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After Kazakhstan, how will Russia escalate in Ukraine?

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hey everybody, Ian Bremmer here and kicking off the week with some excitement in Kazakhstan and the beginning of the most important bilateral negotiations the US is going to have in some time with the Russians.

First I'll start off on Kazakhstan. It was a surprise to everyone, certainly the Kremlin to find out that suddenly what had started as worker demonstrations that got violent very fast, because fuel prices went up significantly with the Kazakh government, suddenly became nationwide and very violent. And the special forces, the interior forces were basically standing aside. Looks like this... Yes, there's a lot of anger with corruption. There's a lot of anger with a state that's unresponsive to the economic needs of its people. But there was also major elite infighting and Nazarbayev, the former president, the still leader of the Kazakh people, got the short end of the stick. Tried to make a move against Tokayev, failed. His head of intelligence has been removed and arrested. Dozens of Nazarbayev connected oligarchs have fled the country.

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Kazakhstan & The West Wing in a G-Zero world

The popular 2000s American political drama TV series The West Wing is famous for, among other things, its mostly accurate — albeit idealized — portrayal of the inner workings of US foreign policy. In the final season, outgoing President Jed Bartlet deploys American peacekeepers to stop a war between Russia and China over unrest in… Kazakhstan.

Right now, the Central Asian country is reeling from the worst political turmoil since it broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991. But the current crisis is so far playing out quite differently from the TV war script — in a world that’s a lot more G-Zero than it was in 2006.

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What We’re Watching: Russians in another Stan, Djokovic drama, Mali sanctions, Europe vs anti-vaxxers

Russia in Kazakhstan. Anti-government clashes in Kazakhstan have gotten increasingly violent, with the death toll now reaching 164 after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev issued a controversial “shoot without warning” order on Friday. What started as a demonstration against a fuel price hike has since turned into a movement protesting government corruption and authoritarianism — with regional implications. Enter Russia, which responded to the pro-Russia Tokayev’s request for help with about 2,500 “peacekeeping” troops and future deployments being planned under the aegis of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the former Soviet Union’s version of NATO. This comes as Moscow has recently amassed 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine. The Russians will on Monday start talks with NATO and the US about the ongoing situation with Ukraine, but also discuss enhancing security plans with Kazakhstan, whose northern territory is claimed by Moscow. Russia has been clear about what it wants in Ukraine — for NATO to stop expanding further eastward into the former Soviet states. But what does Vladimir Putin want exactly in Kazakhstan, one of the region’s most energy-rich countries?

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Kazakhstan unrest could affect Putin's view on Ukraine

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What's happening in Kazakhstan?

Well, evidently rebellion, revolt, protest, massive threat of survival of the regime. And that's why Russia now are sending in troops. How will this affect Europe? See how it affects his attention towards Ukraine. He has to be worried when he's sitting in the Kremlin about the stability of the entire post-Soviet space. I think we're heading for dramatic weeks.

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What We’re Watching: No Yalta in 2022, Kazakh turmoil worsens, China needs mRNA jabs

EU warns the US and Russia. EU officials look to be getting nervous about meetings next week between Russia, the US, and NATO. Though NATO representatives from EU member states will be part of the talks, the EU itself was not invited to join. During a visit to Ukraine this week, the EU’s top diplomat warned that “We are no longer in Yalta times,” a reference to the 1945 Yalta agreement among the US, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union that helped to divide post-war Europe into eastern and western blocs. “In this dialogue, there are not two actors alone, not just the US and Russia,” Josep Borrell added. Russia has massed 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin has demanded guarantees that NATO not expand to include Ukraine or other former Soviet states. The EU’s comments are intended, in part, to reassure Ukraine that it will not be abandoned to Russian domination. But it’s also a sign that officials in Brussels don’t fully trust US President Joe Biden to protect European rights and interests in bargaining with Putin.

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What We're Watching: Turmoil in Kazakhstan, Macron targets anti-vaxxers, Haiti presidential murder probe

Kazakh political turmoil.Dozens” of anti-government protesters have been killed by security forces in Kazakhstan, which has declared a state of emergency over the worst political crisis in a decade. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev sacked the entire government in response to widespread street protests, which started days ago over a planned fuel price hike. Since then, the demonstrations have morphed into wider outrage against an entrenched regime, in power since the Central Asian republic broke away from the USSR in 1991. Things are escalating rapidly in Almaty, the business capital, where demonstrators have reportedly set the presidential palace on fire. Tokayev — who took over in 2019 as the handpicked successor of former strongman Nursultan Nazarbayev — now says he may assume wider powers to end the crisis and asked Russia to send in “peacekeepers” under the umbrella of the CSTO, a Moscow-led grouping of former Soviet Republics. Vladimir Putin, always wary of popular uprisings in the Kremlin’s sphere of influence, is one of the two world leaders closely watching developments in Kazakhstan along with Xi Jinping, given that China is thirsty for Kazakh oil, gas, and minerals.

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Poachers jailed for life over murder of Kazakh wildlife ranger who was protecting rare antelopes

February 21, 2020 4:21 PM

KARAGANDA, KAZAKHSTAN (AFP) - A court in Kazakhstan on Friday (Feb 21) sentenced three poachers to life in prison for beating to death a state ranger charged with protecting the endangered saiga antelope.

Pompeo urges Kazakhstan to press China over Uighurs

February 03, 2020 5:00 AM

NUR-SULTAN • United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Kazakhstan yesterday to join Washington in pressing Beijing over its treatment of Muslim minorities, a sensitive matter for the Central Asian nation which has close ties with its neighbour China.

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