The 'new' Kazakh course starts again from Moscow
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Newly re-elected to the presidency, the Astana leader meets Putin in Russia. Historic economic relations between the two sides underlined. Kazakhstan seeks a balance between the Kremlin and China. With the involvement of the EU, the former Soviet republic aims to confirm itself as a bridge between East and West.

 


Moscow (AsiaNews) - President Kasym-┼Żomart Tokaev of Kazakhstan, newly re-elected after a year of social tensions and constitutional changes, has made his first official visit of his new term.

He did not even wait 10 days to go to his eternal 'big brother' Moscow, meeting Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin and participating online with him in the 17th Forum of Interregional Cooperation, an event of Soviet memory held in Orenburg, southern Russia.

Putin thanked his Kazakh counterpart for choosing Russia as his first international destination, in a way an obligatory tribute to his colonial past. Tokaev had publicly criticised him this summer for the illegitimate occupation of Crimea and the Donbass.

The Russian president did not fail to mention that Moscow remains the main investor in Kazakhstan's economy, to the tune of some billion. The two countries cooperate on 30 large projects, in all sectors of the economy, and 76 of Russia's nearly 100 federal subjects have relations with Kazakh partners.

Tokaev promised to ensure the security of Russian investments in Kazakhstan, which are increasing year by year, especially at this time of Western sanctions. He also supported moves in the opposite direction, as Kazakh investments in Russia this year have already exceeded half a billion dollars, compared to the Russian two billion.

The Kazakh president insisted above all on the modernisation of logistics chains, for "the formation of advanced and effective infrastructure".

The proposal concerns the establishment of 'trade hubs for the entire Eurasian territory', exploiting the most contiguous areas of Russia with western Kazakhstan, which Moscow has long considered 'originally Russian regions'.

These hubs are to be matched by as many facilities on the eastern borders with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China, and western access will be provided by the Caspian Sea ports of Aktau and Kuryk, where Turkey and Europe can also be more easily involved.

In this way, Kazakhstan is relaunching its vocation as the 'bridge of Eurasia' open to all geopolitical and commercial directives, the policy of Nazarbaev's thirty years that is in fact being continued without hesitation by his dauphin and successor, even with the new halo of 'reformer' artfully constructed along the difficult 2022.

The logistical corridors that confirm this dimension have certainly been changed following the Russian war in Ukraine and the sanctions policy, intensifying relations with Beijing in particular, but new ways are being sought not to interrupt the historical ones with Moscow.

Meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mišustin, Tokaev therefore stated that he was willing to consider a trilateral Russia-Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan agreement, which Putin himself had hinted at.

This could be one of the solutions to re-establish the balance between Russia and China in relations with Kazakhstan, which today are in fact almost on an equal footing; experts expect Tokaev's second international visit to be to Beijing, and certainly not to Paris, even though China is much more cautious and slow in preparing for international meetings.

The European Union, however, is not standing idly by, as it is very interested in entering the Central Asian markets, and in recent months there has been an uninterrupted procession of European politicians to Astana, where even Pope Francis went, though certainly not for trade negotiations, with France appearing to be the Kazakhs' favourite partner among Westerners.

Moreover, there is no shortage of logistical development plans that bypass the territory of Russia, relying on Baku and Ankara. Centuries-old traditions are respected, but new world divisions are advancing in the East and West, passing through Kazakhstan.