Strategically Located Kazakhstan Slated for Color Revolution

Could it be just a coincidence that a little over one week before the beginning of a crucial round of strategic talks between Russia and the West, starting Jan. 10, violent protests broke out in Kazakhstan? That is hard to believe, especially given the strategic importance of this Central Asian nation.

The events began with boisterous but peaceful demonstrations, most immediately caused by the sudden doubling of the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which most Kazakhs use as a cheaper fuel for the automobiles, after the government did away with its system of subsidies (cf. below). Within two or three days, there were thousands of people in the streets in many cities, many of whom began to call for regime change. They were then joined, in coordinated fashion, by armed militants who were focused on spreading violence, looting, setting cars on fire and even occupying the main airport.

This insertion of provocateurs into what often begin as legitimate demonstrations against economic hardship follows the typical Western playbook for “color revolutions”, such as that which erupted on the Maidan in Ukraine in 2014.

The unrest led President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to call on the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization made up of Central Asian republics and Russia) to send in troops including Russian forces, to quell the violence. According to the authorities, there were foreign fighters involved in the rioting, or what they charge was a coup d’état.

Although the country is little known in Western Europe, Kazakhstan could and should play a crucial role in the emerging new paradigm, which explains why it has been targeted for destabilization, including by the usual NGOs (cf. below). To begin with, Kazakhstan shares a long border of 7,600 km with Russia (in fact the longest continuous border between two countries in the world) and another one of 1,700 km with China. Any destabilization would likely generate a large migration to both countries, which could also cover for infiltration of international Islamic terror networks, in particular into China’s Xinjiang province.

Kazakhstan also hosts the Baikonur Cosmodrome space launch center, which is Russia’s major launch site, as well as Russia’s major missile testing site at Sary-Shagan, where the S-550 missile defense system is being developed. In terms of strategic resources, it is the world’s leading uranium producer with over 40% of the world total. The uranium is processed in Russia, but much of it is then shipped back to Kazakhstan, where nuclear fuel pellets are produced in a facility built by China, and mostly used in Chinese nuclear plants. In addition, the Kazakhstan-China pipeline, which became fully operable in 2015, transports 120,000 barrels of oil per day from the Caspian Sea to Xinjiang (2,000 km), and on to Shanghai.

For the New Silk Road, Kazakhstan is key. The primary rail line linking China and Europe, which is now making about 4,000 trips per year, passes through the country. The containers are transferred between the two rail gauges at the world’s largest dry port, Khorgos, on the Kazakh border with China.

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