The most interesting event at the recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum was not Putin’s boring speech, but the behavior of Kazakhstan’s president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. According to some reports, Putin, either out of rudeness or stupidity, tried to humiliate him by mispronouncing his name as a random combination of sounds. It seems that the Russian president finds it difficult to remember the name of a national leader, as if it were not appropriate for a Russian president to remember a name that is complex for the Russian ear. This is despite the fact that the name Kassym-Yomart is no more difficult to remember and pronounce than the patronymic Kuzhugyetovich, which Putin pronounces perfectly when addressing Shoygu. But where’s the defense minister of the superpower, and where’s the leader of some quasi-state on the territory of «historical Russia,» which he, again in the presence of Tokayev, called the USSR — that’s what Putin apparently believes.
Meanwhile, Tokayev brilliantly retaliated for this humiliation by calling the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, recognized and established by Putin, quasi-states that he has no intention of recognizing. Moreover, he directly pointed out to Putin the anti-Kazakh activities of prominent Russian journalists, and he did so in the presence of Margarita Simonyan, whose husband Keosayan committed one of the most notorious anti-Kazakh incidents.
Moreover, Tokayev refused to accept the Alexander Nevsky Order, which is usually given to vassals of the «Russian world», on the grounds that he had decided not to accept any orders for the time being. Not surprisingly, almost immediately after the forum ended, it was announced that Russia had suspended shipments of Kazakh oil, citing the need to remove unexploded WWII torpedoes and mines. In response, Kazakhstan blocked 1,700 rail cars of Russian coal on its territory.
Now, in this regard, let us repeat what we recently wrote about Tokayev. We would be happy to be wrong in characterizing him as a Moscow puppet after he called for Russian troops to suppress Kazakh protests. And a number of his recent demonstrative moves do indeed suggest this.
However, it must be understood that international relations have now taken on such a character that in geopolitics one has to choose between «either-or» and be prepared to bear the consequences of this choice. And in this context it is necessary to understand that the hostile actions of Putin’s Russia, which has broken out of the chain, can go far beyond blocking the supply of Kazakh oil.
Therefore, if Tokayev really does not want to be a vassal of Moscow and demonstratively shows it, he must pursue a policy that, first, does not require him to seek anyone’s help to protect himself from his own people, and, second, allows Kazakhstan to address its security issues on its own.
In other words, the Kazakh authorities and society need to be consolidated, including to protect the independence of their country, as happened in Ukraine. And the more successful this policy is now, while the Kremlin is tied up in Ukraine, the more chances there are that it won’t interfere in Kazakhstan later, when and if forces are freed from the Ukrainian direction.