Brief: Russia Wants More From Kazakhstan

The Kazakh president shot back after a Russian lawmaker questioned his country's nationhood.

Background: Russia made progress last year shoring up its southern and western border areas, by placing peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh and siding with Belarus’ embattled president, respectively. Moscow, however, has paid less attention to its buffer farther east. This could be changing. What Happened: A Russian lawmaker said on state TV last month that Kazakhstan owed its existence to Russian and Soviet generosity. Before the Soviet Union’s formation, he said, northern Kazakhstan was uninhabited and Kazakhstan “simply did not exist as a country.” Obviously, this provoked a backlash from Russia’s neighbor. The Kazakh Foreign Ministry sent a note of protest to Russia, but Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev went a step further on Tuesday, publishing an article in which he called for restraint in the face of those who question Kazakhstan’s territorial integrity. Kazakhs must, however, be “ready to defend the national interest” by any means necessary, Tokayev wrote. Bottom Line: The dispute is basically over but won’t soon be forgotten by Kazakhs. Nor is Russia done with it. Moscow wants to prove that it has the right to claim more from Kazakhstan than just friendly relations, especially at a time when its large neighbor is increasingly pursuing its own foreign policy […]

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