Ukraine is currently defending the freedom and independence of many countries near Russia. I am convinced that if Putin’s plans had succeeded, and he had captured Ukraine, the next victim would have been Kazakhstan.


The first factor is the significant presence of ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan.

It happened historically that, starting from Cossack settlements in the territory of present-day Kazakhstan during the times of Catherine II, then due to the mass resettlement of repressed Russian intellectuals to camps in the Kazakh steppe, thanks to the relocation of many plants and factories during World War II from the European part of the USSR to Kazakhstan, due to the large influx of youth to develop virgin lands and other “projects of the century,” a large number of Russians and Russian-speaking citizens arrived in Kazakhstan.

Ultimately, this resulted in a disproportion between the indigenous and non-indigenous populations. At the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, 40% of Russians lived in Kazakhstan, almost as many as Kazakhs, and only in 2022 did the proportion become: 70% Kazakhs and 18% Russians. Nevertheless, the presence of almost 3.5 million ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan neighboring Russia is a significant factor.

Whether we like it or not, ethnic belonging plays a big role in the self-identification of any person. Just as a Kazakh citizen by nationality will be drawn to their historical homeland and sympathize with Kazakhstan under all other conditions, so a Russian citizen of Kazakhstan will subconsciously gravitate towards Russia and perceive any negativity towards Russia as directed towards themselves.

Moreover, it is clear that the more ethnic Russians there are in the country, the statistically greater the possibility of incidents of everyday interethnic conflicts arising, which gives Putin grounds to activate rhetoric about protecting Russians on foreign territory.

The second factor is the significant ideological influence of Russia on the citizens of Kazakhstan.

This was facilitated by the fact that the majority of the population of our country speaks Russian and Russian television broadcasts freely throughout the territory of Kazakhstan.

As a result, not only ethnic Russian citizens of the country were influenced by the Kremlin’s propaganda, but even many Russian-speaking Kazakhs, after many years of “brainwashing,” came to believe in the “greatness of the Russian Empire” and even in their inferiority next to the Great Russians.

In the event of a conflict between Russia and Kazakhstan, such a “brainwashed” part of society would side with Russia and significantly facilitate its task of subduing Kazakhstan.

The third factor is the presence of vast territories on the border of Russia and Kazakhstan, which over a long historical period have passed from one people to another, and therefore give some radical elements, both on one side and on the other, grounds to raise the issue of “restoring justice” and “returning lands to their historical owner.”

This is a strong card in Putin’s hands, who currently fancies himself a great emperor, a second Peter the Great – the gatherer of Russian lands. And this is an extra moral justification for aggression on the territory of Kazakhstan to annex the northern lands to Russia. This card was played in Crimea when it was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014 based on historical collisions.

The fourth factor is the immediate proximity and extensive border between Russia and Kazakhstan. This significantly simplifies the task of invading our territory from Russia. Today, I do not doubt that Putin has distant plans for annexing or “denationalizing” other Central Asian republics to establish puppet regimes there. However, it is the direct border with Kazakhstan that makes us the very first and logical target on this path. Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan have an advantage only in being hidden from Russia behind Kazakhstan, and they cannot be reached until Kazakhstan is passed through.

The fifth factor is the growth of national self-awareness in the Republic of Kazakhstan and the inevitable conflicts arising from this on an interethnic basis, especially after the start of the war in Ukraine. Many Kazakhs, understanding Putin’s imperial plans and feeling threatened by him, try to distance themselves from the aggressor country and publicly call for more integration with Europe and America. Many ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan see this as a threat to their interests. They believe that Kazakhstan’s distancing from Russia means a deterioration in the position of ethnic Russians, so they intuitively resist the disintegration of Kazakhstan from Russia.

Additionally, there are citizens in Kazakhstan who are openly unpatriotic, seeing themselves more as Russians than Kazakhs, linking their fate to Russia and considering their presence in Kazakhstan temporarily or viewing Kazakhstan’s independence from Russia as temporary. These destructive elements provoke and exacerbate tensions between Kazakhs and Russians.

Undoubtedly, any interethnic tension regarding Russians provides an excellent pretext for Putin to declare a “sacred war” to protect Russian-speaking citizens in another country, which Putin would declare after victory over “fascist” Ukraine.

The sixth factor is the economic and military weakness of Kazakhstan compared to Russia. Despite its vast territory, Kazakhstan has low population density and a small population – about 8 times smaller than Russia. Therefore, Kazakhstan looks like an even easier prey for Russia than Ukraine. Accordingly, with all other factors, the economic and military weakness of Kazakhstan would undoubtedly add arguments to Putin for choosing Kazakhstan as the next target.

The seventh factor is the ambiguous policy of the Kazakhstani leadership, trying to maneuver between Russia and the West. Kazakhstan carefully avoids direct conflict with Russia, therefore, it does not leave the Customs Union and the CSTO, participates in all summits and events in Moscow, and formally maintains friendly relations. At the same time, it shows loyalty to the West, condemns Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and promises not to help Russia with sanctions against it. Such a position in the rhetoric of Russian propaganda looks like duplicity, deceit, and betrayal. Direct accusations have already been made by influential Russian TV presenters and have thrown the first test stone into the minds of Russians regarding the opinion of Kazakhs as cunning, unreliable neighbors and partners.

And finally, the last factor, which in my opinion would influence Putin’s decision on aggression towards Kazakhstan, is his attitude towards President Tokayev. I think in Putin’s eyes, the situation looks like this: Tokayev turned to the President of Russia for help in a difficult moment in January 2022, practically saving him from a palace coup. After that, Putin expected gratitude and loyalty from Tokayev. However, Tokayev indicated that his gratitude has certain limits, and he will not go for full rapprochement with Russia, especially during its war with Ukraine, international escalation of relations, and imposition of economic sanctions. Not only did this disappoint and anger Mr. Putin, but it also gave a perfect reason for Kremlin propaganda to create an image of the leader of Kazakhstan as an ungrateful traitor, which undoubtedly would facilitate the task of creating an enemy image from the entire Kazakhstan and justifying an invasion of its territory as that of an unfriendly state. The same tactic was recently applied to Ukraine when Russians were indoctrinated that the power there was seized by “junkies, thieves, and Nazis,” i.e., unworthy people leading the country in the wrong direction.

Given all of the above, I am firmly convinced that if Ukraine had not put up fierce resistance to Russia and if the entire world community had not condemned this aggression, Putin would have continued his “rise from the knees,” “gathering of lands,” “restoration of the Russian world” – call it whatever you like, but essentially satisfying imperial ambitions and thirst for power, and Kazakhstan would have been next on his path. And then – other countries.

Therefore, all of us, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Georgians, Azerbaijanis, Poles, Finns, all of us need to pray for Ukraine and wish it victory over the insatiable aggressor.

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