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 Kazakhstan, an Enticing Next Target for Putin - The Wall Street Journal

Putin's craving for expanding Russian power over its neighbors is still growing.

"Russian President Vladimir Putin may yet decide to impose the cease fire by rolling in Russian peacekeeping troops, which would mean Russia recapturing another slice of the old Soviet empire to go along with Crimea, and Abkhazia and South Ossetia in northern Georgia," Josh Gelernter of the WSJ writes.

Read also: Belarus and Kazakhstan Will Not Support Sanctions of Russia and Will Not Ban Imports from the EU

"Russia in recent weeks began military exercises on its border with an equally plausible target: Kazakhstan. Equally plausible, possibly more inviting.

Like Estonia, Kazakhstan's population is about one-quarter ethnic Russian; unlike Estonia, it is not a member of NATO, and the treaty powers have no obligation to defend it. Like Ukraine, Kazakhstan turned over its nuclear weapons to Russia in the 1990s. Like Ukraine, it has something Russia very much wants. Russia has taken Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, and with it a dominant position in the Black Sea. To ensure a dominant position in space, Russia needs the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan.

Read also: Merkel and Obama Should Act or They Will Let Putin Off the Hook - The Washington Post

Russia is determined to be self-sufficient in space, and thus to end its reliance on the Kazakhs. Mr. Putin wants Baikonur, and he may be willing to take Kazakhstan to get it.

In remarks that it is "best not to mess with" Russia Putin had a few things to say about Kazakhstan, principally that Kazakhstan is a newly invented country, "a state in a territory that had never had a state before. The Kazakhs had no statehood."

Read also: Khodorkovsky: "It Is Not Just Putin that Needs to Be Replaced. The Entire System Needs to Be Changed."

He added that Kazakhstan is "part of the large Russian world that is part of the global civilization in terms of industry and advanced technologies. I am confident that that's the way things are going to be in the medium and long term." Meanwhile, Russia has moved 4,000 troops to its Kazakh border as part of a "training plan."

Kazakhstan's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has responded by saying that Kazakhstan's "independence is our dearest treasure" and "we will never surrender it." For the time being, Kazakhstan is a reasonably benign and free country. The U.S. should do what it can to keep it that way," the WSJ concludes.



 
 
 
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