Kazakhstan and the CSTO: Putin Calmly Reads the Riot Act
Putin Reads the Riot Act
[Image: Kazakh President Tokayev. Source Eurasianet.org]
Publication date: 2022-02-11
Update 2022-01-13: added to sources the best as yet analysis of the genesis and management of the coup by Pepe Escobar. Highly recommended. Also added a short biography of Tokayev.
Update 2022-01-16: improving the text for clarity.
Overall, the acute phase of the counter-terror operation is over. The situation is stable in all regions. Due to that, I am stating that the main mission of the CSTO peacekeeping forces has been successfully completed. A gradual pullout of the CSTO united peacekeeping contingent will begin in two days. The process of the contingent’s withdrawal will take no more than 10 days.
The attempts of a state coup, attempts on the country’s territorial integrity have failed. We’ve defended Almaty and other regional centers together, as a single nation. They will be restored as soon as possible.
In a number of cities, National Security Committee department heads abandoned the premises without engaging in combat, leaving weapons and classified documents there, despite having sufficient combat arsenal.
The unity of our society has been systematically undermined, including through protest actions, according to professionally developed scenarios. The preparation of specific executors of radical measures was carried out secretly. The National Security Committee, as an authorized body, was unable and unwilling to give a clear assessment of this subversive work and did not discern a critical threat to national security.
We will have to reorganize the operation of our armed forces, law enforcement, national security agencies, foreign intelligence. All of them must work in coordination in the name of one goal: most efficient protection of our citizens, our constitutional order, and sovereignty under threat of any nature and scale.
To this can be added that former Prime Minister and until recently member of the Kazakh Security Committee and head of the intelligence service, Massimov, has been charged with treason.
The picture that has emerged is that three facets were combined to create the coup attempt. The first is a rift between former "First President" Nazarbayev and his supporters and new President Tokayev. The former president and his supporters held significant positions in the country's security forces and appear to have either aided and abetted the escalation of the protests into a coup, or deliberately done very little to respond to that change in events.
The second element is the political and socio-economic situation in Kazakhstan. Various opposition political parties have been outlawed. The profits of the sale of national resources (energy etc.) have not been delivered to the people but largely taken by an entrenched leadership. Then, the neo-liberal economic "reform" of removing price caps on LNG lead to price doubling which sparked the protests.
Thirdly, the protests were rapidly transformed into a violent uprising with quite specific plans for the capture of airports, arsenals, television stations and government building. This indicates that those executing these plans were already in the country and the plans were already known. This was as organic as a sniper rifle.
CSTO Leadership Meeting
The 1992 founded Collective Security Organisation which had responded to a formal request from the Kazakh leadership for assistance, dealing with the violence escalated out of the fuel protests, had an emergency meeting to consider the status of the situation. Statements by Tokayev above indicate the Kazakh position. The Kremlin has published a transcript of the public part of the meeting, which is listed with all other sources, as usual, in Sources below. If, reader, you have the time, I highly recommend reading the entire transcript. Below are provided what the author considers more informative of the nature of events and the political outlook amongst the CSTO members.
Kazakh President Tokayev begins by thanking his interlocutors for their support. He acknowledges that this is the first use of CSTO's peacekeeping agreement, and mentions that a day of mourning is in effect in Kazakhstan, the reasons for which he lays out, including 16 dead among law enforcement and military with 1 300 injuries, not to mention widespread destruction of government property, damage to over 1 000 businesses and an as yet uncounted number of civilian deaths and injuries. He goes on to summarize the nature of the events as the protests escalated into an insurrection despite the government having already responded to the fuel price increase by reverting it, and dismissing the cabinet: [Emphasis in all quotes below are mine]
But it no longer mattered for the organisers of this aggression against Kazakhstan. Spontaneous rallies were used as a pretext for provoking civil unrest. Religious radicals, criminals, outright thugs, looters and petty hooligans filled the streets as if on cue. Socio-economic and socio-political demands were put on the back burner, they were forgotten. Next followed the hot phase, and armed fighters, who were biding their time, took over.
The main goal of these events became clear – to undermine the constitutional system, destroy governance institutions and seize power. It is obvious now that these armed activities were coordinated from a single centre, and the carefully planned operation entered its decisive phase.
Proof of this is provided by the simultaneous – I repeat, simultaneous – attacks on the buildings of regional governments, law enforcement agencies, pretrial detention centres, strategic facilities, banks, the TV tower and television channels. They seized airports, blocked motorways and railway lines and hindered the operation of ambulances and fire-fighters.
During attacks on military units and checkpoints, the thugs attempted to seize weapons and military equipment. Real fighting went on in Almaty and several other cities. For example, the attack on the Interior Ministry department in Almaty went on for two nights. The police repelled the attacks. Seven armourers’ shops were seized in Almaty alone. These attacks were staged by trained professionals, including snipers armed with special rifles.
The terrorists used special communication equipment and wore military and police uniforms. They cynically used the protesters as human shields. Using their five-fold superiority in terms of numbers, the thugs attacked our police and military personnel, beating them up with extreme brutality, decapitating two of them. There were barbarous attacks on hospitals.
I can tell you in all certainty that terrorists, including foreign fighters, were directly involved in the aggression against Kazakhstan. It was not a coincidence that the criminals attacked morgues at night to collect and drive away with the corpses of their dead accomplices. They also took the corpses of fighters from the battlefield. We know what kind of international terrorists do this: this is how they cover up their tracks. It is obvious that they want to sow chaos in our country to seize power.
Secretary General of the CSTO Stanislav Zas delivers an update on the method of deployment, response and effectiveness of the CSTO peacekeeping forces. Notably, this was a first case use of the capability and quite a few things needed to be done very rapidly. He notes:
UN Security Council via the UN Secretary General were informed of what was being done, as were the OSCE (European Security Council equivalent) and the SCO
Russian Federation Colonel-General Andrei Serdyukov was appointed commander of these forces, dominantly from Russia, but also from Belarus, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
Cooperation with the Kazakh security forces were excellent; "we live and accomplish our tasks as one family"
Force Commander Serdyukov informs the CSTO that "there are no problems that would need to be addressed at the heads of state level"
While debriefs and "lessons learned" will be undertaken, for now the conclusion is that the CSTO's peacekeeping mechanism "really works and is suitable for achieving the set goals"
A statement was made to the meeting by Russian Federation President Putin. Selected passages from that statement are worthy of additional consideration.
We view our joint actions as extremely timely and absolutely legitimate. The CSTO forces arrived in Kazakhstan following a formal request from the republic’s leadership and strictly in keeping with Article 4 of the Collective Security Treaty of 1992. Under this article, in the event of aggression against any of the member states, all other countries shall immediately provide the affected member state, at its request, the necessary assistance and support, including military assistance. We have been witnessing an international terrorist aggression. Where did these armed groups come from? It is obvious that they were trained in foreign camps and acquired combat experience in hotspots around the world.
Part one is about telling western media establishments, and in particular, USA Secretary of State Blinken to put a sock in it with regards to their rubbish about this being illegal or that once the Russians come its hard to get rid of them.
Part two is about the origins of the violent insurrectionists, trained in foreign camps and acquiring combat experience in hotspots internationally. Earlier, Belorussian President Lukashenko had labeled all of this with "Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and Afghanistan".
Colleagues, it is very important that our countries’ service personnel train under common programmes, and that they are issued standard or compatible weapons, equipment and communications systems.
We streamlined the deployment of peacekeepers during joint regular exercises. This was done for example during the CSTO’s recent Indestructible Brotherhood exercise, organised with due account of Russian service personnel’s combat experience in Syria. The exercise highlighted the impressive combat training levels, professionalism and cohesion of our service personnel and their ability to quickly accomplish counter-terrorism tasks and to protect the civilian population. It was precisely these purposeful joint combat training activities of CSTO countries’ forces that made it possible to promptly deploy peacekeepers to Kazakhstan and to ensure their most effective performance.
While these statements are to the CSTO meeting, they are also to the "west". Russia’s "soft underbelly" is littered with states in the Caucuses and the central Asian republics which have a sizable populations which adhere to the peaceful religion of Islam but which does have perverse violent extremist elements which have been used since at least 1979 during the fomented civil war in Afghanistan. These elements have been supported by western intelligence agencies and some of the more authoritarian religious extremists governments, like Saudi Arabia, for decades from the Caucuses, to the Middle East and into the 'Stans. Russia knows this. China knows this, and it seems that the 'Stans are now being forced to wake up to just how effective a destabilizing force they can be, as if the Syrian proxy war was not enough warning.
Of course, we understand that the events in Kazakhstan are not the first and certainly not the last attempt to interfere in the domestic affairs of our states from outside. I agree with the President of Belarus on this. The measures taken by the CSTO clearly show that we will not allow anyone to stir up trouble at home and will not permit the realisation of another so-called colour revolution scenario.
Putin nods to Lukashenko for his service in allowing Putin to not have to name names, but puts his cygnet ring on the hot wax with "so-called colour revolution scenario".
An interesting note by Putin:
I would like to note the bravery with which the President of Kazakhstan faced these events and took charge of the counteraction, consolidated society, the security forces and citizens of his country in order to confront the external terrorists.
Mercouris believes that this refers to threats on Tokayev's life as apparently had been made on Lukashenko's during the recent failed coup against Belarus. I see no reason to doubt this, and will comment on it below.
The President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, addresses the meeting, and singles out "Salafi movement and Wahhabism" as threats. He is particularly concerned with developments in Afghanistan:
The invigorated activities of international terrorist groups in Afghanistan are directly affecting the CSTO collective security zone. We know that thousands of their members have been released from prisons in Afghanistan since late August. They were members of ISIS, al-Qaeda, Ansarullah,Hizb ut-Tahrir, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, to name a few. Since then, they have stepped up their activities and strengthened their combat and subversion potential. We are seriously concerned about the consolidation of positions by ISIS militants, especially in Khorasan Province.
President Lukashenko mentioned that the situation at the Tajik-Afghan border is becoming more complicated every day. Taliban members are fighting each other along the border. In the past few weeks, approximately 11 of them were killed and more than 18 were wounded in just one section. Therefore, we must create a “security belt” around Afghanistan.
A Developing Picture
Some parts of the story behind the escalation of civil protest to armed insurgency are clearer. I was initially suspect of the claims of trained Islamist terrorists, but this is a clear and consistent message being delivered. The attacks on morgues to remove bodies is particularly distasteful, as are the beheadings of police officers. President Tokayev has made a number of factual statements about what was attacked, how many deaths and injuries to law enforcement or military personnel and that many attacks occurred simultaneously across the country. These statements exist to be disproved if they are erroneous or misleading. I see no reason for Tokayev to mislead either the meeting or the public on this matter, and so take them at face value.
He emphasizes the term "simultaneous". The use of Internet messaging platforms to coordinate the activities of insurrectionists is another theme. Thus, at least one part, if not a major part, of the activities were coordinated. As Tokayev states:
It is obvious now that these armed activities were coordinated from a single centre.
While it seems likely that there was extensive looting and other opportunistic activities by criminals or ne'er-do-wells, these are not the focus of the investigation currently under way in Kazakhstan. Reportedly 8 000 people are currently detained in Kazakhstan to get to the bottom of all of this. Civil protesters do not block railway lines or capture airports. There can be no doubt that this was an armed insurrection, and I see no reason to doubt the claims by Tokayev and the other members of the CSTO leadership that leading elements were foreign trained.
Tokayev, born 1953 in Almaty, was trained in Russia as a diplomat, studied Mandarin and worked for the Russian Foreign Service for many years. He was present in their Chinese embassy during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. He is fluent in Kazakh, Russian and Mandarin. His mother worked at the Almaty Institute of Foreign Languages. His father was a well known Kazakh author (detective fiction) and a veteran of WWII (known as the Great Patriotic War in Russia) fighting in the Red Army. Tokayev was named after his uncle who died in the very important though failed Battles of Rzhev, which were pretty much the end of the winter/early spring 1942 efforts of the Red Army’s counter-attack against the attempted Nazi conquest of Moscow.
After leaving the Russian Foreign Service he served in the Kazakh government moving through the ranks Deputy Foreign Minister, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Director-General of the U.N. Office at Geneva during which periods he played leading roles in the disarmament processes between the USA and the USSR. As mentioned he was selected by Nazarbyev as his successor as President (and won the national vote).
The wikipedia article on him, like all articles with a political tinge and wikipedia, seems reliable about factual information.
Putin's use of the term "bravery" to describe Tokayev's response to the situation and the invocation of Article 4 of the CSTO treaty to call for assistance, if Mercouris is correct in that it refers to threats on his life as per Lukashenko, create quite a new atmosphere. The CSTO membership are now starkly aware of the threats being lined up against them. They have responded collectively and rapidly to the situation based on the Kazakh request, and under Russian leadership have effectively put down an insurrection lead by foreign trained and probably coordinated forces.
Again, the timing of this to occur over the Russian Orthodox celebration of Christmas points to the Islamic extremists but also to attempts to catch Kazakhstan and Russia off guard. The attempt failed miserably.
The internal Kazakh security forces which were disloyal by either removing security forces from the Almaty Airport, or leaving government facilities abandoned, will be dealt with in the harshest of manners. Mr Massimov's treason charges are likely to be just the first of many.
While neither Russia nor China would have wished for the deaths and destruction delivered to Kazakhstan, their objectives of unifying the central Asian republics have been given a shot of adrenaline. While one may cynically say that Putin's call for the use of common or compatible weapons and communications equipment is just a boon for Russia's military industrial complex, you would be fool to hold that view. This is about effective collective security, and right now, all of the members of the CSTO are staring into that reality, resolutely. Two of them have recently withstood foreign trained and/or coordinated coups and have received death threats in the process.
If, as it seems, this was a foreign attempt to destabilize the Russian and Chinese plan to create an economically unified Asia, it has failed, and failed utterly.
Forewarned, is forearmed.
This newsletter has been noting for some time how China and Russia learned much from their abstaining on the UN Security Council vote on the “no fly zone” over Libya in 2011, and even more during and after the “Maidan” coup in Ukraine in 2014. Russia’s efforts in rebuilding her military capacity were significantly bolstered when she agreed to assist Syria in resisting the foreign trained and funded terrorists trying to overthrow al’Assad’s government. New military systems were tested in battle, soldiers got field experience and intelligence services learned how these types of religious extremist forces act. All of this was echoed in Russia and China’s support for the Taliban in Afghanistan. It was contingent on dealing with religious extremism.
Neither Russia, nor China will put up with this continued use of reactionary forces to destabilize governments. The playbook is known. Neither National Endowment for Democracy or British Foreign and Commonwealth Office funded NGO’s to fuel political dissent, nor foreign trained extremist mercenaries, will be permitted to undermine their or collaborative neighboring states. Intelligence services and parliaments will counter the first, and well trained, equipped and led national military services will counter the second. The tried western “economic sanctions” have already been acknowledged as ineffective.
We have reached “Fortress Asia” with cooperative governments, effective military and diplomatic intelligence, advanced weaponry, battle hardened military forces, and sufficient economic and resource independence.
Note to readers: Some sources are provided to give evidence to justify facts, while others are given because they provide interesting context and often analysis that differs from that expressed in the preceding article. I leave it to you to decide which is which, and hope that you appreciate the diverse sources which are provided.
Pullout of CSTO troops from Kazakhstan to begin in two days — Tokayev, Tass, 2022-01-11
Tokayev: CSTO peacekeepers to withdraw from Kazakhstan in 10 days, ARKA News Agency, 2022-01-11
Kazakhstan president claims coup attempt, Eurasia Net, 2022-01-10
Session of CSTO Collective Security Council, transcript, Kremlin, 2022-01-10
Putin Confirms Russia Will Act to Stop Color Revolutions, Calls for CSTO Military Integration, Alexander Mercouris, his youtube channel, 2022-01-10
US-Russia Talks May Be the Last Chance, Tony Kevin, Consortium News, 2022-01-09
What War With Russia Would Look Like, Scott Ritter, Consortium News, 2022-01-10
US war lobby fuels conflict in Russia, Ukraine, and Syria: ex-Pentagon advisor, Aaron Mate interviews USA ex-Colonel Douglas McGregor on Pushback, The Grayzone, 2022-01-05
After Kazakhstan, the Color Revolution Era Is Over, Pepe Escobar, Unz Review, 2022-01-21
Dedicated to a Grumpy Old Friend for their encouragement and constructive criticism.
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