Russia’s incursion into Ukraine is ongoing, and has left no indication of slowing anytime soon. The powers that be in Moscow have recently issued statements warning NATO not to intervene in Ukraine, using thinly veiled allusions to Russian nuclear power to ensure their message was understood. Russian activity in Ukraine has begun to preoccupy other former Soviet states, namely Kazakhstan, where recently the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, made seemingly preemptive declarations of Kazakhstan’s independence. The Kazakh strongman, who has been the country’s only leader since the fall of the Soviet Union, drew the attention of Vladimir Putin, who, in a speech given recently in Moscow, calls into question Kazakhstan’s ability to continue functioning in the absence of its only leader.
The relations between Kazakhstan and Russia have, and continue to be, quite close, especially as it pertains to economic and energy matters. Indeed, the two countries have undergone a series of energy initiatives together, and have recently begun to contemplate the construction of a second gas pipeline that would connect Russian gas deposits with China, via Kazakhstan. The initiative is only one in a series of efforts undertaken jointly by Kazakhstan and Russia, with the former often opting to imitate Russian economic and monetary policy. The latest string of statements, nonetheless, suggests that Kazakh officials have been left without assurance that similar efforts to foment unrest in Ukraine won’t be replicated inside of Kazakhstan, where ambitions of separatism and access to Russia are anything but foreign. It will remain to be seen whether or not the statements made by Putin were meant to precede efforts to destabilize the country, though the fact that Nazarbayev and Putin have enjoyed relatively amicable relations thus far would seem to negate this possibility, at least in the near term. The fact that the Kazakh president is currently 78, and that Kazakhstan has yet to undertake a peaceful power transition could provide the necessary pretense for increased Russian influence in Astana.
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- Russian President Vladimir Putin has again made waves with comments directed towards Ukraine. The Russian leader recently stated that he could “take Kiev in two weeks.” The story is still developing, and though Russian military activity in eastern Ukraine has increased, a concerted move towards Kiev has not been undertaken at this stage.
- Kazakhstan announced it will be legalizing so called ‘shadow capital’ in an effort to bring more money into circulation. This will legalize money obtained illegally from securities and shares of companies for a set amount of time, between September 1 and the end of 2015. Capital and property declared legally during this period will not be taxed. President Nazarbayev said he hoped this move will bring up to $10 billion to Kazakh banks. This marks the third time shadow capital has been legalized since 1991.
- Uzbekistan is celebrating its 23rd Independence Day, and Uzbekistan spent the holiday with its borders closed until September 5, later this week. Even the Tajik-Uzbek border is closed, a surprising development considering that ethnic dividing lines are murky there and there are far fewer visa restrictions on Tajik citizens than there are on citizens of other Central Asian countries.
- Silk Road Reporters has published an article on jihadist repatriates to Central Asia and the resulting backlash of Central Asian governments against foreign Muslim missionaries, who are often accused of promoting violent versions of the Wahhabi, Salafist, and Deobandi sects. Noting that many Central Asian recruits often pick up and go elsewhere to join international terrorist organizations in places such as Pakistan, Syria, and Iraq.
- The stalled leadership crisis in Afghanistan is likely to be a major issue at the upcoming NATO summit. While both candidates have promised to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States once elected, nothing can be worked out beyond the end of 2014 without one of the candidates coming into power. Karzai has still refused to sign the agreement until a deal is reached and a unity government created. NATO officials such as Secretary General Anders Rasmussen said that the coalition “has done what it set out to do…We have denied safe haven to international terrorists. We have built up a capable Afghan forces of 350,000 troops and police. So our nations are safer, and Afghanistan is stronger.”
- Kyrgyzstan is additionally celebrating its 23rd Independence Day, holding a number of events in Bishkek at the “Ala-Too” square with the participation of President Almazbek Atambayev and several thousand Kyrgyz. The event commemorates how on August 31, 1991 the declaration of state independence of the republic of Kyrgyzstan was adopted after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
- Prices of fuel have risen once again in Kyrgyzstan with leaded gasoline seeing a huge weekly incremental price gain, while diesel fuel fell. Prices are expected to rise because of immense energy shortages over the course of the fall and winter, but the Oil Traders Association reported that it expected the stabilization of prices in autumn.
- Five Kazakh military jets made emergency landings at an airport in China after one of the planes, a Sukho Su-27, reported a mechanical failure. The jets were returning from a drill over Inner Mongolia and landed at Yinchuan Hedong International Airport. These aircraft drills are part of “anti-terrorist exercises” mandated by participation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.