Diplomatic confusion

Diplomatic confusion

Alena Kazakova

In Kazakhstan, there are anti-Russian rallies, and the authorities, following the UN, do not recognize “neither the situation with Crimea, n-or the situation with Do-nbass.” At the same time, Nur-Sultan is trying to support Moscow on international platforms. RIA Novosti figured out what the future holds for Kaza-kh-Russian relations.
Diplomatic confusion
While the head of the republic, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, assures that there are no disagreements between him and Vladimir Putin, his aides say the exact opposite. “Of course, Russia would like us to be more on their side. But Kazakhstan will not risk being in the same basket with Russia,” Timur Suleimenov, deputy head of the presidential administration , said in an interview with the Euractiv portal.
Such statements are clearly not a personal initiative of the Kazakh leader’s team. Tokayev himself in the foreign media unequivocally calls what is happening in Ukraine a war and wishes it to end as soon as possible in “accordance with the UN charter.” “Kaz-akhstan and Russia, as sta-tes with the longest border in the world, maintain special relations of bilateral cooperation. At the same time, we have developed deep traditions of friendly relations with Ukraine,” the president explained his position.
On the one hand, the authorities are voting against the suspension of Russia’s membership in the UN Human Rights Council, which causes discontent on the part of the United States. On the other hand, Kazakhstani drivers were warned that for stickers “Z” and “V” you can get a fine or end up in a police station. As a justification, it is indicated: this is a violation of the rules for operating vehicles.
Kazakhstan has not officially joined the anti-Russian sanctions, but does not intend to help circumvent them either. The position of the minister of economy of the republic, Alibek Kuantirov, sounds quite mild: “Trade with Russia will continue for those pr-oducts that were not affected by the bans.” However, Suleimenov answers more categorically: “We will comply with the sanctions.”
Against this background, the National Security Committee reports the arrest of an intelligence ag-ent who allegedly planned an assassination attempt on Tokayev and high-ranking officials of the country. The committee’s report states that the spy also had to work out “tasks to promote anti-Russian propaganda in Kazakhstan and create Russophobic views in society” by publishing relevant materials on social networks. This is a nod to Moscow: “anti-Russian” terrorists have been caught, trade ties have not been severed, and there is formal support in the international arena. At the same time, they show loyalty to the West and clearly say that in the confrontation between Russia and the EU they take the side of the latter.
Friendship is friendship, but business apart
Kazakhstan and Russia are key allies and are part of several blocs at once: the EAEU, the CIS and the CSTO. But friendship between countries is exclusively pragmatic. Nur-Sultan has never used the West to rapprochement with Moscow, following the example of the Belarusian authorities, adhering to a multi-vector foreign policy. The difference in the statements of Kazakh officials can be explained: they do not want to be seen as too attached to the Kremlin, it is better to leave room for maneuver.
Against the backdrop of the Ukrainian events, the Russian media practically went unnoticed by the signing by Tbilisi, Baku, Ankara and Nur-Sultan of the declaration “On the East-West Trans-Caspian Corridor.” We are talking about creating a transport corridor bypassing Russia through the Caspian Sea. In the future, Kazakh gas and oil will be delivered to Europe through it. Prev-iously, most of the flow went through the Caspian Pipeline Consortium to a port near Novorossiysk, but in March the pipeline was damaged by a storm.
The main share of Kazakh cargo exports was sent via Russian railways. In 2021, more than 81 million tons were delivered this way. Through seaports – a little more than 13 million. Half went to Russia, part – through its territory to third countries. Now businessmen who used Russian routes are looking for alternative ways.
In addition, Kazakhstan refused to cooperate with the Russian company Sber in the field of digitalization, the transition to a platform model and the concept of Data-Driven Government. “Due to the geopolitical situation and a review of its capabilities, it was decided with NIT JSC to make a platform on its own, attracting Kazakhstani IT companies. Now a feasibility study is underway. By the end of this year, the first services of the new platform will be developed and will be used,” Askar Zhambakin, Vice Minister of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry, said .
There is another important point that determines the foreign policy of Nur-Sultan – the mood in society. While the authorities are trying to balance, some citizens have taken a very unambiguous position. On March 6, rallies were held in Alma-Ata against the Russian military operation in Ukraine. According to various sources, from three to five thousand people came. A petition appeared demanding to ban the broadcasting of the TV channels Rossiya 1, Rossiya 24, NTV in the country. Under it six thousand signatures.
Got up at a crossroads
“Kazakhstan will not refuse cooperation with Russia, we are allies. But we will not spoil relations with other countries either. Russia has its own scenario, and we want to be friends with everyone,” explains Kazakh political scientist Islam Kuraev.
In his opinion, the problem is how the statements of officials are broadcast in the media. “As the question is posed, so it is answered,” the expert says. “Meanwhile, the position of Kazakhstan is clear. The country adheres to international law and the charter of the United Nations. If sanctions are imposed against Russia in accordance with the UN resolution, official Kazakhstan will support them. Otherwise, the country will continue to develop bilateral relations with Moscow within the framework of the EAEU and other multilateral agreements.”
Political scientist Ilya Grashchenkov draws attention: despite the fact that the trade turnover has reached 23 billion dollars, Russia is not the most significant center for Kazakhstan now. The republic does not want to lose profitable contracts with its neighbor, but it does not intend to lose its Western prospects either.
“Moreover, I don’t think that they decided to completely go under China (17 billion dollars of trade. – Approx. Ed.). They are trying to organize something of their own – for example, in cooperation with Uzbekistan, which adheres to the same policy. Both states are quite are rapidly developing. Plus there is Turkey. There is a possibility that instead of focusing on Russia, the EAEU or China, Kazakhstan will choose to enter a new economic sphere of influence,” Grashchenkov notes.
In the Kazakh media, the opinion is increasingly heard that the republic will leave the EAEU before the end of the year. Islam Kuraev believes that this is hardly possible. “Probably, it seems logical and even beneficial for many countries, but in the short term, leaving the Eurasian Union will play a cruel joke, given the general integration of economies. Kazakhstan can count on better conditions for itself only if it becomes independent in terms of the transit of products, since 70 “% of all goods go through Russia and the EAEU. This is an impressive figure, and we are not yet ready for such changes.”
Relations between the two countries are connected not only by the economy, but also by a significant cultural aspect. Three and a half million Russians live in Kazakhstan, which is almost 20% of the population. Russian is the official language in the republic, it can be used on a par with the state Kazakh. In addition, about a quarter of schools are Russian-speaking. At the same time, according to the All-Russian population census of 2010, the number of Kazakhs in Russia is 647,732 people. According to other estimates – up to one and a half million. Citizens of both countries are exempt from the procedure for confirming diplomas of education: they are automatically recognized in the EAEU. According to Grashchenkov, if the Kazakh authorities take radical steps to sever relations with Russia, then separatist sentiments may arise in the border zone. Cultural ties between countries are too close.

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