Editorial: Kazakhstan unrest a sign of geopolitical instability
ABU DHABI, 8th January 2022 The civic unrest that has turned into a violent uprising against the government in Kazakhstan is a disturbing sign that the security-sensitive region will turn volatile because the development in Kazakhstan is not confined to its territory.
There seems to be the clear possibility that using the genuine distress of the people over the hike in LPG (liquid petroleum gas), an armed group that is opposed to the government of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has led an insurrection by destroying government property and taking over the airport of the capital city, Almaty.
The government forces have retaken the airport.
President Tokayev has issued the warning: “The militants have not laid down their arms, they continue to commit crimes or are preparing for them.
Whoever does not surrender will be destroyed.
I have given the order to law enforcement agencies and the army to shoot to kill, without warning.
Kazakhstan and other Central Asian republics, which were once part of the federal Soviet Union and which became independent after the dissolution of the communist regime in Moscow, have been carefully nourishing their independent status.
The former Soviet republics became known as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in the 1990s.
These countries possessed rich mineral sources as well as oil and gas, and there were placed strategically between Russia and China, as well as Iran and Turkey.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, Turkey had tried to reconnect with these republics through its linguistic bonding.
But it was not a successful attempt.
In 2000, the central Asian republics became members of the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which was a security alliance against terrorism.
There was an attempt by religious extremist groups to grab power as they tried to do in Uzbekistan, but it was firmly put down.
With hardliners back in power in Afghanistan to the south of Kazakhstan, these republics are on the alert of about the spread of extremist groups spreading their influence.
It is partly for this reason that Russian President Vladimir Putin has deployed 2,500 paratroopers to Kazakhstan, though President Tokayev has made it clear that they were not being pressed into action.
The Russian initiative to send troops out of the obligations of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, which has been established by Russia and the former Soviet republics.
It is quite unlikely that either the United States or European members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) would want to get involved in central Asia in the manner they are involved in Ukraine.
The US and NATO have been warning Russia against invasion of Ukraine.
It is due to the fact that Ukraine is at the door of Europe, as much as it is at the door of Russia.
Now that the Americans and the Europeans have beaten a hasty retreat from Afghanistan, they would not be tempted to interfere in the goings on in central Asia.
As of now, we do not know who the insurrectionists are and what their affiliations are.
It is necessary for the government of Kazakhstan as well as the rest of the world to make a distinction between the unhappy people of the country and the insurrectionists.
There is little doubt that the insurrectionists are motivated by the desire to grab political power more than by their desire to improve the economic conditions of common people in Kazakhstan.
It becomes necessary for President Tokayev to respond to the economic distress of the people.
This will be a more effective way of countering the insurrectionists.
Central Asian republics like Kazakhstan will have nothing much to gain if they are dragged into the power games of geopolitics played by big powers like China, Russia, America and Europe.