Our Caucasus expert Pat Walsh (https://drpatwalsh.com) writes:
The situation in Kazakhstan
I have been trying to read Russian and Azerbaijani accounts of what’s going on in Kazakhstan and it’s not consistent. What I have noticed most is the attempts to shoehorn the issues into the authors’ existing disposition. For instance, I have read that it is a western attempt to get at Russia through terrorists and agents. I have read it is a Russian attempt, engineered by KGB?, to overthrow an administration less leaning toward Moscow. I have read it is the typical Russian response to freedom from the former states of USSR (Baku January 1990). Some see it as purely economic mismanagement. Some see it as clan conflict transposed to new elites that operate through the remaining soviet style mechanisms that persist in these societies.
What I know from Azerbaijan is the difficulty these oil producing societies have in managing things. I believe that if Aliyev had lost the Karabakh war or been stopped by the Armenians he would have been overthrown and Azerbaijan may have collapsed. There is a great deal of popular discontent in these societies over low standards of living, elite wealth, rising prices, lack of opportunities, etc. Democratic governments would be fatal to these places and what they need is wise authoritarians to gradually develop the economies, spread wealth and opportunity. Not easy in places where corruption and all sorts of shenanigans exist that drain money away from any form of enterprise. The Aliyevs have been fighting this for nearly 3 decades. I think it is in this type of situation that exterior forces are fishing in for their own interests. And there lies the danger.
Resolving the situation, January 2022
President Putin moved swiftly and decisively to quell the disorder in Kazakhstan and has returned normalcy to the country. This disorder was triggered by a large rise in liquified gas prices, the staple cheap fuel of a highly motorised society. The price rise fed into general discontent over disparity of incomes between ordinary people and the oligarchic elite. The disorder was then taken advantage of by sidelined family members of the former leader, Nazarbayev, to test the ruling credentials of his successor, President Tokayev. Tokayev demonstrated his authority by calling up Putin and the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) and dealing firmly with the insurrectionary aspect of the disorder.
This blocked off any opportunity the sleeper organisations of Western influence had in stirring up trouble for Russia on a new front in the new Great Game in Central Asia. Kazakhstan has been therefore quarantined from any potential colour revolution and preserved within the Eurasian orbit with everything to play for between Russia, China, and to a lesser degree, Turkey. Western expansionary ambitions in Central Asia have been thwarted for now and energies have been concentrated into making chaos in Ukraine.