Kazakhs ready for war
by Vladimir Rozanskij

More than two billion euros have been allocated to the military sphere. The turning point came after the internal uprisings in January and Russia's war in Ukraine. Nur-Sultan could be the next target of Putin's imperial aims. The meagre earnings, however, are not enticing young Kazakhs to enlist.


Moscow (AsiaNews) - In the first half of 2022, according to data released by the Ministry of Defence, Kazakhstan allocated 1 trillion tenge (over two billion euros) to the military, 303 billion more than the previous year. Military conscription and the recruitment of persons fit for arms also took place in a more stringent manner; in some provinces, military district leaders forcibly removed students from schools. Military doctrine was also changed by the Tokaev presidency.

The change came after the internal riots in January and Russia's war in Ukraine. Of the more than 800 billion in war expenditure in the whole of 2021, 60 per cent was managed by the Ministry of Defence, while the rest was at the disposal of the Civil Defence and the Ministry of Infrastructure. Since May, however, the expenditure increases have largely concerned full military objectives, especially the training of new troops.

Kazakhstan fears to be the next target of Putin's imperial aims, which is why it has intensified military relations with the US, China and Turkey. On 7 April, the Deputy Minister of Finance, Tatiana Saveleva, announced that the new funding is intended for 'the elevation of war capacity and the modernisation of the Armed Forces' structures, their supplies and facilities necessary for dealing with emergencies'.

Retired General Makhmut Telegusov, the former commander of the airborne divisions, confirmed in an interview with Azzatiq that the increases in the military budget are dependent on the war in Ukraine and geopolitical issues: 'The Kazakh Armed Forces need to be thoroughly renewed, to really act in the interests of the state, which has not been done in the past 30 years'. The general recalls the 2005 Law on Defence and the Armed Forces, with the division of competences between state bodies, in which many emergencies and possible risks were left out, 'but now we can correct the shortcomings, we are building a new Kazakhstan, and all this money is needed today'.

The director of the 'Risk Assessment Group', political scientist Dosym Satpaev, believes that the effects of the January riots should not be underestimated: 'A considerable part of the state budget has also been allocated to the Ministry of the Interior'.

The riots at the beginning of the year, Satpaev notes, had forced Tokaev to turn to the Russian-controlled Csto, and this was a big blow to his reputation. Now the Kazakh leader intends to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the population, and never again appear so weak and so dependent on Moscow. The academic reminds us that investments are not enough, but it is also essential to fight corruption within the army, and to ensure information security.

In Satpaev's opinion, 'corruption is the most insidious enemy for the security of any country, and especially Kazakhstan, along with poor professionalism, poor selection of cadres, lack of responsibility and the inability to look beyond one's nose, to work out any strategy... everyone lives only for the present moment'.

The Ministry of Defence justifies the forced recruitments by the renunciation of young men in the draft, who often even escape medical examinations. In the spring alone, 16,653 people were called to arms, and in the autumn the call-up will be even larger, over 30,000. Many observers insist, however, on the need to work more on the quality rather than the quantity of soldiers, taking the example of Ukraine, which was able to resist the first Russian assault thanks to the self-defence of its citizens rather than the deployment of the army.

General Telegusov warns that "we need to think about motivation, urging citizens to defend their homeland and independence, while young people are less and less inclined to engage in military service; they prefer to earn more, also to help their families, only the less well-off resign themselves to being soldiers". The ministry estimates the number of citizens able to serve in the army at 220,000, and many live in less than prosperous economic conditions.

This is also why Akorda (the name of the presidential palace) has undertaken to rewrite military doctrine, following the latest amendments in 2017. There are many new formulas to be submitted to Parliament for approval: the concept of a 'crisis situation', the 'military service of the national reserve', countering weapons of mass destruction and cyber attacks, the occupation of outer space, the problems of hybrid and information warfare. Attention will be paid to the tensions between world powers and regional powers, trying to think globally: today's war will in any case change tomorrow's world.