Russia’s anti-Western leader Vladimir Putin found a new opportunity to flex his military muscle on the international stage, as a further warning to the West.
This comes as Kazakhstan, a former Soviet neighbor of Russia to the south, is experiencing civil unrest; its president has called upon Moscow to send in troops.
Putin seems to be acting out mainly on the grounds of wishing to preserve his post-communist oligarchy regime.
However, there have been fears in the West he might attack the three Baltic states, which are NATO members, just to shatter the credibility of the US-led North Atlantic Alliance.
Putin ‘Finally’ Gets to Put His Own ‘NATO’ to Use
On January 2, right after New Year’s, Kazakhstan, an oil-and-mineral-rich former Soviet republic in Central Asia, began seeing social unrest and street protests over spiking gas prices.
The protests quickly escalated, with protesters taking up arms and attacking police and military posts, especially in Kazakhstan’s largest city and former capital Almaty, located close to its border with China.
Earlier this week, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, a successor to Nazarbayev, called upon Russia to send in troops to help fight what he described as “terrorist groups”.
This led to the activation of the so-called Collective Security Treaty Organization. Under the CSTO, Russian strongman Putin sent in some 3,600 troops to help prop up the Kazakh ruling regime.
The regime of another former Soviet dictator, Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus has also joined Putin with troops in support of the Nazarbayev regime in Kazakhstan.
Former French senior defense official Pascal Ausseur told AFP the CSTO is a “mini-NATO” in which “Russia [takes] the place of the United States on the other side.”
The situation in Kazakhstan is a much bigger deal than Western media is letting on.
I believe it significantly increases the risk of NATO-Russia conflict.
Here is my report from Moscow. A MEGA-thread… 🧵
— Clint Ehrlich (@ClintEhrlich) January 7, 2022
In #Kazakhstan, thousands flocked to the streets to protest rising fuel prices & a collapsing economy. Hours later, the Kazakh govt resigned. Take a look.pic.twitter.com/ys8UFkYr6M
— Steve Hanke (@steve_hanke) January 5, 2022
Shoot-to-Kill Order: Firing on Protesters at Will
The situation in Kazakhstan on Friday became even more gruesome.
Kazakhstan’s president Tokayev gave the Kazakh security forces a “shoot-to-kill” order, allowing them to fire at will and without warning at the anti-regime protesters.
He claimed 20,000 “bandits” attacked the largest city of the country, Almaty, also referring to the protesters as “militants” and “terrorists.”
It remains unclear whether Tokayev’s “shoot-to-kill” order would also apply to the Russian and Belarusian troops who arrived in Kazakhstan to help save the ruling regime.
The precise roots of the protests remain unclear. Kazakhstan and the other four majority Muslim, former Soviet Central Asian nations remain at risk of destabilization from radical Islamist terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
There have been reports in international media that the Kazakh regime arrested some 2,000 people. 18 Kazakh security officers have been killed, including two who were beheaded.
In any case, the situation in Kazakhstan has given Putin a new opportunity to stage a military demonstration geared towards keeping a friendly oligarchy and authoritarian regime in power.
Kazakhstan’s president ordered his forces to "shoot to kill" at people protesting inequality. Security forces have killed at least 26.
Kazakhstan is oil rich but most wealth is held by the political elite. Protesters say: "The only thing flourishing in Kazakhstan is corruption." pic.twitter.com/qLKdVBDl1K
— AJ+ (@ajplus) January 7, 2022
Incredible video from the BBC showing the aftermath of yesterday’s protests in Kazakhstan’s biggest city Almaty. This is the former presidential palace there.
@abdujalil is in the city. pic.twitter.com/JJq5DYq6jO
— Patrick Reevell (@Reevellp) January 6, 2022
#Atyrau, which is on the Caspian sea in western #Kazakhstan, joins the protest against gas price hikes. 40% of the Kazakh oil produced in Atyrau. It is one of the richest regions in the country. pic.twitter.com/DThrnoQPLr
— Bota Jardemalie 🇰🇿🇧🇪🇪🇺 (@jardemalie) January 4, 2022
A few very basic facts about Kazakhstan:
– It's the size of Western Europe
– It has GDP per capita just shy of 10k
– While it's Not Free per @freedomhouse, it has a slightly higher rights score than Russia
– It's multiethnic, multi-culture country
– Has NOTHING to do with Borat
— Bakhti Nishanov (@b_nishanov) January 4, 2022