By Paul Goble
For decades, Ukrainians have been trying to convince Russians without marked success that “Ukraine is not Russia.” Now, they and others have another and very immediate task, the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta say, to convince Moscow that “Kazakhstan is not Ukraine.”
Vladimir Putin and his regime believe that Ukraine is not a real state and that Ukrainians are not a separate nation, convictions that underly Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea, its occupation of much of the Donbass, and its ongoing aggression in Ukraine, the paper suggests in a lead article (ng.ru/editorial/2022-06-19/2_8464_editor.html).
But as relations between Russia and Kazakhstan deteriorate, the editorial continues, all too many in the Putin regime are saying things that reflect their notion that Kazakhstan, because of its large ethnic Russian minority, is like Ukraine and thus Moscow is justified in thinking about and possibly carrying out similar policies in Kazakhstan.
But “Kazakhstan is not Russia” either generally or in the way that the Putin regime thinks about Ukraine, the paper says. Kazakhstan has a very different history and culture, ones far more different from Russia’s than Ukraine’s. It is not susceptible to the same approach, and it is long past time for Moscow to recognize this rather than engage in aggressive comments and plans.
That should be obvious to the Kremlin and its supporters, Nezavisimaya gazeta continues. In Putin’s view, “Russia is not attacking in Ukraine but defending itself from NATO and the collective West … The ingrown fear of a foreign threat is forcing Moscow to act in advance of any such moves and decisively.”
More than a decade ago, Putin warned that if Ukraine moved in the direction of NATO, Russia would punish her to the point that Kyiv would have to reconsider. Everything Moscow has done since then is no more than “the realization of the strategy that was laid out long ago,” the editors continue.
“But from Kazakhstan Moscow doesn’t face any challenges to its security, Nur-Sultan is not seeking to join any anti-Russian military alliances, is not falling under Western control, and is not offering its territory for the creation of threats to Russia. Consequently, declarations about even hypothetic territorial claims against Kazakhstan appear both untimely and harmful.”