The President of Kazakhstan, Kasym-Żomart Tokayev, announced that the withdrawal of the Collective Security Treaty Organization troops from his country will begin on Thursday. Meanwhile, analysts were cautious in forecasting when a unit retirement might occur. An expert from the Center for Eastern Studies commented that there were “two variants” on the table, one of which assumed the situation as “unstable” and the extension of the military operation under Russian leadership.
“The organized withdrawal of the ODKB peace contingent begins tomorrow. I held talks with the leaders of the countries. I would like to express my appreciation to the contingent’s command for the work done during these few days. The mere presence of the ODKB contingent in Kazakhstan, including Almaty, played a very important role in terms of stabilization. situation in our country “- stated President Kasym-Żomart Tokayev, quoted by his press office.
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According to him, the presence of the Collective Security Treaty Organization was of great psychological importance for the fight against the aggression of “terrorists and bandits”. “The mission is assessed as very successful” – he noted.
Russian general Andrei Serdyukov, who commands the stabilization mission, had announced earlier that the more than 2,000-strong contingent would remain in Kazakhstan “until the situation is fully stabilized” in that country.
Military mission in Kazakhstan. When will it end?
Experts had previously discussed when the Collective Security Treaty Organization troops might withdraw from Kazakhstan. – Two variants are possible. Or indeed, according to declarations, this mission will end in a short time. The second version is that the situation will be formally recognized as unstable and the stay of the troops will be extended – assessed Krzysztof Strachota from the Center for Eastern Studies in Warsaw.
– In the face of the chaos that prevailed especially in the south of the country – including the largest and richest Almaty – the introduction of these forces was perceived rather with relief. We have all seen these pictures – the burning of the akimat (seats of local authorities – ed.), Looting, pogroms. From the point of view of the inhabitants, these were events that threatened their immediate safety, says Gaziz Abishhev, a Kazakh analyst.
As he adds, “the protests and their scale, as well as – from some point of time – brutality – came as a surprise to the law enforcement apparatus and showed its inability to respond adequately”. – I think that the social expectation is that when the tasks set for the ODKB contingent are completed, these forces will leave Kazakhstan – said Abishhev.
The US wants troops to withdraw “at the first request” of Kazakhstan’s authorities
While the authorities in Kazakhstan talked about the conspiracy and coup plans controlled from abroad, as well as about “20,000 armed fighters” who were to attack key facilities, including in the capital, Western experts saw in the Moscow-led “peace mission” also an element of geopolitical gameplay, which may lead to a longer stay of Russian troops in Kazakhstan.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday that the US is demanding the withdrawal of Collective Security Treaty Organization (ODKB) forces from Kazakhstan “at the first request of the country’s authorities”. The Americans are also calling for the president’s instructions to shoot without orders to be withdrawn.
ODKB operation in Kazakhstan
At the request of President Kasym-Żomart Tokayev, on January 6, over 2,000 troops from Russia, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus arrived in Kazakhstan. According to the announcements, these forces have, among others, ensure the protection of key administrative and military facilities.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization (Russian: ODKB, Polish: CSTO) is a military-political bloc created after the collapse of the USSR, which includes, apart from Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Composed of the so-called of the ODKB peace mission to Kazakhstan, among others, Russian airborne units. Belarus sent a company of peacekeepers from the airborne brigade to this Central Asian state. Kyrgyzstan sent about 150 special forces soldiers, Armenia – 100 of its military, and Tajikistan – about 200-strong battalion of troops.
Analysts on the position of President Tokayev
After the protests in Kazakhstan, analysts also referred to the very figure of the president, Kasym-Żomart Tokajew. Until recently, he was a junior partner in the tandem ruling Kazakhstan, in which the previous president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who ruled for almost 30 years, played the first fiddle. The now 69-year-old Tokayev formally took the highest position in the state in 2019, when 81-year-old Nazarbayev launched the process of transferring power following the death of the president of neighboring Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov in 2016.
The think tank Carnegie in Moscow emphasized that Nazarbayev’s situation in Uzbekistan prompted the initiation of a controlled transfer of power, where even before Karimov died, one of his daughters was arrested and is currently serving a long sentence, while the other has disposed of all local assets and is not showing up in the country .
The first step was to appoint Nazarbayev’s most trusted associate, Karym Masimov, who previously headed the government and presidential administration, as head of the National Security Committee, that is, the security services. Masimov, however, as Carnegie pointed out, could not be a candidate for the presidency due to prejudice against him. According to the public, he is not a pure-blooded Kazac, but an Uighur. Instead, he was an ideal person to oversee the transfer of power as head of secret services.
After long hesitation, Nazarbayev chose Tokayev as his successor, who had spent many years abroad as a diplomat, but had no political background in the power structures, so he was not a threat to Nazarbayev.
Following his resignation as president, Nazarbayev retained power both formally and informally. The status of the first independent president of Kazakhstan ensured him personal security, and as the head of the Security Council, he could not only set the strategic direction of Kazakhstan’s policy, but also veto the decisions of his successor. This model seemed to work until Nazarbayev’s deteriorating health began to shift the center of power towards Tokayev. Over the past two years, Nazarbayev has appeared in public only very sporadically, and he was clearly weak.
The recent protests have become a pretext for Tokayev to eliminate this dualism of power. He first dismissed the government led by Nazarbayev’s close associate Askar Mamin, then announced that he would head the Security Council himself instead of Nazarbayev. He delivered the final blow on January 5, firing Masimov and appointing Ermek Sagimbayev the head of the National Security Committee. Subsequently, Masimov was arrested and charged with high treason, as he allegedly was preparing an attempt to seize power and overthrow Tokayev.
Main photo source: PAP / EPA / RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY PRESS SERVICE