UKRAINE UPDATE: “Who’s next?” President of Kazakhstan humiliates Putin



UKRAINE: THE LATEST Podcast, 6/20/22

“Nobody is going to break us.  We are strong.  We are Ukrainians.”

  • Day 117.
  • There has been an attack on Snake Island this morning.  This indicates that there was a Ukrainian counter-attack. 
  • There was an assassination attempt on a prison boss by the Ukrainians in the Donbas.
  • There is an attempt to destroy Snake Island as a military base used by the Russians.  Since the losing of the island it has been a problem for the Ukrainians.
  • Zelensky is saying that he expects the Russians to up the ante in the east.  This is in part because the EU is voting whether to accept Ukraine as a candidate for admission.
  • Chief of NATO said that we are in for years more of conflict in Ukraine.
  • There are discussions of how to free the grain. 
  • There is still a discussion of using naval vessels to escort the grain out.  Rails can be adapted to facilitate the export of grain.  (Note there is a difference in the rail gauges between Ukraine and the rest of Europe.)
  • Germany has decided to start using coal again to decrease the amount of Russian oil they are using.  This will take time.  Shifts in energy policy take a great deal of time.
  • Kazakhstan
  • Unrest shook Kazakhstan in January.  This involved Putin sending paratroopers to quash this unrest.  They were later used to try to take Kyiv. 
  • Putin’s speech at the economic forum, leader of Kazakhstan was on the platform with him.
  • Became independent in 1991.  They have built up their own national identity.  They have walked a tightrope between Russian, China and the US.
  • In northern Kazakhstan, the cities are largely populated by Russians.
  • There is a lot of economic sharing with Russia.  Russia has a lot of levers over Kazakhstan.
  • The Russians expected full backing from the Central Asian countries.  They have proved more independent than Putin anticipated.  Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have said that they back the territorial integrity of Ukraine. 
  • Kazakhstan has said that it does not regard the Donbas region as independent states.  This is a policy they have had for a long time.  They don’t want separatist groups in their own territories.
  • The Central Asian states do not want to drift into the Belarus situation, as sub-states to the Russians.  They back the Kremlin a bit and the West a bit.
  • When Putin gave this speech at the economic forum, bombastic talk about Russia as top of a new world order.  Telling the EU that the sanctions would cost them more than Russia.  Video message from Egyptian president and the Chinese president. 
  • During a question and answer session afterward, the Kazak president told Putin to his face that he did not support the Kremlin position on the independence of the Donbas region.  The reporter said that he had never heard anyone challenge or contradict Putin live onstage.
  • There was a stunned murmur in the audience.  Tokayev owes Putin.  Putin sat there blankly.  The moderator stepped in.  twenty minutes later, Putin reminded Tokayev who was boss.  He said, the Soviet Union is historic Russia.  He followed by saying that Russia could have had a brotherly relation with Ukraine, but Ukraine went their own way.  Kremlin code for we are happy to be friends but you have to do what we tell you. 
  • People in Kazakhstan are worried about an invasion.  It’s a “where next” guessing game. 
  • In Uralsk, northwest Kazakhstan, people were even more concerned about Putin and an invasion.   A lot of the Russians are listening to the Russian propaganda.  Ethnic Russians are becoming increasingly pro-Russians.  The ethnic Kazaks are more wary.  While publicly blasé about the possibility, privately they are more worried.
  • The Kazak army would be no match even for a weakened Russian army.
  • How dependent are the Central Asian states on Russia?  Kazakhstan is based on oil and gas, minerals, found in North and east Kazakhstan.  There is a pipeline which pumps oil from West Kazakhstan into Russia.  This is an important pipeline.  It was considered an international success. 
  • Kremlin ordered the pipeline closed down in April, March.  They said there was storm damage.  They shut it down for a month.  Many think this was a warning to Kazakhstan.
  • It’s threatening not to know what Russia intends or is potentially threatening.  You get used to playing the game.  Statements that could mean anything, are translated in several ways.  It’s exhausting.  (Note: This is to the Kremlin’s advantage.)
  • The defiance of Kazakhstan as it compares to other states?  Each state has their own relationship with the Kremlin.  There are major Russian military bases in some of them.  In Kyrgyzstan, there is a leader who is very pro-Kremlin (he came to power in a coup).   
  • Georgia was invaded by Russia.  The governing party is backed by a wealthy oligarch who earned his money in Russia and is pro-Russian.  Ukraine has accused Georgia of helping Russia evade sanctions.   
  •  Putin has ben reinvigorated by successes in Donbas.  His main project seems to be reinstatement o the USSR and the Peter the Great land grab.  The invasion of Ukraine is a very old-school approach.  He can also exert huge influence and pretty much regard the former Soviet states as his by pushing the right buttons.  There is no need to risk another invasion.  He can control the countries anyway.
  • But any invasion would be over very quicky in a country like Kazakhstan.
  • Northern Kazakhstan has many ethnic Russians and that could be used as a pretext for any invasion.  Putin likes to use the pretext of defending ethnic Russians by military action.  May be 3.5 million ethnic Russians.  A lot of them live in North Kazakhstan.
  • The Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, Russian ally, issued a video update where he openly threatened Kazakhstan.  This came quickly (two days) after the statement at the Economic forum. 
  • Analyst are saying that Tokayev humiliated Putin live on TV.
  • Lavrov, last month, made a statement that Kazakhstan hosts US bio-labs and may be producing bio-weapons.  This has also been said about Ukraine and Georgia (both of whom they have invaded).
  • Other Kremlin spokespeople have been critical on Kazakhstan.  There has been some angry commentary on Russian media.
  • How do most people get their information? In North Kazakhstan they are watching Russian TV.  They are seeing how Bacha was a fake plot.  Donbas residents are being marginalized.  Propaganda. 
  • Kazakhstan is a neutral country.  A Russian businessman was telling a reporter that Putin was obviously right.  This was an educated man.  Reporters can’t get into Russia to talk to people.  (This guy was in Kazakhstan to buy a new car.) 
  • Comin Stories:
  • Snake Island attacks, attempts to neutralize it as a Russian military base of operations.
  • Deportations of Ukrainians.  Forcibly deported to Russia since the start of the invasion, many children.  These are staggering numbers.  Why?  You have control of the minds of the next generation in Donbas?  There are reports that they are being sent to camps where they cannot communicate or escape.  Difficulty in reporting on this.  There are some verified statistics from Russia itself.
  • Uralsk.  Becoming a refuge for those fleeing Russia.

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