Four Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – have argued over their water resources since the collapse of the Soviet Union. At times these disputes have seemed to threaten war. The forthcoming presidential summit in Astana can help banish that spectre.
Amid ongoing tensions over continued political influence of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, President Tokayev 21 Oct issued decree handing Nazarbayev more power: stipulates president must consult Nazarbayev before appointing chiefs of state institutions (including Committee for National Security (KNB)) and ministers. Decree came days after Nazarbayev 11 Oct gave interview on state television downplaying his influence and condemning “traitors” for stoking unrest. Police arrested more than three dozen people involved in attempted anti-govt protests in capital Nur-Sultan, Almaty and other cities 26 Oct against govt business ties with China and calling for release of political prisoners. Trial began 22 Oct of fourteen repatriated citizens accused of fighting with ISIS in Syria, facing charges including involvement in terrorist activities, recruitment and promoting terrorism; KNB earlier reported 595 citizens have been returned from Syria in 2019, including more than 400 children.
Kazakhstan’s wish for stability and continuity under long-serving President Nazarbayev trumps the will for political change, especially given turbulence elsewhere on Russia’s borders. But without economic reform, full ethnic equality and a political succession plan, the Central Asian country risks becoming another brittle post-Soviet state vulnerable to external destabilisation.
Resource-led economic growth cannot mask the need for reforms in Kazakhstan as labour unrest, social divisions and a growing Islamist movement threaten the country’s stability.
China’s influence is growing rapidly in Central Asia at a time when the region is looking increasingly unstable.
The economic crisis has caused millions of migrant labourers from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to lose their jobs in the boom economies of Russia and Kazakhstan.
The Annual Meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) commencing on 3 May 2003 is an opportunity to assess frankly and honestly the records of the governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Competition for water is increasing in Central Asia at an alarming rate, adding tension to what is already an uneasy region.
The new Kazakh military doctrine is a clear reference to Ukraine. The Kazakh doctrine is very similar to the doctrine Belarus adopted in 2016, but Minsk was more explicit about learning lessons from Ukraine.
Originally published in Eurasianet
In late 2014, consultant and former Crisis Group researcher, Varvara Pakhomenko, journeyed to the northern Kazakh steppe, and the towns and villages along Kazakhstan’s Russian border, to learn more about the interwoven relationship between the Kazakh and Russian speakers of the area.