Posts Tagged ‘Kazakhstan’

Putin: a would-be Tsar of all the Russians?

May 5, 2015

russians_ethnic_94Source: University of Texas Libraries.

Back when the Ukraine crisis first broke out, I speculated that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin’s ultimate goal was to reconstitute the old Soviet Union, first by luring the former Soviet Republics into an economic “Eurasian Union” common market, and then to transform the economic union into a political union.

I then began to think, as I still think, that Putin’s policy was more a response to an external threat posed by Ukraine joining NATO and the Russian naval base at Crimea becoming a NATO base.

But there is a third possibility, and that is that Putin is trying to bring all the ethnic Russians back into the Russian Empire.  This would include not only the Russians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, but in northern Kazakhstan.

The great Russian novelist Alexandr Solzhenitsyn wrote a tract in 1990 in which he advocated a union of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, with northern Kazakhstan included in Russia, and independence for all the other Soviet republics and satellite states.

Maybe President Putin is thinking along these lines, and maybe he isn’t.  I have no power to read his mind.  But recent reports say that Kazakhstan’s leaders are worried about Russia’s ambitions and their Russian minorities.

Just as in Ukraine, there are reports of increasing Russian discontent and also increasing anti-Russian feeling.   It is easy to imagine Putin stepping in, as he did in Ukraine, to protect his fellow Russians.

The Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia, among others, have large Russian minorities, and, as members of NATO, they are entitled to call upon the United States to defend them if attacked.

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Why Kazakhstan matters

May 17, 2012

In the 2006 movie Borat, Sasha Baron Cohen treated the central Asian nation of Kazakhstan as an object of ridicule, a prime example of ignorance and backwardness.  But in fact Kazakhstan is emerging as a key player on the international scene.  This central Asian nation, which is larger than western Europe and borders on Russia and China, is the world’s largest producer of uranium and an important producer of oil and natural gas.  The government of Kazakhstan recently bought a 7.7 percent interest in Westinghouse Corp., one of the two major U.S. manufacturers of nuclear weapons.

President Barack Obama, in talks recently in Seoul, South Korea, conferred one-on-one with Khazakhstan President-for-Life Nursultan Nazarbayev about forging closer ties with the two countries.   The U.S. military provides aid and training for the Kazakhstan armed forces.  A consortium of American universities, including the universities of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, are advising on construction of Nazarbayev University, which will enroll 20,000 students who will be taught entirely in English.

The problem with this, as investigative journalist Allen Ruff said in an interview on the Real News Network, is that the Nazarboyev regime is one of the world’s most brutal and corrupt.  The situation he described reminded me of U.S. relations with the Shah of Iran, prior to the Shah’s overthrow in 1979.   Our government overlooked his human rights violations and encouraged his development of a nuclear energy program because he was considered a key ally and energy supplier.  All this blew up when he was overthrown.

Click on US Befriends Kazakhstan Dicator, Now World’s Largest Producer of Uranium for a transcript of the highly informative broadcast.

Click on RuffTalk for Allen Ruff’s web log.   His recent posts go into the Kazakhstan situation in great detail.  Ruff said Bill Clinton and his Clinton Foundation played a key role in helping Nazarbayev overcome U.S. objections to his Westinghouse acquisition.