asia, has messed things up and has become the hunted while hunting. This seems more than likely, especially when thinking about the U.S.’ fiasco in Afghanistan.