Unrest in Kazakhstan struck like a bolt from the blue for everyone, including Turkey. Everything turned out to be so sudden that Turkey took an unusually long pause in assessing the rapidly unfolding situation.
The press release of the Turkish Foreign Ministry appeared only on January 5, the Organization of Turkic States (OTG) reacted only on January 6, and the UTC Council of Ministers met for its extraordinary meeting via videoconference on January 11. Broad media coverage of what is happening in Kazakhstan began in Turkey after 8 January.
Taking into account what Kazakhstan is for Turkey and what kind of relations the two states have, such a pause on the Turkish side turned out to be literally ringing.
Recall that Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize the independent states formed after the collapse of the USSR, including Kazakhstan. Diplomatic relations between Turkey and Kazakhstan were established in March 1992 and will solemnly celebrate their 30th anniversary this year.
In 2009, Kazakhstan, together with Turkey, became one of the founding fathers of an organization designed to unite the Turkic world and which, since November last year, has received the name of the Organization of Turkic States.
In November last year, this same Organization adopted the policy document “Vision of the Turkic World-2040”, which provides for in-depth political and economic integration between the participating countries, including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan. Hungary and Turkmenistan are among the observer countries. Moreover, in these integration processes, it was Kazakhstan and its first president and Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev, who in Turkey is called the Turkic word “aksakal”, which is understandable even to native speakers of the Russian language, played a leading role.
In addition, Turkey is a major investor in the Kazakh economy, developing with Kazakhstan not only trade and economic, but also close humanitarian ties.
In general, the Turkish side had no reason to believe that it did not know or did not feel the processes taking place in Kazakhstan, all the roads were beaten there. Let’s make a reservation, Kazakhstan is not Azerbaijan for Turkey with the slogan “two states – one people”, but Turkey perceives it as a relative and close ally in the construction of the Turkic world, with a strategic perspective. If, for example, we think in terms of the Turkic world from China to the Balkans and an important Turkic section on the route of the global Chinese Belt and Road project.
So the news that Kazakhstan was engulfed in unrest, Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev not only left the post of head of the Security Council of Kazakhstan, but does not appear in public at all, needed Turkish reflection, which eventually resulted in restrained press releases.
No less, and perhaps even greater shock in Turkey was the news that President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, qualifying the events taking place in the country as “external aggression”, with reference to the CSTO Charter, invited the peacekeeping contingent of the organization, where Russia predictably played the first violin.
And the fact that the decision was announced by Armenian President Nikol Pashinyan – by right of chairmanship in the CSTO – became another foreign policy prick for Turkey.
According to Turkey, “I should have been in his place.” Turkey expected that Kazakhstan would invite it directly, on the basis of bilateral agreements or in a multilateral format – as part of the UTC, to play the role of a peacemaker. And let’s be honest, the Turks have worked hard for this all 30 years of Kazakh statehood, painstakingly establishing deep multifaceted relations with the Kazakhs.
However, the UTG and Turkey came second to the next “firing line”, losing to the CSTO and Russia.
By the time the Council of Ministers of the Organization of Turkic States met on January 11, the CSTO had already managed to bring a peacekeeping contingent into Kazakhstan, taking the country’s key infrastructure facilities under protection.
The CSTO has already managed to meet at the level of the presidents of the countries participating in the organization. Moreover, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are both members of both the CSTO and the UTG, but acted as part of the first of them.
Moreover, the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, has already managed to announce that the CSTO peacekeeping mission has been completed and the withdrawal of military personnel from the country will begin as soon as possible, which will be carried out in 10 days.
The surprise of what was happening in Turkey turned out to be so great that for many the moment of truth came, right according to the well-known book by Vladimir Bogomolov, when the subject was put in a position in which his true face was revealed. In this case, for a number of Turkish media and political observers, the “nuances” of relations with the Russian Federation appeared.
No, of course, Russia does not pretend to enjoy fiery love among Turkish officials and political scientists: after all, relations between Russia and Turkey are like a patchwork quilt or a Rorschach test, in which everyone sees something of their own. Areas of close cooperation and interdependence are interspersed with areas of competition, even to the point of occasional hostility.
However, the Russian and Turkish presidents manage, up to the present time, to balance on this thin rope, observing “decency” in relations. Yes, and in Turkey it is customary to watch your words and not openly demonstrate to your counterparts, including Russia, hidden “quivering feelings.” And here is the CSTO in Kazakhstan…
At the very first news of the transfer of the CSTO peacekeeping contingent from the pages of Turkish circulation publications, venerable political scientists heard that it was no less than that there was a “Russian invasion of Kazakhstan” and that Russia was the main beneficiary of the processes taking place in the country. Following the textbook “look for who benefits,” the picture turned out to be impartial for Russia.
Further – more: the opinion, taken from nowhere, but attributed by Turkish analysts to the President of Russia, that he, they say, does not consider Kazakhstan a “real state”, has become widespread. And how do they behave with a fake state? That’s right, they bring the case to a “logical denominator”.
Separately, it is worth noting the question that Turkish observers actively asked about how long the CSTO contingent will stay in Kazakhstan? After all, if he “sits out the time,” he will inevitably cause a wave of “Kazakh people’s anger” and anti-Russian sentiments towards himself and the Russian population of Kazakhstan. We agree that this formulation of the question looks at least ambiguous.
And finally, the main idea that was voiced these days in Turkey is that the situation with the entry of the CSTO contingent into Kazakhstan should become a kind of wake-up call, that is, a wake-up call for the Organization of Turkic States. The latter should finally receive a military-political dimension, its own Turkic peacekeeping contingent and a mechanism for its use.
The fact that “the main condition for development and cooperation is security and stability” and therefore cooperation between security and intelligence units should be “more organized and institutional within the framework of the Organization of Turkic States”, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also said at the UTC online summit January 11th. And it seems that this will be the main issue of the UTC 2022, when the Organization is chaired by Turkey.
How to evaluate such actions and statements against Russia? I have said it repeatedly and I say it again: they should be regarded calmly, as words and statements coming from a country that, according to Sergey Lavrov’s exhaustive statement, is a “close partner” for Russia. A long-predicted, logical, sometimes extremely tough, unsentimentally competitive process is underway between the two countries, each of which perceives the post-Soviet space as a zone of its vital interests. We are used to thinking that only Russia perceives this space as such. Perhaps I will “please” someone by saying that Turkey also claims influence in the post-Soviet space.
At the next intricate turn of history, in January 2022, Russia, with its integration initiatives and influence, bypassed Turkey – with its notions and with its weight. One should not underestimate what happened, but one should not exaggerate either: yes, in terms of the operational and skillful use of hard power, Russia (so far) has bypassed Turkey. But no one denies that Russia has hard power and that it skillfully uses it if necessary.
However, influence is a complex thing and, therefore, competition goes along the entire perimeter of relations, and not just in one single aspect. Here we can say about trade and economic relations, and about direct investment, and about humanitarian cooperation, and about the so-called “soft power”.
If you look at any of these components, it is unlikely that Turkey is far behind Russia on them. And in terms of that same soft power – this is followed by a purely personal value judgment – it is completely ahead of Russia, in particular, actively using its idea of a “secular revival of the Turks” as opposed to the stalled domestic “Eurasianism”. The Turkic world as an idea in the current conditions has become a serious geopolitical factor strengthening its influence before our eyes. But “Eurasianism” has not yet shot to the extent that Russia could count on it.
Hence the serious concern about what will happen next, after the passions subside in Kazakhstan?
I would like the entry of the CSTO contingent into Kazakhstan would not become a kind of march on Pristina – a resonant step with minimal subsequent effect for Russia, if we take out the “big Kazakh thanks” out of the brackets. A true partnership must be balanced in terms of taking into account the interests of both parties – let’s be frank and pragmatic.
Yes, the stability and security of Kazakhstan and the long Russian-Kazakh land border are in Russian interests. However, this is the minimum “fireproof amount” for Russia. And here is what exactly, in addition to this fireproof amount, Russia will receive from partnership with Kazakhstan and from its readiness to promptly come to the aid of the Kazakh leadership, which will leave behind the Russian peacekeeping contingent leaving Kazakhstan, except for the loud appointment of the Minister of Information and Social Development, apparently in as a “parting wave of the hand” – this is a big question, the answer to which is not yet …