01/19/2023, 09.16
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Moscow's eyes on Kazakhstan

by Vladimir Rozanskij

For several observers, the Russians could wage war against another former Soviet republic. Kazakhstan's north is home to a large Russian-speaking population. The western regions, rich in gas and oil, are more attractive. Putin would intervene to save Kazakhstan 'from Western globalist exploitation'.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Hypotheses of possible Russian aggression against Kazakhstan are multiplying in the international press, especially towards the more Russified northern regions, or rather the western ones richer in natural resources. Kazakh political scientist Akhas Tažutov, in Eurasia Review, analyses the potential scenarios of an annexation of these territories to Russia.

Putin's sights could in fact be set on the western oil-producing areas, rather than on northern Kazakhstan, where the largest part of the Russian diaspora lives, also in order to open up more of a path to the other Central Asian countries.

The Ukrainian journalist Dmitry Gordon argues that the sooner Russia succeeds in concluding the military operation in Ukraine, the more it will turn towards the Kazakh steppes, as in his opinion 'Putin is obsessed with the mania of restoring the Soviet Union', and in the list Kazakhstan comes right after Belarus and Ukraine.

According to Tažutov, 'it is difficult today to see whether the third war in Europe within a century can avoid spilling over into the Asian territories, as has happened before'. In his opinion, the northern territories of Kazakhstan are not very attractive to Russia, not least because it would be difficult to replicate the accusations of 'genocide of Russians' as in the Donbass, as there is no actual process of linguistic or social persecution of the Russian minority.

By invading the regions of Petropavlovsk or Pavlodar, named after Russian tsars of the 1700s, Moscow would only gain dominance over economically depressed areas with a rather elderly population.

Yet Russia cannot simply leave the matter at the mercy of circumstances, according to the political scientist, relying on the statements of Andrej Groznyj, director of the Central Asia sector of the Moscow Sng Institute, according to whom "Ukraine is a chronic internal enemy, and war with it is almost a natural phenomenon, while Kazakhstan is controlled by Russia's enemies, or partly controlled by nobody, and it is not enough to introduce peacekeepers, but a full-scale military campaign is needed."

Thus, it is the regions of Atyrau, Mangistau and Western Kazakhstan that are the 'gateway' to the entire Central Asian region, crucial logistical hubs and extraction sites for the most valuable materials.

Major western investors are present in these regions: Chevron, Eni, BG Group, BP/Statoil, Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Total Energies. European and US companies directly manage the Tengiz, Karačanak and Kašagan fields, from which 80% of Kazakhstan's oil is extracted, most of which is destined for EU consumption.

Until the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow was not worried by this massive presence of Western partners in Kazakhstan, as it itself sold huge quantities of oil and gas to Europe. Now, however, the situation has been reversed due to embargoes and sanctions, and Russia cannot afford to act solely as a conduit for Kazakh gas, as energy materials must necessarily pass through its territory.

This could give rise to the 'temptation of the unthinkable', according to Tažutov, because the attack on the western parts of Kazakhstan would end up turning into a real world conflict.

The ideological motivation of 'saving Kazakhstan from Western globalist exploitation' in this case would not only see an external solidarity of the countries involved, especially since the interests of China, which is very active in Kazakhstan and the whole of Central Asia, would also be affected on the other side.

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