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Tipsheet

Hey, Joe Biden, Are You Paying Attention to What Russia Is Doing in Kazakhstan?

Yuri Kochetkov/Pool photo via AP

Kazakhstan is being engulfed in chaos. It's another front that Joe Biden should probably pay close attention to, but he's not because his brain has turned to oatmeal. We have significant energy interests in the country, and Russia has troops on the ground. These protests, which have led to dozens of deaths, started over gas prices. All cabinet ministers have resigned, and now Russian paratroopers are taking up positions in the country. The New York Times has a good breakdown of what caused the protests and why it's worth our attention: 

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Anger boiled over when the government lifted price caps for liquefied petroleum gas — frequently referred to by its initials, L.P.G. — a low-carbon fuel that many Kazakhs use to power their cars. But the protests have more deep-seated roots, including anger at social and economic disparities, aggravated by a raging pandemic, as well the lack of real democracy. The average salary in Kazakhstan is the equivalent of $570 a month, according to the government’s statistics, but many people earn far less.

As the protests have intensified, the demands of the demonstrators have expanded in scope from lower fuel prices to a broader political liberalization. Among the changes they seek is an election system for regional leaders, who are currently appointed by the president.

In short, protesters are demanding the ouster of the political forces that have ruled the country without any substantial opposition since 1991.

[…]

For the Kremlin, the events represent another possible challenge to autocratic power in a neighboring country. This is the third uprising against an authoritarian, Kremlin-aligned nation, following pro-democracy protests in Ukraine in 2014 and in Belarus in 2020. The chaos threatens to undermine Moscow’s sway in the region at a time when Russia is trying to assert its economic and geopolitical power in countries like Ukraine and Belarus.

[…]

Kazakhstan also matters to the United States, as it has become a significant country for American energy concerns, with Exxon Mobil and Chevron having invested tens of billions of dollars in western Kazakhstan, the region where the unrest began this month.

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And now, the Russians are coming (via The Guardian): 

Russian paratroopers have arrived in Kazakhstan as part of a “peacekeeping” mission by a Moscow-led military alliance to help the president regain control of the country, according to Russian news agencies.

Kazakhstan’s president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, asked for the intervention from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) – an alliance made up of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – late on Wednesday and it was swiftly approved.

It comes as violent clashes continue between protesters and the police and army in Kazakhstan.

There is little reliable information on the number of casualties, but local news agencies quoted a spokesperson for police in Almaty, the country’s largest city, saying dozens of people were killed during attacks on government buildings.

Almaty city authorities said on Thursday that 353 police and security forces personnel had been injured, and 12 killed.

And do you trust Joe to handle this crisis? No. Russia is flexing whenever and wherever it can. China will do the same. We have Tony Blinken, who's a deer in the headlights serving as our top diplomat, and I haven't heard from him lately. We're still dealing with the Americans we abandoned in Afghanistan because Joe Biden didn't want to upset the Taliban. Yesterday, Congress was overreacting and hyperventilating about January 6, which no one really cares about. Yes, if were Russia and saw this, I would be moving troops as well. Why not? Gamble. America is divided, and its chief executive cannot last through the afternoon. 

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Keep an eye on this one. 

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