Sunday, August 31, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Nazarbayev Says Kazakhstan Could Leave Putin’s Eurasian Union

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 31 – Alarmed by Vladimir Putin’s dismissive comments about his country and by Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s suggestion that Moscow will annex part of Kazakhstan after it finishes with Ukraine, President Nursultan Nazarbayev says that Kazakhstan could leave the Moscow-organized Eurasian Union.


            The Kazakhstan president said that “if the rules which were earlier established in the treaty are not fulfilled, then Kazakhstan has the complete right to end its membership in the Eurasian Economic Union. Astana will never be in an organization which represents a threat to the independence of Kazakhstan” (


            “Our independence is our most valued treasure,” the longtime Kazakhstan said, something “for which our grandfathers struggled. First of all, we will never give up our independence, and second, we will do everything possible to defend it,” an almost direct response to Putin and to Zhirinovsky.


            Nazarbayev’s remarks are especially significant because for more than two decades he has been pushing for a tighter but rule-based organization of the post-Soviet states, arguing on many occasions including in a book he wrote that everyone will benefit if everyone lives according to the same rules.


            By threatening to leave Putin’s version of the Eurasian Union, the Kazakhstan president has sent the clearest signal yet that he does not believe the Kremlin leader plans to play by any rules regardless of what he says, and it reinforces the decisions of Minsk and Astana not to go along with the Kremlin leader on Ukraine.


            Consequently, whatever gains Putin thinks he can make by his aggression in Ukraine are being undercut by Russian losses elsewhere. That might restrain some leaders, but it could have the effect of causing Putin to redouble his bets on the use of force, a step that if he takes it could plunge the entire region into disaster.

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