Nursultan Nazarbayev and Sergey Lavrov, Washington. Photo: Shannon Stapleton / Reuters
The Russian draft resolution on Syria did not promise any sensation. The balance of forces in the UN Security Council, whose emergency meeting was held in mid-April, was clearly not in favor of President Putin. So, the version of the events supported by Russian diplomats was not supported by anyone except China and Bolivia. And yet, there were surprises.
The decision of Kazakhstan to abstain from voting on the Syrian issue, and even at the very edge of the Russian-American confrontation, caused in Moscow ill-concealed irritation. “I did not expect,” admitted the head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Council of Federation, Konstantin Kosachev.
A series of therapeutic interviews with Russian political scientists for the most part did not explain anything: pragmatism in the relations between the two countries was always present, why be surprised? It seems that only in the Institute of Regional Problems they noticed that Kazakhstan’s position was not really studied here. But it would be worth it.
Nursultan Nazarbayev, whose regime (with an amendment to the Central Asian identity) is compared to Putin’s, was traditionally considered the Kremlin’s most reliable and consistent ally in the territory of the former USSR. In terms of predictability, Astana could give odds even to fraternal Minsk, relations with which for Russia were forever overshadowed by all sorts of noisy shopping squabbles. But the partner loyalty of Kazakhstan, apparently, was greatly exaggerated, and the desire to limit Moscow’s influence with its self-destructive foreign policy was, on the contrary, underestimated.
“Sanctionary wars intensified the confrontational orientation of Russian foreign policy. Because of them, trade with the West and Ukraine suffers, since the main traffic flows through the territory of the Russian Federation. Kazakhstan adheres to the philosophy of the “Great Benefit” (Great Gain) for all states, maintaining partnership relations with all conflicting parties, “the report of the Institute of World Economy and Politics under the Foundation of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (IMEP) says.
At the heart of the “mismatch of foreign policy orientations,” as Kazakhstani experts say, are different economic models. While Russia is desperately tearing with the West and getting deeper into sanctions, Kazakhstan is vigorously working on an investment climate – the same thing that the Russian authorities have systematically destroyed in their country in recent years. In Moscow, “the priorities and goals of the Kazakhstani model of modernization are in many ways consonant with the policy of the Russian state.” But in fact, countries are increasingly moving away from each other. Why is this happening? And whom does Astana now bet on?