The latest mass unrest in Kazakhstan will have significant long-term internal and external socio-political ramifications on Central Asia and Russia.
Before analyzing the impact of these developments, a realistic assessment of ground realities is necessary.
This is crucial as outsiders often view political crises through an external prism while those on the ground view them through an internal lens.
Without understanding key internal and external dynamics, an accurate assessment of events becomes difficult.
Let us begin with purely local aspects of the situation.
The ruling elites in all Central Asian countries, except the current government in Kyrgyzstan, were at some point in their former careers allowed to occupy key positions by the direct vetting process overseen by the Soviet Union KGB.
The KGB-installed system retained monopoly on political and economic power in all Central Asian countries for decades even after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Due to Kazakhstan’s small population and vast natural resources, the Nazarbayev family was able to share a portion of the looted wealth with its citizens.
Despite its autocratic system, the Kazakh regime remained stable compared to others in the region because its population was not as destitute as that of its neighbors.
Nevertheless, it seems the latest events manifest the fact that a population ruled with iron-fist by an illegitimate regime, will at some point show its true feelings.
If unrest on this scale has occurred in Kazakhstan—the wealthiest among all Central Asian autocracies and long regarded as the most stable—it can and most likely will happen in most other post-Soviet states as well.
The fact that protests in Kazakhstan which began for purely social and economic reasons quickly escalated into a full blown anti-regime movement is a sign that all Central Asian autocracies are “stable” only at a superficial level.
The most shocking aspect of disturbances in Kazakhstan is the fact that the regime’s security apparatus collapsed in a matter of days.
This forced the regime to appeal for direct Russian military intervention.
While this move will probably save it from immediate collapse, it will delegitimize the “reform” gimmicks by whoever takes over from among the ruling elite.
Asking for Russia’s military intervention after several days of protests, no matter how bad, has demolished the invincibility façade of all Central Asian despots.
Without external help to suppress popular uprisings, no regional autocracy can reign with impunity as they did before.
Moscow’s meddling due to the long history of Russian colonialism combined with Western political backing and propaganda, will force the societies of the former Soviet Union to adopt an anti-Russian sentiment.
While all autocratic regimes in the post-Soviet space depended on Russia’s backing for survival, it does not mean that NATO regimes were focused on undermining them.
They did business with them just fine, as they do with the Saudi regime.
Tony Blair and others consulted Central Asian dictators on how to remain in power.
Not only to have them park their looted millions in Western banks and real estate, but also for geopolitical reasons.
This brings us to key external factors which will flow out of the ongoing unrest in Central Asia.
In February 2020, Crescent International stated that Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) bringing natural gas from the Caspian Sea to Western Europe bypassing Russia will intensify geopolitical frictions in Central Asia.
Since then, there were a few very untypical events in Central Asian countries.
The latest unrest in Kazakhstan will undoubtedly create political space for NATO regimes to destabilize Russia’s borders.
This geopolitical strategy has been repeatedly pointed out by Crescent International in its numerous analyses of the region.
While no anti-Russian regime is likely to be formed in Kazakhstan, if Moscow positions itself in very clear terms against the mass protest movement, it will become easier for NATO regimes to ferment anti-Russian sentiment.
The protest movement in Kazakhstan is unlikely to organize itself into a coherent political alternative to the current regime, the tectonic plates of politics and geopolitics in Central Asia have shifted dramatically.