With Hudson Institute's Kleptocracy Initiative, I looked through the US's newfound method of leverage over, and potential policy for, global autocracy:
As such, the US – and the West, more broadly – has suddenly found itself with a massive means of leverage over Tashkent, currently gripped by the economic malaise wracking the region. With nearly $1 billion to dispense, Washington and its European partners, especially over the final six weeks of the Obama administration, have stumbled across perhaps their finest tool for helping direct democratization efforts in one of the world’s foremost autocracies – and a potential blueprint for reining in like-minded kleptocrats.
And over at The Diplomat, I looked through the strange surge of pro-Kazakhstan pieces in the Western press, and what that portends moving forward:
To wit, Kazakhstan’s past year saw not only the country’s worst terror attack to date, but, likewise, the country’s most substantial public protests, which subsequently resulted in the largest string of mass arrests the government has ever brought to bear. Those protesting Astana’s leadership could point to any number of reasons for their complaint, as Kazakhstan saw its 2016 growth flatline for the first time since the Great Recession, its economic model effectively reaching its exhaustion point. Moreover, with the September death of Uzbekistan’s president, Kazakhstan finally claimed the mantle of the only country whose leader has remained ensconced in power since the fall of the Soviet Union, with Nazarbayev — whose face now graces Kazakhstan’s currency — still enjoying the fruits of the recent presidential election, in which he took 98 percent of the vote.
As to the potential partnership between Astana and Washington that those recent write-ups have posited, Nazarbayev remains the only leader outside Moscow to refer to the 2014 Ukrainian revolution as a “coup.” Likewise, Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry is one of only a handful to recognize the Crimean “referendum”nominally breaking the peninsula from Ukraine. (Other states who decided to forego supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity: North Korea, Zimbabwe, Belarus, Sudan, and Syria.) Of course, any relationship between the United States and Kazakhstan extends well beyond views on Ukraine, but proffering Kazakhstan as some form of model partner — especially throughout the post-Soviet space — is a strange push, if the last two years count for anything.