Russia’s Military Intervention in Kazakhstan: An Imperialist Power Takes Action

The popular uprising in Kazakhstan against the capitalist authoritarian regime – in power since 1991 – is a key event of the current world situation. The RCIT and all progressive forces support the workers and popular masses fighting for democracy and social justice! [1]

This uprising has shocked Russia’s Putin regime. It quickly decided to send 3,000 troops as it considers this mass struggle as a direct threat. These troops are decisive for the capitalist authoritarian regime of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to keep in power.

On 5th January, the Kazakh masses had effectively taken over Almaty, the country’s largest city, including its airport. In response, the regime sent its most vicious crack forces – it is said that they have included Russian special forces [2] – in order to re-conquer the city. As a result, dozens of protestors have been killed.

There is no doubt that Russia is determined to smash the uprising as soon as possible. As one of the world’s imperialist Great Powers, Russia acts as the Gendarme of Eurasia. What are the concrete reasons for Moscow’s determination to liquidate the Kazakh Revolution?

Kazakhstan as a quintessential bridge between Europe and Asia

First, Kazakhstan is not only a neighboring country but also the politically and economically most important state in Central Asia. It is key to the Russia-dominated Eurasian Economic Union. As an observer noted, “without Kazakhstan’s economy, there is no Eurasian Economic Union”. [3]

Furthermore, Russian monopolies have important foreign investments in Kazakhstan. Officially, Russian monopolies are the fourth-largest investor in this country. However, its real share is certainly substantially higher given the fact that Netherlands – a major destination of Russian offshore investment – is suspiciously by far the largest foreign investor (29.1% in 2017). [4]

In addition, Kazakhstan is home of the Baikonur Cosmodrome – the strategically crucial spaceport, which is leased to Moscow and where all crewed Russian spaceflights are launched to this day.

Finally, Moscow fears that the uprising could not only overthrow its allied regime in Nur-Sultan but also threaten the political stability in other Central Asian countries as well as in Russia itself. The Kremlin is aware that – according to a decent Levada Center poll, President Putin’s electoral rating — the number of Russians ready to vote for his re-election — is at 32%, a record low. [5] If the workers and poor in Russia see how an authoritarian regime in a neighboring country can be toppled by a popular uprising, they might turn so similar methods soon!

Andrei Kortunov, head of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), a Kremlin-linked think tank, points out that for all these reasons, “Russia had any choice but to intervene.” Pointing to a 2020 revolution in Kazakhstan’s Central Asian neighbor Kyrgyzstan, and last year’s Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, he explains: “Given how violent the unrest was and how unstable the region is, this seems like it was the only option.[6]

China supports Russia’s military intervention

China, another imperialist Great Power, has also large investments in Kazakhstan. Furthermore, the country plays a key role both for China’s energy import (e.g. the so-called China-Central Asia Gas Pipeline) as well as for Beijing’s global project – the so-called Belt & Road Initiative. [7]

In addition, China is keen to see the pacification of the mass protests in the neighboring country as there are strong ethnic bonds between the Kazakh people and China’s Xinjiang region. This is a border province with a Uyghur-majority population – a Muslim people which has been brutally suppressed by Beijing since decades. [8] Hence, Beijing is worried that the mass unrest could instigate the Muslim Uyghur people. According to the Global Times – the English-language mouthpiece of the Stalinist-capitalist regime – “given the short distance between Almaty and China’s Xinjiang region, China will increase its border controls.[9]

Furthermore, China – the main rival of U.S. imperialism – has been allied with Russia since a number of years. Both Moscow as well as Beijing fear that the overthrow of its allied regime in Kazakhstan could result in the decline of their influence in Central Asia – something which the U.S. and the European Union might try to exploit.

It is therefore only logical that supporters of Putin and Xi claim that the Kazakh uprising is the result of “foreign conspirators” in the service of Washington. Pepe Escobar, a notorious journalist and harbinger of Russian and Chinese imperialism, is already talking about “Kazakhstan’s color revolution” and “Maidan in Almaty”. [10] Likewise, Su Chang, a research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, is quoted in the Global Times: “Who would benefit most from the riots? Probably the US and the West. Kazakhstan shares borders with both China and Russia, and the Biden administration’s strategic purpose is to contain China and Russia. When Kazakhstan falls into chaos, the stability of the whole region would be affected.[11]

Of course, in a world characterized by an accelerating rivalry between the imperialist Great Powers (U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan), every power tries to exploit the problems of their rivals. Hence, Western media expressed their sympathy for the mass protests in Hong Kong while “Russia Today” gives much space to the Yellow Wests in France and the Anti-COVID protests in Western Europe.

However, it is utter nonsense to claim that all these mass movements have been provoked or even led by “foreign agents”. No, all these mass struggles had and have their origins in the class contradictions in their respective countries and the determination of the masses to improve their living conditions.

For all these reasons, it is hardly surprising that the Stalinist-capitalist regime in Beijing supports Russia’s military intervention in Kazakhstan.

Russia as an imperialist Great Power

The RCIT has demonstrated in several studies that Russia is an imperialist Great Power. [12] Its economy can not rival with that of the U.S. or China. Still, it is the world’s eleventh-largest by nominal GDP, and the sixth-largest by PPP. At the same time, it has the largest number of nuclear warheads – together with the U.S. – and is the world’s second-largest arms exporter. (See Appendix)

As a result, Russia plays a crucial role in world politics as one of the five veto powers in the United Nations. While Russia plays less a global role – compared to the U.S. or China – it wields important influence in the Middle East (including in Syria, where its Air Force supports the Assad tyranny against a popular uprising, as well as in Libya where it backs General Haftar), in North, East and Central Africa (e.g. it is an important supporter of the military regime in Sudan), in Europe as well as in Asia (e.g. it is a key backer of the military regime in Burma-Myanmar).

In summary, Moscow’s military intervention in Kazakhstan is a practical example that Russia is an imperialist power which acts as the Gendarme of Eurasia. It is the foremost duty of socialists – in Russia as well as internationally – to oppose this reactionary intervention!

The RCIT emphasizes once more its unconditional solidarity with the popular uprising of the workers and poor in Kazakhstan. We support the struggle of the Kazakh people against Russian imperialism and call for the expulsion of the invaders! A successful revolution will establish a workers and popular government based on councils and militias which will make the country free of domination by any imperialist power!

Appendix

Table 1. World Nuclear Forces, 2020 [13]

Country                                Deployed Warheads        Other Warheads               Total Inventory

USA                                      1,800                                     3,750                                     5,550

Russia                                  1,625                                     4,630                                     6,255

UK                                         120                                        105                                        225

France                                  280                                        10                                           290

China                                   –                                             350                                        350

Table 2. The World’s 10 Top Exporters of Weapons, 2016-20 [14]

Rank                      Exporter                               Global Share (%)

1                             U.S.                                       37%

2                             Russia                                  20%

3                             France                                  8.2%

4                             Germany                             5.5%

5                             China                                   5.2%


[1] See on this two actual RCIT statements. Kazakhstan: Popular Uprisings Rocks the Authoritarian “Sistema”, 5 January 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/kazakhstan-popular-uprisings-rocks-the-authoritarian-sistema/; Kazakhstan: Tokayev and Putin Are Killers! Down with the Gendarme of Eurasia! mash the “sistema”! Organize and arm the popular masses! Kick out all Russian/CSTO troops! Against Russian imperialism – the Gendarme of Eurasia! 6 January 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/kazakhstan-tokayev-and-putin-are-killers/

All documents on this issues are published on a special page on our website: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/compilation-of-articles-on-the-popular-uprising-in-kazakhstan/

[2] Intellinews: CSTO comes out of the shadows for the first time, January 6, 2022, https://intellinews.com/csto-comes-out-of-the-shadows-for-the-first-time-231005/?source=russia

[3] Nikolas K. Gvosdev: What’s Really Behind the Protests in Kazakhstan? The National Interest, January 6, 2022, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/what%E2%80%99s-really-behind-protests-kazakhstan-199070

[4] See on this our recently published study by Michael Pröbsting: The Peculiar Features of Russian Imperialism. A Study of Russia’s Monopolies, Capital Export and Super-Exploitation in the Light of Marxist Theory, 10 August 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/the-peculiar-features-of-russian-imperialism/

[5] Felix Light: Russia’s Involvement in Kazakhstan’s Crisis Could Have Wide Implications, Moscow Times, January 6, 2022, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/01/06/russias-involvement-in-kazakhstans-crisis-could-have-wide-implications-a75985

[6] Felix Light: Russia’s Involvement in Kazakhstan’s Crisis Could Have Wide Implications, Moscow Times, January 6, 2022, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/01/06/russias-involvement-in-kazakhstans-crisis-could-have-wide-implications-a75985

[7] The RCIT has published numerous documents about capitalism in China and its transformation into a Great Power. See on this e.g. the book by Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, Vienna 2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/anti-imperialism-in-the-age-of-great-power-rivalry/; see also by the same author an essay published in the second edition of The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism (edited by Immanuel Ness and Zak Cope), Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2020, https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-3-319-91206-6_179-1; China‘s transformation into an imperialist power. A study of the economic, political and military aspects of China as a Great Power (2012), in: Revolutionary Communism No. 4, http://www.thecommunists.net/publications/revcom-number-4; How is it possible that some Marxists still Doubt that China has Become Capitalist? (A Critique of the PTS/FT), An analysis of the capitalist character of China’s State-Owned Enterprises and its political consequences, 18 September 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/pts-ft-and-chinese-imperialism-2/; Unable to See the Wood for the Trees (PTS/FT and China). Eclectic empiricism and the failure of the PTS/FT to recognize the imperialist character of China, 13 August 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/pts-ft-and-chinese-imperialism/. See many more RCIT documents at a special sub-page on the RCIT’s website: https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/china-russia-as-imperialist-powers/.

[8] See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: China: Defend the Muslim Uyghurs against Oppression! 18.10.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/china-defend-the-muslim-uyghurs-against-oppression/; by the same author: 37 Signatures Are Worth a Thousand Words. On a letter of 37 states, including Muslim countries, sent to the United Nations defending China’s treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, 16 July 2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/37-states-defend-china-s-treatment-of-uyghurs/; TV Discussion about the Situation of the Muslim Uyghurs in China, Report (with Pictures and Video) by the Austrian Section of the RCIT, 25 March 2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit/tv-discussion-about-the-situation-of-the-muslim-uyghurs-in-china/

[9] Global Times: CSTO to send peacekeeping troops to help quell unrest in Kazakhstan,, 6 January 2022, https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202201/1245329.shtml

[10] Pepe Escobar: Steppe on fire: Kazakhstan’s color revolution, https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2022/01/06/steppe-on-fire-kazakhstan-color-revolution/

[11] Global Times: CSTO to send peacekeeping troops to help quell unrest in Kazakhstan,, 6 January 2022, https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202201/1245329.shtml

[12] The RCIT has published numerous documents about capitalism in Russia and its rise to an imperialist power. See on this e.g. several pamphlets by Michael Pröbsting: The Peculiar Features of Russian Imperialism. A Study of Russia’s Monopolies, Capital Export and Super-Exploitation in the Light of Marxist Theory, 10 August 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/the-peculiar-features-of-russian-imperialism/; Russia and China: Neither Capitalist nor Great Powers? A Reply to the PO/CRFI and their Revisionist Whitewashing of Chinese and Russian imperialism, 28 November 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/russia-and-china-neither-capitalist-nor-great-powers-reply-to-po-crfi/; The Catastrophic Failure of the Theory of “Catastrophism”. On the Marxist Theory of Capitalist Breakdown and its Misinterpretation by the Partido Obrero (Argentina) and its “Coordinating Committee for the Refoundation of the Fourth International”, 27 May 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/the-catastrophic-failure-of-the-theory-of-catastrophism/; Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism and the Rise of Russia as a Great Power. On the Understanding and Misunderstanding of Today’s Inter-Imperialist Rivalry in the Light of Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism. Another Reply to Our Critics Who Deny Russia’s Imperialist Character, August 2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialism-theory-and-russia/; Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. The formation of Russian Monopoly Capital and its Empire – A Reply to our Critics, 18 March 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 21, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialist-russia/. See various other RCIT documents on this issue at a special sub-page on the RCIT’s website: https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/china-russia-as-imperialist-powers/.

[13] Stockholm International Peace Research Institute: SIPRI Yearbook 2021. Armaments, Disarmament and International Security, Summary, p. 12

[14] Stockholm International Peace Research Institute: SIPRI Yearbook 2021. Armaments, Disarmament and International Security, Summary, p. 15

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Ich, Achim Szepanski (Wohnort: Deutschland), verarbeite zum Betrieb dieser Website personenbezogene Daten nur im technisch unbedingt notwendigen Umfang. Alle Details dazu in meiner Datenschutzerklärung.