On July 3, 2023, Dauren Abayev was appointed as the Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Russian Federation by the Decree of the Kazakh President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Seems it was hard for the Kremlin not to like him.
In August 2021, while being a deputy head of the Presidential Administration in Astana, he had, according to Azattyq.org, described the actions of his Kazakh co-citizens, who had been demanding government agencies and shops in Kazakhstan to render services in the Kazakh language, as a manifestation of ‘cave nationalism’, and, as a result, had been subjected to a lot of criticism in his homeland. In this case, the then-deputy head of the Kazakh Presidential Administration repeated word for word the formula that Putin likes saying – “Cave nationalism is a foolish thing”, “The ‘Russia for Russians’ slogan represents ‘cave nationalism” and so on.
Because of the foregoing, there probably was no difficulty at all for Astana to get Moscow’s consent (i.e. the agrément) to the appointment of Dauren Abayev as ambassador. But then, the rest of the matter dragged on for five months. Only last Monday, on December 4, he, at last, had the honor to present his credentials to the Russian head of state Vladimir Putin at a ceremony in the Kremlin.
The presentation of the credentials to the chief of state is, of course, quite formal these days. In most major capitals a copy of credentials is now first provided privately to the foreign minister, after which the new ambassador can deal with his host country’s foreign ministry. But the rules are such that he may proceed to business with ministries other than the foreign ministry only after the ceremony of presenting the credentials to the chief of State has been completed. That’s why all relations with the official bodies of the host State will be effectuated only through the protocol department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of that country before he presents his credentials. Dauren Abayev had to wait five months to get such an opportunity.
We must presume that it was not easy not only for him but also for his subordinates to cope with their multiple commitments during this time, especially given the fact that within this period they had to participate actively in preparations for the two Russian-Kazakh summit meetings, in Moscow in October and in Astana in November.
For comparison, Ermek Kosherbayev, Dauren Abayev’s predecessor as Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Moscow, was appointed to this position by President Tokayev’s Decree of January 29, 2020, and on February 5, a little more than 5 days later, he got the opportunity to present his credentials to President Putin. His successor, Dauren Abayev, had to wait 5 months and 1 day before he was given a similar chance. This difference in waiting times can be explained by the fact that in Russia, ceremonies for presenting credentials to the President by foreign ambassadors are held, as a rule, only two or three times a year and that Ermek Kosherbayev’s appointment to the post took place right before another one of those ceremonies in the Kremlin, while Dauren Abayev’s appointment met with much less luck in this regard.
On the other hand, the dragged-out expectation of getting diplomatic accreditation by the current Kazakh ambassador to Moscow seems to have been a kind of sign of the times in the Russian-Kazakh relationship, which has become increasingly uncertain in the period after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine and, in particular, since the appointment of Imangali Tasmagambetov as CSTO Secretary General. What could be the connection between the appointment of Dauren Abayev as Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Russian Federation in July this year and his getting diplomatic accreditation in his host country almost six months later, on the one hand, and the last two factors, on the other? At first glance, there seems to be no connection.
However, closer scrutiny reveals that there are circumstances that can lead to some insights about what might be behind all this. That is, it seems that things are not as simple as they seem at first glance. So, what is this about? Let us try to clarify this.
Seeing headlines such as “Is Tasmagambetov the voice of Moscow? Political scientists explained why the positions of Tokayev and the CSTO Secretary General differ”, “Tokayev vs Tasmagambetov, and old Kazakhstan is plotting its revenge?” and “Can Astana remove Tasmagambetov from the CSTO” in the Kazakhstani national Russian language media, it is hard to believe that it was the incumbent Kazakh leadership that took the primary initiative at the end of last year to recall Imangali Tasmagambetov from retirement and promote him to the post of CSTO Secretary General for the period from 2023 through 2025.
Even more frank points of view on the matter may be found in the Kazakhstani national Kazakh language media. Thus, Abai.kz, in an article entitled “Astana is going to remove Tasmagambetov from the CSTO…” says the following: “According to DALA INSIDE, the Kremlin nightingale will return disappointed from the Moscow market. And the reason why is because the Chairman of the CSTO, Imangali Tasmagambetov, began to make statements in Moscow that were completely contrary to the foreign diplomatic approach of Kazakhstan…
As CSTO Secretary General Tasmagambetov began to make statements, just like Putin and Lukashenko, in the spirit of ‘The collective West poses a threat’.
Thus he delighted Putin and made Ak Orda [the Kazakh leadership] angry…
Imangali Nurgaliuly [Tasmagambetov] believes that Kazakhstan did not properly appreciate him at the time. Russia, on the contrary, has started appreciating, commending, and using him to help achieve its goals. Tasmagambetov has not lost his former ambitions… And he has asked the Kremlin’s and the FSB’s support. Yet Imangali Tasmagambetov, in turn, should help in every way to ensure that Kazakhstan joins the Russian-Belarusian Union State and participates as much as possible in the creation of a ‘little USSR’.
So far, the Kremlin has given [Imangali] Tasmagambetov a business that generates good money. As of this year, Imangali Nurgaliuly [Tasmagambetov] has clearly understood that his real master is Vladimir Putin.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev never expected that Tasmagambetov would change this way. So, Ak Orda [the official workplace of the president of Kazakhstan] analysts know that the situation will become incredibly difficult unless urgent actions are taken. If the Kremlin and ‘Old Kazakhstan’ join forces and encourage Tasmagambetov [to action], the [very] independence of the Kazakh country will soon be in jeopardy”.
Against the background of the above, it may be assumed that Dauren Abayev’s appointment by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to the position of Kazakh Ambassador to Russia initially was motivated by official Astana’s desire to balance Imangali Tasmagambetov’s presence as CSTO Secretary General in Moscow with the presence of a person, who enjoys the personal confidence of the Kazakh President, at the position of the head of the country’s embassy in the Russian capital. People in the Kremlin seem to have been well aware from the beginning of what it could mean. Where will it all end, that is the question. But this is the topic for a separate talk.