Russia’s weakened position due its failing war in Ukraine is accelerating the decline of its influence in its “near abroad.” The one region where this trend has the most impact is Central Asia, where it is creating a window of opportunity for Kazakhstan to shape a new regional order. Kazakhstan is building upon its multi-vector foreign policy doctrine, which allows the Central Asian nation to assert itself in Eurasia. This strategic regional transformation is an opportunity for Americans and Europeans to help the Kazakhstanis steer the region through these turbulent times toward security and prosperity.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Nov. 29 called for a “gas union” with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to coordinate natural gas shipments between the three countries and to other nations, especially China. A day later, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained that the proposed tripartite plan was prompted by a “need for synchronization” of natural gas exports of the three nations. This move by Moscow comes as European nations began decreasing their dependence on Russian supplies and Central Asian nations are seeking alternatives to energy exports that are routed through Russian territory. It underscores a Russian geoeconomic offensive on its “eastern front” — adding to an increasingly perilous geopolitical environment, which Astana, the nation’s capital, will have to navigate cautiously.
The Kazakhstanis don’t have to start from scratch; over the years, they have purposefully established their country as a hub of international diplomacy. It is an outcome of its signature multi-vector foreign policy spearheaded by former President Nursultan Nazarbayev. This doctrine has continued under President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev since he came to office in 2019. In many ways, Kazakhstan’s national security paradigm has been shaped by its location in the heart of Eurasia, bordering both Russia and China and in relative proximity to Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India.
Read more in Washington Times.