Recently, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned the international community, and first of all, the relatively young post-Soviet states that Russia, which follows through with its own expansionist agenda, will not limit itself to attempting to seize Ukraine.
“Each decade Russia starts a new war. Parts of Moldova and Georgia remain occupied. Russia turned Syria into ruins. Russia has almost swallowed Belarus. It is obviously threatening Kazakhstan and the Baltic States”, he said at the UN General Assembly’s annual top-level meeting. “The goal of the present war against Ukraine is to turn our land, our people, our lives, our resources into weapons against you – against the international rules-based order”.
“Many seats in the General Assembly hall may become empty if Russia succeeds with its treachery and aggression”, the Ukrainian President added.
And of course, it is clear, that it would be better to take the above words of Volodymyr Zelensky with the amendment on the fact that as a leader of the nation that is fighting a defensive war against a much stronger power, he needs to use every opportunity to make their military enemy to look bad in the eyes of the rest of the world. But on the other hand, he said nothing that the Russian politicians and political experts themselves wouldn’t say in public.
In other words, Zelensky surprised no one – as there had already been people in Russia itself who had said such things. On February 24, 2022, Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. In less than a month, a call was already uttered by Sergei Savostyanov, a Moscow City Duma member, to replicate such an approach regarding Kazakhstan. As they say, never mind that the Central Asian country was and still is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a six-member security bloc headed by Moscow, and the Eurasian Economic Union trade bloc. MP said that the Russian invasion would ‘ensure the security of Ukraine, Russia, and Europe’, and he, therefore, proposed to expand the scope of ‘de-Nazification and demilitarization’ to a few more countries. He singled out the Baltic nations, Poland, Kazakhstan, and Moldova among them.
In both references, the Central Asian country seemed to be not alone in facing the new threat of invasion. But there’s something that must be taken into account in considering what the Ukrainian President said in this regard. Three of the countries on Zelensky’s list, namely the Baltic States, are already protected by NATO’s commitment to defend its members in the event of an attack. For this reason, the Kremlin would unlikely make a move on them. So, it appears to be only about Kazakhstan.
And this cannot but scare. After all, there is never a day when some politician, political expert or public person in Russia does not threaten Kazakhstan and Kazakhs with punishment for anything. Here is a quote in that regard from VRUBCOVSKE.RU: “The Kazakhstani army is no match for the AFU [the Armed Forces of Ukraine], so the conflict [of Russia with Kazakhstan] is unlikely to last for a long time. Even more so when it comes to Ukraine, our guys strive not to bomb the local ‘almost’ Russian people with missiles, while [in a war] with Kazakhstan they won’t restrain themselves [that is, they will indiscriminately be bombing and hitting Kazakh-Asians by missiles]” said [Aslan Rubayev [director of the Eurasian problems monitoring center]”.
The above is a great example of how the Russian expert thought and propaganda work when the question arises of how to treat the neighboring Central Asian country. It’s rather usual for them to easily allow themselves to do with regard to Kazakhstan what they would not do in relation to other post-Soviet countries. Most of the latter have proved themselves able to induce the Russian side to reckon with them. It’s quite another thing when the largest country in Central Asia and its indigenous population are involved.
Moscow and those representing it continues to behave with respect to Kazakhstan and ethnic Kazakhs as if the Central Asian State is one of the autonomous republics of Russia and the Russians can freely afford to insult its native population the same way they do this to the ethnic minorities of East Asian origin in the Russian Federation, such as the Buryats, Tuvans, Yakuts, Khakas and Kalmyks. Buryats and Kalmyks, by the way, say that the heads of their autonomous republics are unable to openly defend their peoples.
What do the Kazakh elites think about all this? There is no information what those in formal government positions think on this matter. Some of those people, who are now retired, seem to be more open to conversation on this topic. In one recent interview, the ex-head of the Kazakh KNB (the National Security Committee of Kazakhstan), Amangeldy Shabdarbayev when asked “What do you think of the relationship between our country and Russia, as when it comes to Ukraine, it in an indirect way touches Kazakhstan, too?” said: “It’s not for nothing that our ancestors left us saying, “In case of having a Russian friend, you should keep your axe handy”. They [Russia and the Russians] have superiority over us in terms of number and other indicators. Well, to tell you the truth, we will not be able to [really] fight with them. But at the same time, we shouldn’t let what belongs to us go. We shouldn’t be afraid of them [Russia and the Russians]”.