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Kazakhstan, Ukraine and oil interests in the Russian Near Abroad
Kazakhstan celebrated 30 years of independence from the USSR last year.
Until now, the Central Asian country enjoyed remarkable socioeconomic success. Reasons include its vast natural resources, its relative lack of interethnic and interreligious conflict, and its multi-vector approach to foreign policy, which has allowed it to navigate all the great powers that surround it.
To the citizens of an oceanic empire such as America, Kazakhstan may appear as a backwards, barren land in the middle of nowhere. Despite what Sascha Baron Cohen would like you to believe, though, Kazakhstan lies exactly in the middle of everywhere. This is especially true for telluric Land powers such as Russia and China.
Kazakhstan is a keystone of the New Silk Road and the UN’s Asian Highway Network, and the geostrategic issues it faces are a function of its position on the map. Smuggling and insecurity (mostly related to Islamist terrorism) are two main concerns. Another important one, curiously, are traffic accidents: Kazakhstan loses about 2-5% of its GDP to road accidents every year.
Land transportation of goods is not the only critical infrastructure Kazakhstan holds. The Baikonur Cosmodrome, the oldest and largest spaceport in the world, is there too. Up until 2020’s launch of SpaceX Crew Dragon, it was the only place from where ISS missions could be launched: a symbol Russo-Euro-American cooperation for the 21st century. The spaceport is not used by the Kazakh government; the Russian Federation pays a high monetary price for its lease, the concrete sum being a matter of perpetual contention.
Modern Kazakh politics are inseparable of the country’s first liberal era President, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Formerly a steel factory worker, Nazarbayev rose through the ranks of the Communist Party and won an uncontested election in 1991 shortly before independence. Thus, he become leader of the soon-to-be-defunct Kazakh Socialist Soviet Republic. He would stay in power until 2019.
Nazarbayev took a series of political and legal actions to ensure a smooth regime transition, back in 1991. An important measure to smoothen relations with neighbors was his spearheading of denuclearization in Central Asia, with the ending of all nuclear tests starting even before the USSR’s defunction. Kazakhstan even enlisted the US’s help to get rid of its enormous arsenal, through the Nunn-Lugar program.
The focus on denuclearization is odd for a country that, as of today, produces more than 40% of the world’s uranium. The totality of the mineral is exported, since Kazakhstan lacks nuclear facilities of its own (its only nuclear reactor, from the Soviet Era, ceased operations in 1999).
The main destinations for Kazakh uranium are Russia and China. The strategic ore is also exported across the Caspian Sea to the ambitious, but challenged, nuclear program of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The main direct operator of uranium mines is national company Kazatomprom. Interestingly, however, enterprises responsible for extracting the mineral are mostly joint ventures with foreign equity holders. These are often Japanese, Canadian or French corporations, such as Kansai, Cameco, Uranium One and Orano. In other words, these entities are ultimately supplying Russia, China and Iran with uranium. With enemies like these, who needs friends?
Kazakh energy resources do not stop at uranium. The country is a major fossil fuel exporter, pumping out about 1.6 million bpd of petrol (more than Qatar, Libya or Algeria). About 3/4 of this is exported, either to Western Europe or to China, in direct competition with Russia. In fact, the biggest foreign investor in the country is not the Slavic country but the US, thanks to the massive operations developed by Chevron and ExxonMobil.
All of this leads to the conclusion that Kazakhstan is an alchemical regime, sustained both by (1) harnessing the dark chthonic power of decayed organic matter; and by (2) selling the means to break the atom, thus bending the laws of matter to Humanity’s avid will. As if this were not enough, a lot of its inner coal consumption is spent in crypto mining, producing 18% of the world’s Bitcoin hashrate. In an act of necromantic lust, Kazakhstan annihilates creatures dead eons ago into a digital simulacrum of gold.
Besides energy deals, another feature of Nazarbayev’s policies was its pioneer focus on diversity. A key initiative was the 1995 constitutional ban on “any actions that might harm interethnic harmony”. The codification of hate crimes as such in the Penal Code, the creation of an Assembly of Peoples, and the State’s support towards minority languages in the public sphere are other examples of this enlightened attitude we could describe as “woke avant la lettre”.
The Soviets always understood the importance of ethnic dynamics. They, however, tended to solve the issue through mass displacements of population and the foundation of quasi-monoethnic societies, such as the Polish People’s Republic or the Soviet Socialist Republics of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. In fact, in Soviet times a large part of Kazakh population were ethnic Germans, Poles, Ukrainians or Crimean Tatars.
Kazakhstan partakes in the multiculturalism typical of Russia’s vicinity. It is about 70% Muslim, with a relevant Russian minority (20%), and a myriad of other groups. Most Muslims are Turkic peoples, and just as Islamism, pan-Turkism is a temptation never too far away. The regime led by Nazarbayev seems to have navigated this potential problem successfully, however.
Nevertheless, perhaps what best summarizes Nazarbayev’s role in shaping his country, is the renaming of the capital city, Astana, to Nur-Sultan, in his honor. A sign of a budding cult of personality, perhaps, cut short by recent developments.
Astana/Nur-Sultan is an interesting place. It was built out of a 19th century Cossack settlement called Akmolinsk (“White Tomb”). In the Soviet era, it was renamed to Tselinograd and turned into the headquarters of the Virgin Lands Campaign, designed in 1953 by Khrushchev to boost the USSR’s grain production.
In the liberal era, it was turned into a weird, ultra-modern “shining city”, saturated with occult imagery of Masonic or Luciferian undertones. https://atlasobscura.com/articles/kazakhstan-and-the-illuminati The main theme found in buildings and monuments seems to be a sort of esoteric Sun worship.
There is a lot to be said about Astana’s sinister vibes, but this blog’s official policy is to not tempt its readers unnecessarily with unbecoming knowledge. Instead, we will discreetly highlight Astana’s role as the venue for the famous Astana Talks (2015-18), in which Russia, Turkey and Iran started brokering the Syrian Peace Process. This, by the way, was done in parallel (some say in competition) with the UN talks held at Geneva.
But let us not digress. Kazakhstan was on the news lately for violent unrest!
On January 5th there were riots and attacks on public property. Demonstrations gave way to looting and clashes with police, and shots were fired. Some cops appeared to join the rioters, and President Tokayev, Nazarbayev’s successor, called in the Collective Security Treaty Organization to help control the situation.
The military intervention, led by Russia, quelled the protests. Political actions also took place: Nazarbayev was removed from his only official position, Chairman of the Security Council, and disappeared for a few days. Rumor has it that a purge is ongoing among the country’s elite. On January 18th, Nazarbayev showed up on TV denying he’d left the country and describing himself as “just a retiree”. Who knows what really went on, as he was until now considered to be the power in the shadow.
Whatever the truth is, the official causes of the unrest were a sudden increase in the price of liquefied petroleum gas, pervasive income inequality, and generally bad economic prospects. Although this is all true, the fact that Kazakhstan is by far the richest of all the Central Asian ‘stans has to be taken into account when analyzing this claim, especially because of who owns said riches.
The matters in Kazakhstan have been settled quickly and quietly, despite the enormous death toll (more than 200 dead). Turns out in this day and age, Ostblock regimes are still capable of striking decisively with almost hermetic media control. It helps that everyone is focused on impending thermonuclear war in the Ukraine, though.
It would be weird if this selective media attention was not by design.
Which leads us necessarily to discuss this other great country in Russia’s “near abroad”.
The Ukrainian issue as a security crisis between NATO and Russia is half the picture (specifically, the less interesting half). Leaving historical and theological issues aside, the much-publicized threat of invasion is part of a larger power play.
Moscow is raising the price in exchange for helping preserve America’s global hegemony. Or more precisely, the hegemony of those who rule both America and the world.
You don’t advertise invasions in which you intend to succeed. Neither do you wait for allies to rally, nor risk turning your main energy markets into a barren nuclear wasteland. You threaten when you know there will be a concession.
The true object of negotiation is Russia’s role in a future US-China conflict. Moscow’s cooperation, or at least its abstention, is crucial for any American effort against the Chinese. Compromises have to be made, and Putin is old, savvy and opportunistic; he isn’t the Katehon we deserve, nor the one we need. In fact, he often ends up playing the role of the Global Mafia’s tough enforcer with a side gig.
OK, but what’s the relation to the Kazakh affair?
The Central Asian republic acts in this game as a token of trust. As we have noted above, Kazakhstan is a regime as neoliberal, globalist and corrupt as they come, largely in the pocket of the Chevron, Exxon and the likes. Complete with Illuminati architecture by Norman Foster and Kisho Kurokawa, no less!
So consider this: the Russians acted as stalwarts of the interests of the Global Order all throughout January’s episode. They rushed to deploy 2300 troops in a matter of days to defend the interests not only of their own companies, but especially those of Western behemoths, with whom they supposedly compete geopolitically.
They’ve been tasked with managing their and everyone else’s cronies in the country. And with keeping watch over the 1700 extra km of border Kazakhstan shares with China, which are to be added the 4200 km the Russian Federation already has with the Middle Kingdom.
To ensure their loyalty, they ask for the West to keep its hands off Ukraine. Not because of any missile rivalry, but as a warranty. For Russia, Ukraine is a gate to Europe and to the Black Sea, and, most importantly, the lifeline between the West and China.
All of this has been going on for long, of course. It’s a similar dynamic to what happened in Syria, and to what is about to happen in Western and Central Africa.
In this specific instance, corporate interests progress unhindered, and a Western strategic presence is maintained in the Central Asia. With the US military gone from Afghanistan, outsourcing this mission to the Russian military is a sound move by the Powers That Be.
So, when everybody keeps silent over 200+ people killed by the State in Central Asia’s largest economy, their silence says: “Comrade, let me help you help me”.