All Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and Russian troops will fully withdraw from Kazakhstan by today.
The Russian-led bloc deployed peacekeeping forces at Kazakhstan’s request in response to mounting anti-government protests brought on by the Kazakh government’s removal of fossil fuel subsidies. Protests grew more violent once peacekeeping forces were brought in. Internal and external forces incentivized Nur-Sultan to have CSTO forces withdraw.
The involvement of Russian forces and the handling of protests by the Kazakh government were criticized by the EU and US. Internally, the withdrawal of CSTO troops minimizes the appearance of foreign occupation. Such a perception would work against President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s goal of boosting public support for the regime.
It seems unlikely for forces to remain following today as Russia’s focus is on Chinese involvement, and the security risks resulting from that, instead of occupation. Their departure also leaves space for protests to re-emerge, thought likely not of the same magnitude. Expect forces to be asked to return if protests escalate beyond the control of domestic law enforcement. While the return of Russian or CSTO forces is unlikely to strain the Kazakh-Russian relationship, it may be compromising for Tokayev to publicly ask for assistance again.
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Gabbi is the Recruitment and Outrech Coordinator at Foreign Brief. She also writes for the Daily Brief where her regional focus centers on Europe and the former USSR. Gabbi's specialization is in intelligence and international law.