Does Kremlin hold the lid from the Pandora box?

Kazakh-Kyrgyz inter-governmental conflict that started on october 7th of this year, after Kyrgyzstan president’s Atambaev’s unpleasant public criticism of his older colleague Nursultan Nazarbaev, is continuing. And there doesn’t seem to be an end to it.

Looks like Atambaev’s politically strategic trick, which allowed him to make his fellow party member Jeenbekov the head of the state, became a sort of a trigger. By pressing it, the politician seemingly without expecting it himself, has unlocked a Pandora’s box, from which proverbial black swans will now regularly fly out off, ruining bilateral inter-governmental relations and athmosphere within EurAsEC.

The reasons why Kyrgyz-Kazakh inter-governmental conflict will last and its resolution likely won’t become possible in the coming years, are obvious. The sides will be forced to continue “waging wars” in order to first, preserve political image in the eyes of citizens and secondly to defend their economic interests.

This is why there is no sense in exaggerating the importance of agreement achieved earlier between Kyrgyz and Kazakh governments about the priority pass for private persons at the customs – this is a abatement to public opinion and an attempt to avoid open strife at the border; as for other issues this misunderstanding will continue with varying success.

At the same time, the tactics of participants will vary. In Kazakhstan, leader of the nation, Nazarbaev, will try to stay above the conflict trying to avoid if not personal contacts, then at least direct public clashes with Atambaev and his successor Jeenbekov. At the same time, the latter may resort to public attacks on elbasy including some hard-hitting ones.

The reasons for such difference in behavior are easy to explain: Kazakh president unofficially positions himself as an “aksakal” in the post-Soviet space, and thus according to the eastern mindset is above participating in “bazaar clashes”, if only as an arbiter. For the Kyrgyz presidents, however, both old and the new one, using of verbal attacks Lukashenko-style is inevitable due to country’s economic weakness.

These same circumstances will determine the tactics of withstanding between the two countries. Bakytjan Sagintaev and his employees will keep strictly within the protocol, but at the same time they will utilize administrative, legal and economic levers of pressures on Kyrgyz entrepreneurs and government bodies to the max. In their turn Sapar Isakov and his successors will keep putting on the show, which they are already doing, by refusing 100 mil. USD of Kazakh money on customs reforms.

In proving our forecasts we reference you to official press releases that are up on Kazakh government’s website since Oct. 25 2017. In the first one named “B. Sagintaev participated in the conference of Eurasian inter-governmental assembly in Erevan”, prime-ministers of other member states of the EAEU aren’t even mentioned by last names – probably in order not to mention Iskanov.

Wether this the result of subjective irritation of Bakytjan Sagintaev with regards to results of a two hour squabble with his Kyrgyz colleague before the assembly, or if it was a demonstration of disregard to him, but within the framework of legal direction of Akorda, isn’t important.

What’s important is this: Kazakhstan uses its positions as a transit government for Kyrgyzstan in the Russian direction, to fullest. This is evidenced by the second press release especially its Spartan pithiness. It is called” “Bakytjan Sagintaev commented on the means of increasing control at the border with Kyrgyzstan”. Its contents aren’t much longer than its heading, but it is quite informative: “Bakytjan Sagintaev noted that dynamics of import of goods from China to EAEU countries speaks of its decline in all countries except for Kyrgyzstan, which in turn speaks of insufficient level of customs administration on the KR’s side. Due to this increase of control at the Kazakhstani border is aimed exclusively at exposing violations from cargo transporters.”

Such tactics in the Kyrgyz-Kazakh intergovernmental conflict, when in response to direct actions of restricting or forbidding nature, other side is only able to answer with demonstrative gestures and verbal attacks, gives it a “bazaar” nature. Of course Bishkek may try to informally put pressure on Kazakh investors, and there is a history of that in the country, but this may cause legal problems.

Clearly, after some period of escalation, the sides will have to come to an compromise. At the same time Akorda and Nazarbaev personally will likely demand Atambaev admit his wrong doing publicly. But this is unlikely because it will lead to political suicide of not only the politician but also his party. The same goes for Jeenbekov. The latter might want to regulate relations with neighboring country and its head, but not by putting his image on the line.

In these circumstances, the main role, if not in the regulations of Kazakh Kyrgyz conflict but at least in its weakening and transfer to territory of legal squabbles and bureaucratic strife at institutional level, can be and must be played by Russia. The question is whether Kremlin will want to do this? In this conflict Kazakhstan defends from Chinese coounterfets not only its economy, but also Russia’s.

Read also: Atambaev’s demarche: who won?


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