2018-01-16 | Security

Central Asian nations 'most vulnerable' to Russian aggression

Caravanserai

Vladimir Putin’s government has engaged in a relentless assault to undermine democracy and rule of law across the globe, but Central Asia is particularly at risk.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) shakes hands with his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 27, 2017. "Russia is our strategic ally only on paper," Almaty-based political analyst Ruslan Jangazy told Caravanserai. "In reality, we ... observe the Kremlin [perpetrating] unfriendly acts towards us." [Alexander Nemenov/AFP]

WASHINGTON -- The former Central Asian states of the Soviet Union -- in particular Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan -- remain the most vulnerable to Russian aggression and manipulation, according to a US Senate report released January 10.

"[Russian President Vladimir] Putin sees successful democracies, especially those along Russia's periphery as threats to his regime because they present an attractive alternative to his corrupt and criminal rule," the report said.

"Democracies with transparent governments, the rule of law, a free media and engaged citizens are naturally more resilient to the spread of corruption beyond Russia's borders, thereby limiting the opportunities for the further enrichment of Putin and his chosen elite," the report said.

As such, Moscow has "engaged in a relentless assault to undermine democracy and the rule of law" across the globe, according to the report.

"Mr. Putin's Kremlin employs an asymmetric arsenal that includes military invasions, cyberattacks, disinformation, support for fringe political groups and the weaponisation of energy resources, organised crime and corruption."

"All the while, [Putin] has empowered the state security services and employed them to consolidate his hold on the levers of political, social and economic power, which he has used to make himself and a circle of loyalists extraordinarily wealthy," the report said.

Some estimates suggest that Putin's inner circle has amassed about $24 billion through the pilfering of state resources.

A fake ally

"Russia is our strategic ally only on paper," Almaty-based political analyst Ruslan Jangazy told Caravanserai.

"In reality, we sometimes observe the Kremlin [perpetrating] unfriendly acts towards us," he said. "This is evidenced by its policy of informational aggression against us, in trade and tariff wars, as well as in their rough handling of the Baikonur Cosmodrome."

"Russia's territory involves four 'conflict theaters': Eastern Europe (Ukraine), the South Caucasus (Georgia), Central Asia (Kazakhstan) and East Asia (Japan)," Jangazy said. "Russia has already employed military force at two of them -- Ukraine and Georgia. Only northern Kazakhstan and the Kuril Islands remain, [the latter of which] are disputed by Japan".

During military conflicts, the "Russian population rallies around Putin, and Russians demonstrate a high potential for mobilisation, which the Kremlin takes advantage of for achieving domestic political agendas", he said.

"Russian military and political leadership [are mentally fixated on] the geopolitical concept of the 'Anaconda Strategy', which entails the US and NATO forming a belt of hostile satellite states around Russia," Jangazy said.

Russia continues to be fearful of "colour revolutions" in former Soviet Union republics, such as those in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

To prevent such occurrences, Putin and the Kremlin have sought to co-opt the civil societies of Central Asian states by devoting massive resources to the creation and activities of such state-sponsored and state-controlled NGOs, commonly referred to as "GONGOs"(Government Organised Non-Governmental Organisations).

"Russia sinks extensive resources into GONGOs in countries on its periphery and beyond," where Russian operatives "eagerly exploit the relatively free operating space for civil society to maximise their impact," an expert in the report is quoted as saying.

For example, the Russian government in 2006 established the World Co-ordination Council of Russian Compatriots, which is responsible for co-ordinating the activities of Russian organisations abroad and their communications with the Kremlin.

Kremlin propaganda

While the Kremlin's propaganda inside Russia glorifies the regime, in other countries it aims to exploit local discontent and grievances.

Notably, the Kremlin's disinformation operations do not necessarily try to convince foreign audiences that the Russian point of view is the correct one.

Rather, they seek to confuse and distort current and historical events that threaten Russia's image, undercut international consensus on Russia's behaviour at home and abroad, and present Russia as a responsible and indispensable global power.

Sputnik and RT, both very prevalent across Central Asia, are the Kremlin's two main platforms of disinformation and propaganda.

According to a 2016 study by the RAND Corporation, RT and Sputnik are "more like a blend of infotainment and disinformation than fact-checked journalism, though their formats intentionally take the appearance of proper news programmes".

Russian media reports have even gone so far as to conduct fake interviews with actors to paint a picture favourable to the Kremlin.

"Kazakhstan's northern and eastern provinces are under the Kremlin's informational influence," Jangazy said. "Last year, Information and Communications Minister [Dauren Abayev] stated that about 1.5 million citizens of our country use satellite TV that doesn't include broadcasts from domestic TV channels."

[Arman Kaliyev in Almaty contributed to this report.]

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31 Comments

Антонина | 2018-02-20

Russian [TV] channels have been cut off in Ukraine long ago. What is barring us from doing the same? It's impossible not to notice the influence of Russian propaganda.

Нугман | 2018-02-17

We, ordinary citizens, have nothing to fight about, [if], God forbid, a war [breaks out], they will all flee along with their kids, wives and that's it. But we will be clinging to our land till the last breath.

[email protected] | 2018-02-17

MOSCOW IS THE CITADEL OF B O L S H E V I S M

Балтабай | 2018-02-07

Nationalists are scared to answer people. They also don't post responses to their stupid texts. And where is your democracy, Putin detractors?

людмила | 2018-02-07

This is a narrow-minded, nationalist view on relations, as well as a pack of lies. [You are] sawing off the branch you are sitting on

федор | 2018-02-06

malarkey

Узбек | 2018-02-06

Dear friends, let's live in harmony!!!!

Арман | 2018-02-03

This article was patently written as part of filling someone's order. I live in Kostanay Province, and we have no problem with Russians whatsoever, but we do have [a problem] with arrogant Southerners and lazy Oralman [Kazakh returnees]. And on top of that [we have] zero healthcare and zero education, but corruption and family ties are 100 percent. Why don't you write [stories] about it? Blame that on Russia, as well as propaganda disseminated [by Russia] through the media.

Александр | 2018-02-01

The State Department paid for this writing... they should ask the former Soviet republics - maybe they feel more comfortable with the Yanks...51

Murat T. | 2018-01-30

Author, it is known from long ago. "Never trust the Russians". Modern Russia is reminiscent of Hitler's Germany, but in a slightly different form. Who needs enemies with a neighbor like this. The criminal Russian regime is a threat not only to Kazakhstan. Georgia and Ukraine know this firsthand. Nazarbayev and Trump discussed something about a strategic partnership, and that Kazakhstan is America's good friend in Central Asia. It will come in useful for Kazakhstan in any case. Our neighbors are very agitated - one up North [from Kazakhstan] and another to the East.

Рашид | 2018-02-16

After all, Russia is better than China. We have been constantly going together with Russia. China has its own plan for everything and there is no place for the people of Kazakhstan in [this plan]. There are only 15-16 million of us - a drop in the bucket.

Kz | 2018-01-28

The author propagates the American point of view, this is obvious, and some imaginary four "theaters" for military events, etc. It feels as if overseas "friends" instructed this Almaty-based guy to write this article.

FfgVvg | 2018-01-25

These are sellouts who have sold their consciences and their people to the West, and to the USA in particular

Elzhas | 2018-01-24

The article is right on the money, and everything is correct. Russia is no friend of Kazakhstan's. This is an attempt at revanchism stemming from the loss of complete control over Central Asia, a kind of imperial arrogance and vain efforts - it was like that before 2012, and it is the same now. All these "economic unions" with Russia are no good for Kazakhstan. Why [do we need to] duplicate the WTO? Kazakhstan should go along only with Turkey, Europe, the US, and other developed countries. They have many positive examples to learn from. Russia means fascism, banditry, and evil for humanity.

Ali | 2018-01-27

Yeah, brother, now you are being yourself, a real Kazakh! I am Uzbek and support you, brother. It would be better for Kazakhstan to stay away from Russia, but to try not to enter a conflict [with Russia] ))) The Kremlin will be able to invade the Northern regions of Kazakhstan, just as it did with Ukraine. Achtung!!! [German for "warning"/"alert"]

[email protected] | 2018-02-17

Achtung! Achtung! Achtung! [German for "alert", "attention"] Here is yet another E N T H R O N E D "collector of Russian lands"

Михаил | 2018-01-23

In my opinion, the article is aimed at fomenting ethnic hatred between different nationalities in Kazakhstan. It has all the slogans from the US State Department directed at Russia that do not contain one piece of accurate information. Why are the "color revolutions" mentioned that Putin speaks out against - do Jangazy and his subordinates need that? Why did [the author] mention 24 billion allegedly stolen by those backing Putin? Don't we have the same [thieves] in Kazakhstan? And what is this aggression information campaign against Kazakhstan - why isn't there a detailed breakdown of what it means, or what does the "rough handling of the Baikonur Cosmodrome" by Russia mean, and how is it expressed? This article by Jangazi is directed against Russia, Kazakhstan, and our President in every sense. These are my thoughts, and I believe that many CITIZENS of Kazakhstan think the same thing.

полина | 2018-01-28

I completely agree with you

Думан | 2018-01-28

Jangazy is right 100 percent. Putin's Russia is dangerous for Kazakhstan, and our officials should seriously think about this before it's too late!!!

Балтабай | 2018-02-03

You are not Duman, you are Durman [toxin]! Did you forget what the Yankees did with the redskins? Blood and death are right there wherever they [the Americans] are. Even Georgia and Ukraine are not enough for you, right? Do you also want Kazakhstan to plunge into bloody chaos? Neither you nor those giaours [infidels] from the States can achieve that! Wise president Nursultan Nazarbaev has already proven that all the terrorists will be annihilated in the blessed, multi-ethnic land of Kazakhstan!

Ахаев Алмас | 2018-01-19

I am so angry. This incites ethnic hatred. It is not about me being for or against something. Did you consider the Russian-speaking [population] in Kazakhstan? And Kazakhs in Russia? I believe that this is Western propaganda. They [the West] are longing for Maidan [a name of the unrest in Ukraine, the name refers to Independence Square in Kiev, "maidan" is the Ukrainian word for "square"], war, and devastation in Kazakhstan.

Балтабай | 2018-01-18

This article was definitely written by a schizophrenic nationalist. I have never seen such stupid and groundless sets of phrases [written], even by the potheads from Ukraine. The author is trying to instigate a war by manipulating fabrications.

Tom | 2018-01-18

Kazakhstan needs strong political support from the USA, Turkey, and the European Union [note - Russian transliteration].

Балтабай | 2018-01-23

[They] have already provided "strong support" to Ukraine. There's no longer a country nor a [normal] life for the people living there [now]. And the Yankees and Gayropeans [a derogatory Russian term used to insult Europeans] rake in dough on the blood of Ukrainians.

лео | 2018-01-23

Utter nonsense.

Tom | 2018-01-25

Baltabay, you better change your nickname to your real [name]. Why do fascist Vatniks like commenting under Kazakh names, pretending you are Kazakhs, instead of using your real names? Go post your baloney on your Russian websites, there's no vodka here! Talk the ears off of your own juvenlie fascists with this propaganda. ["vatnik" is a cheap and warm Russian cotton wool clothing worn primarily by workers and peasants. Persons who fervently and aggressively support the Kremlin and its policies as well as tend to believe and spread official narratives are disparagingly called "the Vatniks" by their opponents]

Жюльен | 2018-01-27

Oh, thank you and thank you again, Donald Jonathanovich [the author made the latter look and sound like a Russian patronymic]!!! [You have] amused [me] greatly! Of course, it's a pity that you, spiritless Yankees, consider us (natives of Central Asia) dim-witted savages, but sadly for you, we are actually smart, and can sort the wheat from the chaff. Goodbye, America!

Baltabaj | 2018-01-29

Nationalists are fascists. Do you understand it better this way, Tom? Wherever you are there are bloodbaths, war, and devastation. And you are not Tom at all, but Cipollino [Little Onion, a character from "The Adventures of Cipollino" by Gianni Rodari]

Sayat | 2018-02-01

Baltabay, you are not Kazakh, are you :) You, fascist Russists [derogatory], like to pretend to be Kazakh, Ukrainian, etc. on the Internet. But the style of your stinking Russist texts gives you all away! The style of speech and writing of Kazakhs and Ukrainians differs from your Russist [style] significantly. Only Mankurts [unthinking slaves in Epic of Manas] are somewhat like Russists. So don't pretend to be a Kazakh - you're busted. And remember, you Russists who have not been finished off yet - right there, wherever you are, is war, corruption, devastation, political and targeted assassinations, an unjust legal system, oligarchs, obsequiousness, nepotism, [different] laws for the select few but a bad life for everyone else, and so on. The whole modern world knows that! You are devils!

Ара | 2018-02-16

Folks, let's live as friends, enmity, war, revolutions never led to anything good, that's a business of adventurists, ordinary people don't need it, they have nothing to fight over. Should anything happen, the wealthy will run abroad right away.

[email protected] | 2018-02-17

Raise your eyes and you will see (if [you are] not blinded): the (pocket) Midget has already stopped. What are you hoping and waiting for? Think [about it]...

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