Posters in supermarkets all around Kazakhstan implore shoppers these days to “Be a Patriot – Buy Kazakhstani!” Their appearance is a clear sign of Kazakhstani discontent with the Eurasian Economic Union, a Russia-led trade group that was supposed to promote mutual growth but which critics say has so far only inflicted economic pain on Astana.
The supermarket posters feature the national flag colors of blue and yellow and are part of a Made-in-Kazakhstan campaign, spearheaded by President Nursultan Nazarbayev. It aims to protect Kazakhstani producers of a wide array of goods from being undercut by a flood of Russian imports.
Increasingly, when it comes to commerce, Kazakhstan and Russia are acting like frenemies. The two countries profess to be close allies, but are engaging in a tit-for-tat trade skirmish, in which they are pulling each other’s produce off supermarket shelves amid dire pronouncements about health and safety risks.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.