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Russia has dispatched soldiers to Kazakhstan to assist the government, which has faced days of vehement demonstrations. Moscow is more at risk than reaffirming its dominance in a neighboring nation riven by conflict.

One fact underscores Kazakhstan's importance to Russia: the two former Soviet republics share one of the world's longest national borders, stretching 7,600 kilometers (4,722 miles).

But it's not simply about the length of the shared border. Since the Soviet era, the neighboring regions have been militarily significant. The Kapustin Yar missile test-firing range, partly in Kazakhstan, and the numerous weapons factories in and near the Ural mountain range are essential sites. 

In terms of geopolitics, Russia regards Kazakhstan and much of the rest of the area as its backyard.

Russia's Kazakhstan Interests 

Kazakhstan's significance to Russia cannot be emphasized. It is Central Asia's largest and wealthiest former Soviet republic, with the closest links to Moscow. Along with Russia and Belarus, Kazakhstan campaigned to develop an EU-style Eurasian Economic Union in 2015, a concept that Russian President Vladimir Putin saw as a prestige project.

According to official estimates, Kazakhs made up the largest group of international students at Russian institutions in 2020, with over 60,000. In polls conducted by the prestigious Moscow polling firm Levada Center, nearly a third of Russians consistently ranked Kazakhstan as the second friendliest country behind Belarus. China overtook it in 2014, and it is now ranked third.

In December, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin declared record bilateral trade receipts during a meeting with his then-Kazakh colleague Askar Mamin.

The most vitally essential collaboration with Almaty, according to Moscow, is in outer space. Kazakhstan acquired the Baikonur spaceport from the Soviet Union, which Russia rents for $115 million per year (about €101 million). Moscow has subsequently built its own spaceport in the far east, although Baikonur will continue to be used.

A few Russian and American oil corporations are functioning in Kazakhstan's resource-rich country. Russia is also mining uranium in Kazakhstan and plans to build its first nuclear power station there in the near future.

Kazakhstan, unlike Belarus, is not reliant on Russian loans, and despite their close ties, the political leadership has attempted to maintain a certain distance from Moscow. It's no surprise that Kazakhstan's then-President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, chose a few years ago to switch the Kazakh alphabet from Cyrillic to Latin letters, a relic of Soviet administration.

Out of roughly 19 million, 3.5 million ethnic Russians dwell in Kazakhstan's northern regions. For years, there has been talking in both nations about whether Russia will annex these areas in the same way that Ukraine did with the Crimean Peninsula. In 2019, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev downplayed such concerns in a DW interview.

The relationship between the two nations, on the other hand, is tight, as seen by the end of 2020. According to Russian Duma deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov, Kazakhstan's land is "a magnificent gift from Russia." The Kazakh Foreign Ministry expressed its displeasure, and Nikonov backed down on the subject. Following that, President Tokayev wrote an article supporting Kazakhstan's independence.

Russia's actions in Kazakhstan are once again being discussed, particularly on social media. The deployment of soldiers has sparked speculation that Putin may use it as a chance to increase Russia's influence in Kazakhstan. Russia has no military bases in the nation at the moment.

In any event, Russian President Vladimir Putin's nightmare is the upheaval in Kazakhstan. The Kremlin has dubbed similar events "color revolutions" and accused the West of engineering them, citing the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003 and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine the following year as examples.

Armenia, which has strong connections with Russia, saw its most recent successful revolt in 2018. Alexander Lukashenko was able to keep power in Belarus through force in 2020.

Written By: Olivium's Staff.


References:

  •  Wengle, S.A., 2022. Black Earth, White Bread: A Technopolitical History of Russian Agriculture and Food. University of Wisconsin Pres.
  • Chulitskaya, T., Matonyte, I., Gudelis, D. and Sprincean, S., 2022. From Scientific Communism to Political Science: The Development of the Profession in Selected Former Soviet European States. In Opportunities and Challenges for New and Peripheral Political Science Communities (pp. 51-85). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
  • Kaganovitch, A., 2022. Exodus and Its Aftermath: Jewish Refugees in the Wartime Soviet Interior. University of Wisconsin Pres.
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