President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s request to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and call for the member states’ help is one of the main topics on the international agenda. Against the background of the measures being taken against the protesters in Almaty and other cities, which the Kazakh government calls anti-terrorist operations, the silent position of the United States and Europe, the extent of their response being standard statements, is being seriously criticized. While some appreciate the steps taken by Tokayev, arguing that the protesters resorted to violence, there are also those who see it his actions as an attempt to undermine democratic values and to stay in power by force.
Diplomat Farid Shafiyev, Chairman of the Baku-based Center of Analysis of International Relations (AIR Center), comments on the recent events.
In a matter of days, events in Kazakhstan escalated beyond the epicenter and led to bloody clashes. Do you think what happened was a pre-planned scenario or a revolt of the Kazakh people against the government?
The events in Kazakhstan were caused by socio-economic problems. At the same time, corruption-related problems fueled these protests. As a result, the protests took on a larger scale and spread across the country. Naturally, after what happened, the international forces tried to intervene. Or, more precisely, they tried to take advantage of the situation. The deployment of Collective Security Treaty Organization forces in Kazakhstan today is leading the course of events in different directions. I think that the CSTO forces will remain there for a definite and short period of time, for example, several months. They are expected to leave once the situation stabilizes. Then there is a chance that the situation will be resolved internally. If the opposite happens, i.e., the CSTO troops stay for a long time, it will have serious consequences for Kazakhstan’s national statehood and independence.
Tokayev’s decision to open fire on the rioters without warning is the subject of serious debates. Meanwhile, the US and the West remain silent about what is happening, limiting themselves to a few brief statements…
In recent years, the West, including the US, has not pursued an active policy in Central Asia, and perhaps this is the reason why they have no fully formed position. At the same time, if we look at the chronology of recent events, we can see that there have been some acts of provocation. It is true that Western institutions always support the right of people to protest, but what we see here is violence. There have been lootings, infringement of citizens’ property rights and other provocations. So, this position of the West is understandable and natural. I think that their reaction is fitting.
At the “Summit for Democracy”, Biden said that 2022 would be the “year of democracy” worldwide. Has the superpower lost real capacity for influence or is it taking an observer position, saying that it has no interests in Kazakhstan?
If we look at Biden’s statement in the context of the events in Kazakhstan, what we can see is that people protested and achieved certain goals. After their insistent demands, fuel prices were lowered, and the chairman of the Security Council and the government resigned. In this regard, we can find logic in what Biden said. But once again, the main causes for these events are internal problems. Subsequently, various geopolitical forces wanted to take advantage of the situation in their own interests.
At Tokayev’s request, the armed forces of CSTO member states, including Russia, are deployed in Kazakhstan now. Should we expect Kazakhstan to join an alliance with Russia, following Belarus?
If, indeed, as I mentioned, the CSTO troops stay there for a long time, it will create difficulties both for the national identity and for the independence of Kazakhstan. If they stay there for a short period of time, internal stability can be restored. It will be very difficult for Russia to create an alliance with Kazakhstan after Belarus. One must admit that this country has undergone serious development in the last 30 years. Nazarbaev plays no small role here. Similar events took place in Kazakhstan in 1986. In Soviet times, a Russian named Kolbin was appointed First Secretary of Kazakhstan. The people responded with protests and Nazarbayev came to power. During these 30 years, the population has grown and the country has undergone serious development.
This country is different from Belarus in many ways. Belarus is closer to Russia. Kazakhstan has a strong national identity. From this point of view, it does not seem compelling that Russia can drag it into a union. Naturally, there may be certain scenarios here, but in reality it is impossible. Although some Russian politicians would like to restore the Soviet Union in a different form, they are unlikely to succeed. For this purpose, they even try to deny the national identity of some countries, such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan. I want to be a little optimistic, and I don’t believe that this will be possible in Kazakhstan. There are enough purely nationalist forces in the country, and this should not be overlooked.
Kazakhstan is in a turmoil, the country has entered a new era. What future awaits it now?
Naturally, as a diplomat and an Azerbaijani, I very much want stability to be restored to Kazakhstan as soon as possible. This is what the Azerbaijani people and the entire Turkic world wish. Because the Kazakhs are a friendly and brotherly nation to us. As for projections, the current events show that radical reforms must be carried out in the country. If this happens, then, of course, we can be optimistic about Kazakhstan’s future. This is an economically strong state. It has a strong industry. Kazakhstan is not dependent solely on oil, other areas of its economy are developing as well. Although there are certain problems with the pandemic, Kazakhstan will be able to overcome them, if in-depth and consistent reforms, rather than cosmetic ones, are implemented.
Translated from Ayna.az