Staunton, April 15 – Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine has alienated the governments and peoples of the former Soviet republics across the board, but perhaps nowhere has the shift against Moscow been more profound than in Kazakhstan, a country that had been quite loyal to Russia in the past.
The Kazakhstan government has made clear that it won’t help Russia evade sanctions, that it will help Ukraine with humanitarian assistance, that it won’t recognize Moscow-promoted statelets or border changes in Ukraine, and that it wants to see an international investigation of Bucha and the crimes against humanity there (theins.ru/politika/250196).
Kazakhs have gone into the streets to protest in record numbers for a country where public demonstrations have been banned for two years, and they have collected aid to send to Ukraine. Instead of opposing them, officials are supporting these protests. Moreover, these same officials are cracking down on any pro-Russian sentiments.
Drivers of cars with the Z logo are being stopped, reprimand and fined. Directors and media personalities who appear to be supportive of Putin’s war have been attacked and forced to recant. And the population has had in almost all cases the full support of precisely those officials who earlier attacked any form of civic protest.
Russian observers don’t think this can last, however. Vyacheslav Polovinko says that there are a lot of people, “a minimum of a third,” in Kazakhshan who “completely agree with the Russian point of view on the war in Ukraine” and their numbers are likely to grow now that the border between the two countries has been reopened after the pandemic suspension.
At present, he says, “Moscow now does not have the forces or the desire for an aggressive policy toward Kazakhstan, but the situation in that country is far from monolithic.” The Russian government will eventually react, and when it does, that will be “a stress test” for the Kazakhstan government and its people.