Kazakhstan Unrest will not be eased by Erzhan Kazykhanov’s Return to the Country as Deputy Head of Staff
After a series of protests, the government of Kazakhstan now is confronted with a new reality.
Erzhan Kasykhanov’s return to the scene is an indication of the changing power dynamics.
International relations need to adapt to a more assertive citizenry. This trend must be recognized in the plans of policymakers to communicate with the country.
Ukraine’s Role in Kazakhstan’s Shift
In recent weeks, the world has focused all its focus to Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin had been planning and launching an attack against the sovereign state. This is not surprising given how NATO leaders, including Biden, President of NATO, Biden ignored warnings from Moscow. Russian President Putin has repeatedly resisted NATO’s attempt to intrude on Russian territory.
Although Putin’s actions are unacceptable, leaders from the West must admit that they contributed to the crisis. It is fair to say, that we’re living with the consequences of a European crisis that could have been avoided.
Protests in Kazakhstan
One comparison between Ukraine’s current circumstances and the past is to be considered. This includes the 2003-2005 color revolutions, as well as recent protests in Belarus (and specifically Kazakhstan). It’s an ex Soviet country that is located in central Asia and seldom sees street protests so freely expressing discontent.
A series of protests started in Kazakhstan in early 2012 over the rise in gasoline prices and also the deteriorating job market. The protests grew into national protests, that were followed by violent protests. Almaty was the city with the worst losses of life. 227 persons were killed and nearly 9900 people were detained. Russian troops from The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) were briefly stationed in Almaty.
Restructuring in Kazakhstan’s Government as well as Erzhan Kazykhanov ‘s Return
Qasym Zhomart tokayev Kazakhstan’s new president, brought many changes to the power structure of the ruling elite. These changes have been questioned and raised concerns with many Kazakhs.
Particularly, protesters have been outraged by President Tokayev’s move to assume the office of head of the government’s National Security Council, replacing former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, whose influence on the economy of the country was an issue that sparked protests.
The former president’s sons in-laws were fired , and three nephews of the president were expelled from state businesses. Karim Mastimov, former spy chief, was also removed from office. Numerous business leaders who were who were associated with former President Nazarbayev were also dismissed from their positions, fled abroad to take “extended vacations” or were subject to massive “donations.”
It’s not always the case that reform happens in the event that government is changed or the old guard is removed. It’s all too typical for ex-members of the administration’s staff to be replaced with similarly inept friends and loyalists.
Erzhan Kazykhanov’s appointment is A Mistake
The appointment of Erzhan Kazykhanov in the powerful position of Deputy Chief of Staff by President Tokayev is counterproductive. Kazakh Kazykhanov, Kazakhstan’s least effective ambassador to the United States, was Kazakh Kazykhanov.
Washington considered Kazykhanov as a cocky diplomat who was confident and indifferent to think about the image of Kazakhstan. He failed to make any advancements in the national interest, such as the Jackson Vanick restrictions and other issues that affect the image of Kazakhstan abroad. This is the reason his performance is so disappointing.
Because of his unremarkable and shady image, Kazykhanov makes a difficult candidate for key positions. Deputy Chiefs of Staff need diplomatic skills, a broad understanding and expertise and none of these Kazykhanov is highly skilled at.
Even Kazakhstan’s most staunch supporters have expressed concern at Kazykhanov’s frequent appearances in major news outlets around the world and exposing his flaws. Tokayev’s decision to bring in an incompetent, self-promoting, and unstable deputy to a weak government at an important time is not making sense.
Tokayev’s Kazakhstan reforms remind us of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika as well as the Glasnost initiative in the Soviet Union. Perestroika (of Mikhail Gorbachev) is a mid-1980s program that reforms Soviet economics. Glasnost refers back to his reforms to the policy. The reforms resulted in the demise of Soviet Union. Putin is trying for a rebirth. Tokeyev has also forged economic relationships with the countries around his own and with the West He has been careful not to annoy Putin and instead maintain his steadfast support. Kazykhanov could upset the delicate balance.
As Unsteady Times Are abound, the US should be particularly attentive to Kazakhstan
In the midst of the conflict in Ukraine, Washington should be paying attention to the developments in Kazakhstan, as they are a glimpse of how a power succession can play out in this part of the globe – whether for good or bad.
It’s a pity that Russian forces invaded Ukraine. The United States and its allies should take the necessary steps to stop Putin’s aggression. However, we cannot forget that NATO has been provoking Russia for years and the current crisis is in large part the consequence of their own mistakes.
Washington must be attentive to Kazakhstan which may prove crucial in the war between Russia (West) and Russia (Russia).