Russia has proven that it knows how to be a master of distraction and how to take advantage of ethnic cleavages, bolster hardline nationalist politicians, and complicate the region’s lagging reform agendas.
Given Ukraine’s successful counterattack, the fighting there isn’t going Russia’s way. Nor is the gas supply situation in Europe nearly as grim as Russian propaganda makes out. In these circumstances, Putin finds he does not have so many ways of putting pressure on the West at his disposal. Threatening to torpedo the grain deal is one of his few remaining options.
The war in Ukraine has enabled Kazakhstan’s Tokayev to reinvent himself as a truly independent figure, no longer reliant on either his predecessor Nazarbayev or Russia’s Putin. Now Tokayev hopes to cement this status by securing a popular mandate to rule.
It’s true that Ukraine’s oligarchs corrupted the Ukrainian state and undermined effective reform and development, preventing it from escaping from its post-Soviet stagnation. But they were also a key protective mechanism against anyone else usurping power.
In the Kremlin’s logic, resource-rich Russia is in a better position to weather the crisis than other countries. Therefore, Moscow should seize opportunities to create crises not only on the gas market, but on the oil market too.
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