Staunton, July 30 – Nurlan Dosaliyev, a Kyrgyz commentator with roots in his country’s special services, says that those who think the West is focused primarily on Ukraine in its war against Russia are wrong and that in fact “Central Asia is not the second but the first and main front of the West against Russia.”
He said that at a meeting of the Pikir [“Opinion”] Club in Bishkek earlier this month in which experts from Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the Russian Federation discussed how Central Asia as a whole now constitutes “an arc of instability” (pikir-klub.kg/events/1505-duga-nestabilnosti-v-centralnoj-azii-prognozy-realnost-protivodejstvie.html).
The meeting focused in particular on the response of regional and international players to the violence in Karakalpakstan. Participants suggested that Kazakh elites are very much divided by the events in Karakalpakstan just as they were by the protests in Kazakhstan’s capital in January.
They further suggested that while the president of Kazakhstan is committed to stability above everything else, many just below him want to pursue an expansionist policy against Kazakhstan’s neighbors, including against Uzbekistan by reabsorbing Karakalpakstan, China and the Russian Federation, and are getting support from the West.
In support of that contention, some participants in the July 14 meeting in Bishkek recalled the publication by a Kazakh news agency five years ago showing Karakalpakstan as well as parts of China and southern Russia, including the land bridge to Bashkortostan as within Kazakhstan’s borders (vpoanalytics.com/2022/07/30/karakalpakskie-protesty-kak-lakmusovaya-bumazhka-dlya-natspatov-kazahstana/).
And at least some like Dosaliyev insisted that the West and above all the US is promoting such aspirations and even stood behind the Karakalpak events which he and others say have become “a litmus test” as far as the positions of the Kazakh elite is concerned regarding relations with Russia and the West.
This meeting appears to be very much part of Moscow’s efforts to weaken the Kazakhstan government by encouraging its members to suspect one another of being linked to the West and to present Russia as the only reliable partner Kazakhs and other Central Asians can have in the current struggle.
But the fact that the Bishkek session linked interest among Kazakhs to the recovery of Karakalpakstan to a broader interest to recovering lands linking their country to the Turkic Muslim republics of the Middle Volga and areas of China populated by Turkic and Muslim group raises the stakes significantly, highlighting both Moscow’s fears and its tactics to combat those forces which give rise to them.