Monday, May 2, 2022

Kazakhstan Increasingly Preparing Its Navy to Defend the Country Against Aggression

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 21 – Russia’s Caspian Flotilla has been dominant on the waters of that sea for so long that many are inclined to ignore the fact that in recent years, it is far from the only national navy that matters there (

            But most of the other littoral states have developed their navies primarily as coast guards to support search and rescue efforts or to protect offshore drilling platforms or pipelines rather than for more conventional defense. Indeed, that remains the case for Iran, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan. But Kazakhstan has recently adopted a different approach.

            Although Kazakhstan, like Turkmenistan, did not get any ships when the Soviet navy on the Caspian was divided up, it has build up the largest inventory of ships of any of the littoral states, including Russia. But most are quite small and clearly intended for fighting poaching or search and rescue operations.

            But this month, as Kazakhstan marks the 29th anniversary of the formation of its navy, things have changed. Its naval commanders have stressed and have conducted exercises in support of the idea that its forces on the Caspian are now focused on the defense of the country (,, and

            Much of this activity, of course, may reflect the desire of Kazakhstan naval commanders to extract more resources and support from their nation’s government, but at least part of it likely reflects the fact that relations between Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation have deteriorated and military personnel in the former are thinking about defense against the latter.

            And it may even reflect a new understanding among Kazakhstan commanders that the strategy Russian forces have used in Ukraine, going after control of the Azov coastline and its ports, could be part of any Russian effort against Kazakhstan and be intended to deprive Kazakhstan of its major port of Aktau, a port that makes that country valuable to China. 

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