Russia-Kazakhstan Relations Took a Dive in 2014

My latest piece over at The Diplomat examines how and why 2014 has not treated the Russian-Kazakh relationship well:

Moreover, as the ruble sprints toward collapse, a further devaluation of Kazakhstan’s tenge seems all but assured. The tenge already experienced a 19-percent drop in early 2014, leaving a distinct stain on domestic confidence. Coupled with the disintegrating price of oil – and the decade-long delay of Kazakhstan’s massive Kashagan field – Astana’s economic outlook, blighted through its Russian relations, drops that much further. All told, Kazakhstan’s trade with Russia and Belarus – the two other founding members of the forthcoming Eurasian Union – has sunk nearly 20 percent this year, and shows no sign of recovery as Russia flops into recession. Coming on the back of Kazakhstan’s 20-percent increase in trade turnover with China, Russia’s position as Astana’s preferred partner slags that much further. ...

Of course, there are still numerous steps to take before we see a repetition of Ukraine in, say, Pavlodar or Petropavlovsk. So long as Nazarbayev remains cogent, this likelihood stands close to nil. Such was the rational when former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul brought up the concept of potential “war” with Kazakhstan. McFaul later told me he was “rejecting the idea [of war] completely.” But the mere fact that such a concept could be brought up in logical discourse illustrates how remarkably relations have waned between Astana and Moscow.