The recent visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to four post-Soviet countries including Kazakhstan can easily be characterized as a deep raid across the rear areas of the USA’s two key military and political opponents, in other words, Russia and China.
In our opinion, this visit has been rather successful since the head of the US diplomatic corps has managed to achieve the following:
1) demonstrate the US influence on the authoritarian regimes of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan to Moscow and Beijing,
2) exert pressure on the leadership of the said states,
3) once again, demonstrate the active nature and the successfulness of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy to the US electorate,
4) conduct political reconnaissance in terms of the prospects of a possible cooperation between the states of the region and the US against Russia and China and of the limits of such collaboration.
In view of this, Donald Trump’s decision to place restriction on the issuing of the US visas for the citizens of Kyrgyzstan does not look like a random choice, moreover, it looks like a well thought out and preplanned move. It is possible that, by doing so, the White House has demonstrated to the Central Asian authoritarian regimes whom it can punish and whom it can show mercy to. And that the time has come for those who rule Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan to make a choice from where to take their cues — Russia and China or the US.
This conjecture can be confirmed by the fact that Belarus whose citizens were also supposed to be restricted in terms of accessing the US territory has escaped such a fate. And not because Alexander Lukashenko has promised to the honorable US representative to uphold human rights but rather thanks to his anti-Russian rhetoric and the readiness to play on the frictions with the Kremlin while siding with the White House (if not become Russia’s political opponent).
Of course, the question remains — how successful will Mike Pompeo’s raid be in the mid-run (not to mention in the long-run)?
It is difficult to answer this question at this point since the authoritarian regimes of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan are quite keen on the appearance of a third force that would allow them to counterweight the pressure exerted by on them Russia and China (in the first instance, we are mostly talking about the military-political pressure; in the second, about the trade-economic one).
On the other hand, however, the USA is far whereas China and Russia are near.
Apart from that, the White House is suffering a clear defeat in Afghanistan and will likely be forced to remove the military contingent from the country. Besides, it has already lost the campaign in Syria. All this clearly shows that the White House’s external political and economic capabilities have been diminishing over the past years.
There can be no doubt that Russia’s and China’s authorities will respond to the actions and words of the current US administration.
In view of this, the sharpness of the first reaction on the part of China’s diplomatic corps seems to be particularly worthy of attention. Akorda and the Library did not react to the demonstration of support on the part of Mike Pompeo to China’s Muslims that have, in the past years, found themselves under the pressure from the local authorities and the secret service. As for the Russians, they seem to have simply taken a note of that. However, Ambassador of China to Kazakhstan Zhang Xiao has made a strong statement. One can find the full text of this escapade on the website of the Chinese Embassy in Kazakhstan.
We, however, are going to quote only some individual paragraphs from this resonant document showing (based on our opinion, of course) that China:
1) does not feel as confident as Russia in Central Asia and Kazakhstan,
2) will persist in its stand in the region much more forcefully than in its trade-economic relationships with the US. Simply because it does not want any adversary states appear within its strategic rear areas. And, by the way, will be quite correct in this wish.
Here are the quotes from the Chinese press-release (text in bold by kz.expert):
«On February 2, 2020, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in the course of his visit to Kazakhstan, met with local representatives of the anti-China movement and held a press-conference in Nur-Sultan where he, once again, accused China of the alleged imprisoning of a million of Xinjiang Uighurs and Kazakh Muslims while saying that the Chinese and Russian investments are eroding Kazakhstan’s sovereignty and the long-term prospects of the country’s development. In order to hit the Chinese-Kazakhs relationships, Pompeo has even attempted to use the novel coronavirus epidemics as a weapon.
«Pompeo’s statements on the harmful nature of China’s and Russia’s investments in Kazakhstan are even more mendacious for they reveal the undisguised geopolitical intentions: to exacerbate enmity in the region and to establish the regional monopoly. Is it not a word too impertinent?
China’s investments in Kazakhstan are helping a fast development of the industrialization of the Kazakh economy and infrastructure as well as increasing the number of job opportunities for the Kazakhs. I would like to ask Mr. Pompeo — have you ever built at least 1 km of a road or constructed at least one bridge in Kazakhstan? If you really care about the Kazakhs, one should hope that you would not simply fixate on Kazakhstan’s profit-generating oil fields but invest in the Kazakhstan’s industry and infrastructure. Can you work up the courage and start investing real money in the local economy by the model of China? Otherwise, for the Kazakhs, all your words will be nothing but hypocrisy».
These paragraphs clearly show that the Chinese diplomatic corps is not going to cut down the resources and efforts to stand against the US in Central Asia and Kazakhstan. With that, the investments in the national economies will serve as the main argument on the part of Beijing. In this regard, the US authorities can counteroffer nothing.
Moreover, due to certain reasons (that the US authorities fail to notice or that they perhaps do notice but give little weight to), the Americans are bound to fall between two stools. For instance, they are likely to continue using the repressions against the Muslims — Chinese citizens as an argument in their imposing the information and political constraints on China which will place the authoritarian regimes of the region in not just an awkward but a hopeless situation since the radical Islam is dangerous for them too while saving radical Islamists by relocating them into their own countries is even more threatening.
With this in mind, it is possible that the necessity of preserving the internal political stability will force the autocratic regimes of the region to distance themselves from the US and its Central Asian and Kazakhstan policies all the more actively.