Gazprom has played out with gas prices, which accidentally or deliberately provoked protests in Kazakhstan. The gas processing plant in Zhanaozen and the Gazprom plant in Orenburg are the two main gas sellers in Kazakhstan, where it holds 80% of the automotive fuel market. Since January 1, the government of Kazakhstan has refused to regulate the price for it and both sellers have doubled the price, motivating this by the desire to raise it to the world level. More precisely, to the level of prices in Orenburg and in the Russian Federation.
Gazprom’s interest in this seems to be obvious, but not unambiguous. Until January 1, the difference between the selling price of Gazprom and the retail price in Kazakhstan was covered by the government from the state budget. In principle, Gazprom should be indifferent to who pays this margin – the government of Kazakhstan, as it has been doing for years, or consumers directly. Hypothetically, Gazprom could lose a little money from this innovation in a vague perspective, if we assume that its competitor in Zhanaozen would set a lower price and gas processing plants in Kazakhstan would start to mushroom after a rain on the crest of high prices. But this is closer to science fiction.
In addition to Gazprom, there is also a political leadership in the Russian Federation that lives in the Kremlin, and after 2014 it is increasingly saying that not only Ukraine, but Kazakhstan has never existed and that these are primordially Russian lands. He also speaks with the mouth of Putin, which more than once caused indignant answers from Astana, both before its renaming into Nursultan, and after the renaming.
For the Kremlin, this innovation with the price of gas fit well with Kazakhstan’s tie to Russia within the framework of its Eurasian Union, better known in Ukraine as the “Taiga Union”. This innovation eliminated the economic border between Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation, tied it to it on favorable terms for Moscow, and in the future Gazprom could build a couple of more gas processing plants there and become a monopoly.
The situation with the price of gas in Kazakhstan is similar to how Lukashenka butts the Kremlin so that Gazprom would sell gas to Belarus at $ 70 per cubic meter, as in Smolensk, and not fraternally for $ 140 or more. He has been butting for a long time, but has achieved nothing but discounts of $ 20-30 in exchange for surrendering sovereignty in portions. Now the Kazakhs, following the Ukrainians and Europeans, were able to see firsthand how gas can work as a weapon of Russian imperialism.
It is still difficult to say unequivocally whether Moscow only wanted to subjugate Kazakhstan even more or was hatching a plan of an operation to overthrow the government there by a sharp one-time increase in the price of autogas and its replacement with a government that would agree that Kazakhstan is, if not originally Russian land, then something close to her. There were probably such plans, since the price increase could have been stretched out in time to avoid the expected protests. In Kazakhstan, with its distances, a car is literally a means of transportation, not a luxury. Why the government of Kazakhstan did not take this into account is a mystery.
Perhaps the money came from the Gazprom lobby, or perhaps someone in it wanted a change of power.
Indirectly, the possibility of such plans in the “towers” of the Kremlin is indicated by the statement of Vadim Chaban, the head of the Moldovan “subsidiary” of “Gazprom”, which appeared on January 6. He said that from January 10, the selling price of gas for Moldova will increase, but clarified that it is too early to talk about an increase in tariffs for the population. His idea in Moscow was developed by a Gazprom official Sergei Kupriyanov, who said that Gazprom could stop supplying gas to Moldova if it does not pay for it in advance. The government of Maia Sandu is a bone in the Kremlin’s throat, and they are clearly trying to overthrow it with a sharp increase in gas prices. Secondary imperial media in the Russian Federation are already dreaming about it. This should not be considered impromptu, inspired by Kazakhstan, since the idea of changing the government of Ukraine with the help of Gazprom has been repeatedly voiced in the Russian media and in the State Duma since 2005.
It is significant that Gazprom’s information foray into Moldova took place two days after Sandu held an urgent meeting of the Supreme Security Council on January 4 on where to get gas and money. It is also indicative that the price increase for Moldova was timed by Gazprom to coincide with the day of the start of negotiations in Geneva between the United States and the Russian Federation. But even before the events in Kazakhstan, Gazprom suddenly turned on the transit of gas to the Balkans through Ukraine from January 1, which was stopped in March 2021. Throughout 2021, it transported gas to the Balkans and Moldova only through Turkey, and suddenly such a change in policy was the background of the fact that from January 1, “Gazprom” began to smoothly reduce transit through Ukraine to Slovakia.
The Kremlin and Gazprom seem to have begun quietly preparing for a major conflict with Turkey over Ukraine and Syria since January 1. Now Kazakhstan is added to them after the introduction of the CSTO troops into it. The statements in the last days of December by the Turkish Foreign Ministry about assistance to Ukraine in the event of a new invasion of it by Russian troops were followed by large-scale bombing of Idlib by Russian aviation and sorties of Assad’s troops, which died down only by January 2. Turkey responded to them “asymmetrically” – not in Idlib, but with powerful artillery strikes on the other bank of the Euphrates against Kurdish units cooperating with the Russian Federation.
On the same days, ISIS from the part of Syria controlled by Assad launched two ballistic missiles somewhere beyond the Euphrates through the territory controlled by detachments of Syrian Democrats, Kurds and the United States. Then ISIS posted a video on the Internet, where it boasted that it still had such missiles made in the Russian Federation. The Ministry of War of the Russian Federation stated to this that it did not supply ISIS missiles and that he himself took them away from the Russian army in Syria. It seems like they dissociated themselves, but clumsily, since it turned out that ISIS, twice or three times destroyed cleanly by Russia, not only did not disappear anywhere, but also took missiles from its army. Therefore, from January 3 to 5, the shelling of the Konko oil fields beyond the Euphrates was no longer engaged by ISIS, but by Assad’s army and Shiite detachments associated with Iran. Because of the Euphrates, they also flew in response, including in the form of US strike drones. Nothing comes close since the Battle of Raqqa.
These hostilities and Gazprom’s resumption of transit to the Balkans through Ukraine, which it hates so much, point to the Kremlin’s preparations for a serious conflict with Turkey. Now tension in relations between Moscow and Ankara will add, as Gazprom and the Kremlin have “woken up” Kazakhstan on their heads.
Namely: the recognition of Crimea as a part of the Russian Federation, giving the Russian language in Kazakhstan the status of a second state language, the deployment of military bases of the Russian Federation and the creation of Russian autonomies.
But things didn’t go according to plan. Protests turned into uprisings, and those turned into revolution. Nazarbayev, with whom the Kremlin planned to negotiate, left in English, without saying goodbye to anyone. Wise, but not perfect.
The status of “father of the nation”, which he entrusted to himself, obliged Nazarbayev to make a televised address to the people, once again say goodbye to everyone after leaving the presidency in 2019, and bless the coming changes. This would be not only a strong and beautiful step, but also practical, since Nazarbayev would essentially sanction the revolution. Such a move could drastically reduce the number of shootings and send the struggle between the business-bureaucratic clans on a more calm track. But the world is not perfect, and neither is Nazarbayev. If we use the Ukrainian parallels, then Nazarbayev is Leonid Kuchma, who was told by the Constitutional Court that 1 + 1 = 1, and you can stay for one more term. Kuchma did not do this, but Nazarbayev did and remained president for the third, fourth and subsequent terms. He stayed until he got tired of it. In the profession of a politician, it is important to leave on time and do something else, but few people understand this.
For thirty years, the Nazarbayev government was afraid of only three things: Russia, China and the Salafis. Therefore, Kazakhstan is the only Muslim country where the “Koran” is published with cuts. The Soviet experience of removing awkward paragraphs from the sacred texts of Marxism had an effect. Nazarbayev’s entourage never believed that the United States, NATO, the CIA and some other abbreviations would make a “color revolution” in Kazakhstan, as they are now talking about in Moscow. Probably, even now in Kazakhstan no one believes in this, except for some of the old Russian colonists. The Nazarbayev authorities did not take seriously even the Irish Trotskyists, who made trade unions in Kazakhstan with an eye to the world revolution. The authors of the articles about this in the Russian media hardly believe in the Poles, who have allegedly arranged it now.
The idea of a “Polish trace” is based only on the fact that the well-known Belarusian telegram channel NEXTA in Poland describes the protests in Kazakhstan in a positive way. The theme – “the headquarters of the Kazakh revolution is in Kiev”, was launched from Paris through “Echo of Moscow” by the banker-emigrant Mukhtar Ablyazov, affiliated with the special services of the Russian Federation. Ablyazov is trying to become the same spoiler of this revolution as Oleg Lyashko was in the Ukrainian revolution. But Andrei Parubiy does not exactly teach Kazakhs in Kiev how to drive the stakes of tents into the asphalt so that they are not blown away by the wind, and Petro Poroshenko certainly does not finance these courses.
The revolution in Kazakhstan began because of the political short-sightedness of his government, because of the greed of Gazprom, because of the imperial intrigues of Moscow and because it had to start sooner or later. Kazakhstan has been technologically and mentally modernized for 30 years, and these changes inevitably had to come into conflict with the archaic authoritarian-clan political and social system. As always, no one can predict the moment when such a conflict will enter an acute phase, but it is known that it is inevitable. It is even more difficult to say how the changes will take place, since all known revolutions develop in zigzags, which is why the revolution is not a quick thing. Of course, if you do not pass off as her some kind of counter-revolutionary coup, like what the Bolsheviks did in 1917, who themselves did not understand well what they were doing and the consequences of their actions.
Revolutions have two driving forces – the liberal reformers from the ruling classes and the democratic reformers of their subordinate classes. The relationship between these two forces can be very different – from restrained competition to armed struggle. In addition, within each of them there is usually a wide range of moderate and radical groups.
Conservative and reactionary forces also do not disappear overnight, they are also not homogeneous, they are also rarely united in everything to the point of being monolithic, and not always, unfortunately, suffer from a lack of creativity. To this should be added the near-political marauders, foreign intervention and a wide layer of useless idiots waiting for the emergence of a social “perpetual motion machine” where change coexists with stability.
As a result, revolutions, as the sum of all these vectors, have no choice but to advance in zigzags and jerks. They manage to achieve the greatest progress only when liberals and democrats act in a more or less coordinated manner, spoilers are cut off, and no one is trying, like the Jacobins or the Bolsheviks, to “eat” or convert everyone to their faith. For this, liberals from the “top” and democrats from the “bottom” should start a dialogue from the very beginning of the revolution, and the sooner, the better for both. A textbook example is the American Revolution, where the Republican Party still occupies the niche of liberals.
Too little time has passed since the beginning of the revolution in Kazakhstan and there is not much information about it that could give a complete picture. So far, one thing is certain – President Kassym-Jomarat Tokayev is becoming a center of attraction for liberal reformers from the ruling groups and is trying to establish contacts with democrats from the “street” if the news about negotiations between his emissaries and protesters in Aktau and Zhanaozen is correct. The question is how much he will be able to cope with this mission and, in general, keep the situation under control. His words about 180 days of calm for the start of reforms and early parliamentary elections indicate movement in the right direction. He is an acceptable figure for moderate conservatives, as a guarantor against spontaneous acts of retaliation, civil war, wars of semi-criminal business structures, ordinary looting and the “creativity” of the Russian special services.
It is possible that most of the shootings in Almaty were organized by the special services of the Russian Federation using local semi-criminal groups, just as they tried to do in 2014 in Ukraine. Moscow, through Ablyazov, offers to urgently replace the interim government appointed by Tokayev with an interim government of the National Trust from veterans of resistance to Nazarbayev and some authoritative people. Of course, Ablyazov sees himself in him in the first roles. The slogan of such a government was popular in many revolutions, but in the case of Kazakhstan, there are almost no such authoritative real structures and opinion leaders. All resistance is only a week old. This is not even the three months that the siege of the Yanukovych regime by Maidanists lasted, and Kazakhstan does not have such a long history of political struggle as Ukraine had by 2014. In this, Kazakhstan is closer to the USSR during the 1989 elections, when it first began something akin to mass political life emerge.
Calls to urgently replace Tokayev’s government with a government of national confidence, coming from sources close to the Kremlin, are suspicious: Moscow is not happy with Tokayev and wants to eliminate him. This suspicion is supported by an obvious fake, which Simonyan disperses, that Tokayev, in exchange for the introduction of CSTO troops, allegedly agreed to the four conditions she named. If the Kremlin really had such an agreement, then it certainly would not advertise it, so as not to provoke indignation among the Kazakhs, not to discredit Tokayev in their eyes and not to spoil the whole game for itself. Since the fake Simonyan is replicated by all the Russian media, including “foreign agents”, this means only one thing – the Kremlin does not have such an agreement with Tokayev.
Tokayev, inviting the CSTO troops, made an interesting and strong, but risky move. De facto, he invited Russian paratroopers to shoot Russian agents on the streets of Almaty. To resolve this interesting situation, Patrushev rushed urgently. With this move, Tokayev also broke two more scenarios for the Kremlin. The Kremlin can no longer bring crowds out onto the streets with the slogan “Putin, bring in the troops.” It is also difficult for the Kremlin to launch the scenario of “people’s Russian republics” in the north of Kazakhstan, since in this case it loses the territory to the south of them, where basically all minerals are mined. The Kremlin will receive only one-industry towns for their processing, which have nothing to process. No matter how much you call the north of Kazakhstan the south of Siberia, it is economically tied to Kazakhstan, not to it. The same Orenburg gas processing plant takes gas from Kazakhstan.
At this stage, Tokayev clearly outplayed Putin and, it seems, he sat down at the “chessboard” for a long time. The Kremlin understands this, why the Russian media do not see joy from the introduction of the CSTO troops, and they try not to emphasize this news, leaving its analysis to the Gazprom media group and various “foreign agents”. Tokayev in the Kazakh revolution can play the same unifying role that Poroshenko played in the Ukrainian revolution at its first stage, preventing a civil war to the Kremlin’s chagrin. Now the Kremlin is forced to develop new scenarios for Kazakhstan, rather than using copies of old scenarios for Ukraine.