For World Politics Review, I unpacked the implications behind Kazakhstan's unprecedented protests:
With his combination of deflection and condescension, Nazarbayev appears to have misunderstood the factors sparking the recent rallies. While the protests ostensibly flowed from the proposed land-lease reforms, in reality, the demonstrations were a manifestation of the numerous pressures, economic or otherwise, piling on Kazakhstan’s population.
Since mid-2014, Astana has appeared unable to grasp the scale of the economic crisis and soften the blow of collapsed energy prices. The country’s currency, the tenge, has vied with Azerbaijan’s manat as the worst-performing currency globally, and domestic inflation spiked to its highest rate in seven years. Nazarbayev’s trumpeted “100 Concrete Steps” program, pushed as a means of economic reform, has proven far too little and far too late. Like Russia, Kazakhstan’s over-reliance on hydrocarbon exports precluded any economic diversification—and now that has pushed Astana toward its first potential recession since 1998. Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund continues to deteriorate at rates far steeper than anyone expected, and could be empty within a decade.
Over at RFE/RL, I chatted with the fine folks at the Majlis about the declining prospects of regional integration efforts in Central and South Asia, and for EurasiaNet I charted out the currency doldrums of the Caspian's hydrocarbon exporters. And as ever, I plugged a handful of posts with The Diplomat's "Crossroads Asia , including running down leaked emails unveiling a Caspian "bribe-factory" and tracing the shady links between London and Kazakh oligarchs.