The Crimea crisis is putting pressure on Kazakhstan’s long-standing, multi-vectored foreign policy, which has sought to balance the competing interests of Russia, China and the United States in Central Asia. In forcefully backing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, many in Kazakhstan worry that President Nursultan Nazarbayev could be setting himself up for separatist woes of his own.
At the Nuclear Security Summit on March 25 in The Hague, Nazarbayev jumped off the diplomatic fence to offer strong support for Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, the architect of the Crimean land-grab. Nazarbayev essentially blamed Ukraine’s new leaders for precipitating the crisis, saying that “an unconstitutional coup d’etat” had occurred in Kyiv. He also noted there had been “discrimination against minority rights” in Ukraine, thus providing diplomatic cover for Russia’s position that it intervened to protect Russians in Crimea.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.