US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, launched an unhinged tirade at Moscow, denouncing the decision by the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) to deploy troops to Kazakhstan at the invitation of that nation’s president. The CSTO is a post-Soviet military-political alliance involving six former Soviet republics, committed to military cooperation. The political situation in Kazakhstan has stabilised after a tumultuous few days.
Others have deeply analysed the turmoil in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic which has a large continuous land border with Russia. It is worthwhile for our purposes to examine the reasons behind the loud denunciations by the US administration of Russian intervention, because it throws light on imperialist hypocrisies. Blinken, while on the subject of the CSTO’s intervention, commented that once Russian troops are stationed in your nation’s territory, it is very difficult to get them out.
The boorish hypocrisy of his statement is staggering, considering the numerous countries which have been the target of US interventions, and the spreading of American military bases around the world. However, a few days after the CSTO deployment to Kazakhstan – from which nation CSTO troops have already begun to withdraw – news reports from the US made clear that the CIA was quite prepared to assist an insurgency inside the Ukraine. The latter is embroiled in a dispute with Moscow, and has become a base for European white supremacist groups.
Kazakhstan, like all the ex-Soviet republics, has structural economic inequalities. Its socialist assets, in similar fashion to other former Soviet states, were privatised back in the early 1990s with the restoration of capitalism and market mechanisms. Under the leadership of long term former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan opened up to transnational corporations, including American energy companies.
Nazarbayev also cultivated friendly and cooperative relations with both Moscow and Beijing. Kazakhstan eagerly participated in the Chinese government’s Belt and Road Initiative, an inter-state economic project to expand Chinese investment and infrastructure projects around the world. Kazakhstan has extensive natural and mineral resources, and is the host of the Baikanour cosmodrome, the space and astronomy port built by the Soviets in the 1950s. It still plays a crucial role in the Russian space programme.
It is relevant to highlight the extensive experiences Russia has in participating in peacekeeping efforts, both in former Soviet republics and overseas under the auspices of the United Nations. In 2020, Russian peacekeepers were deployed to the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, as part of a Moscow-brokered ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Since 1992, Russian troops have maintained a peacekeeping role in the self-declared republic of Transnistria. The latter, a Russian-speaking region of Moldova, did not want to secede from the USSR in 1991. Moldova, an ex-Soviet republic, gravitated to its larger neighbour, Romania, with whom Moldovans share linguistic and cultural ties. With armed clashes breaking out, Moscow arranged a ceasefire and deployed peacekeeping soldiers.
In numerous African nations – the Sudan, Chad, Sierra Leone – Russian troops have participated in peacekeeping missions, and maintaining order between armed groups. Moscow is not a novice when it comes to following international law. Russian intervention in Syria, while militarily significant, was largely defensive in origin and sought to preserve Russian interests only in that nation. That is only a brief evaluation, and can be debated, but this article is not the forum for an extensive discussion on Syria.
There is no doubt that pervasive inequalities prompt large-scale protests and uprisings by the disadvantaged. It is also true that Kazakhstan – a country closely watched by Moscow – borders the Chinese region of Xinjiang, which has become the target of Islamist rebels and Uyghur militants. Kazakhstan is not immune to these developments.
Blinken is upset, not because the Kazakh people are struggling in difficult conditions, but because the CSTO intervention in Kazakhstan put an end to the prospect of a colour revolution. The latter is a tactic of the US to effect a ‘soft power’ change in a particular country, and install a pro-Western amenable regime – such as the 2014 Maidan ‘revolution’ in the Ukraine.
The structural inequalities in Kazakhstan are the result not of any ethnic or racial failings of the Kazakh people, but the deliberate consequence of years of implementing capitalist economic programmes, supervised by the IMF and the World Bank. The experiences of all the other ex-Soviet republics bears out this view. In Russia itself, in the wake of capitalist restoration in the early 1990s, there followed mass pauperisation, criminality, rampant ethnic conflict and humanitarian dislocation.
Instead of wasting our time and energy on faux outrage about Russian troops in Kazakhstan, let’s focus on the original crime – the economic policies promoted by the West which resulted in a humanitarian and social collapse. Blinken should turn his attention to the internal rot of the capitalist system in the United States before shouting condemnations of other nations.