Name? Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
Westphalian identity? Kazakh
Why is he in the news? On New Year’s Day, Kazakhstan saw their fuel prices increase by 50% overnight- sparking widespread protests in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty. To counter the protest movement, President Tokayev deployed the country’s security forces against protestors, whom he described as “terrorists” and even ordered the security forces to “shoot to kill”. President Tokayev has accused the protest movement of being a coup d’état led by Islamic terrorists.
Why do we care? During the protests in Kazakhstan, President Tokayev called on Russia and the Collective Security Treaty Organization to intervene. The CSTO has a history of not intervening in conflicts when called upon, as Armenia experienced last year when attacked by Azerbaijan. Though there is no evidence that foreign actors were involved in the Kazakh protests, the organization decided to intervene, deploying 2,500 (mostly Russian) peacekeeping troops.
Why should you care? There is currently a power struggle between President Tokayev and long-term dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev who stepped down two years ago but remained highly influential. The 2500 CSTO troops shifted the power from Nazarbayev to his former prodigy Tokayev. You should care 7/10 about 2022 getting off to a hot start.
Who else cares? Putin is interested in Kazakhstan’s protests because it means that he can further increase his regional influence.. As Putin looks to increase ties with former Soviet states, the first ever utilization of the CSTO framework represents a renewed importance for the organization. Making matters worse for the Russian leader, Ukrainian protestors have voiced support for the Kazakh protest movement, encouraging Kazakhstan to stay away from Putin.
Any further comments? Kazakhstan managed to balance the influence of China, the US and Russia so far. Now Kazakhstan, the supplier of 40% of the world’s Uranium exports, is aligned closer with Putin due to Russian presence within the country, signalling the end of Tokayev’s time of steering his relationships with world powers.