Staunton, May 5 – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that statements by some Duma deputies regarding Russian claims to part of Kazakhstan were both “doubtful” and “provocative,” a reflection of the pursuit of attention by politicians that free speech and democracy make possible.
In that sense, the senior Russian diplomat said, such things were “inevitable” but that Kazakhstan should rest assured that these statements do not reflect Moscow’s policies and that the Russian government fully respects the territorial integrity of Kazakhstan (youtube.com/watch?v=gMXkwDK87qY).
But it is unlikely that many Kazakhs will be reassured. On the one hand, Moscow routinely stressed that it respected the territorial integrity of Georgia and Ukraine before invading both of those countries. And on the other, what the Duma deputies have said echoes what Vladimir Putin declared earlier.
Last June, the Kremlin leader spoke broadly about how the Soviets had handed over so much Russian land to non-Russian republics who in their turn had shown no gratitude for this action. Even though Putin was diplomatically careful not to name any, all of the Duma deputies’ comments about Kazakhstan came after that statement.
What makes their remarks so disturbing, both Turkish and Russian observers say, is that among those speaking out against Kazakhstan is the grandson of Stalin’s foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov whose name of course is forever linked to the pact which led Moscow to ignore previous borders and annex other countries (turantoday.com/2021/05/lavrov-russia-kazakhstan-territorial-claims.html, newsru.com/blog/06may2021/lavrov.html trtrussian.com/politika-rossiya/rossiya-vnov-zaverila-kazahstan-v-otsutstvii-territorialnyh-pretenzij-5364399).
Kazakhstan has protested about some of the Duma deputies’ statements earlier, and senior Russian officials, including Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu have sought to pour oil on these troubled waters and prevent what the deputies and Putin have in fact said from undermining relations with Kazakhstan.
On the one hand, Lavrov’s words may be little more than the kind of damage control foreign ministers often have to engage in when parliamentarians say things at odds with a country’s foreign policies. But on the other, the deputies’ remarks in that case so resemble Putin’s words that it is not unreasonable for Kazakhs to conclude something else is going on.