Due to the aggravation of Russian-Turkish relations, Kazakh society was divided into three camps: for Russia, for Turkey, for no one.
I’ll try to explain my position.
What are our reasons to be for Russia?
1. Is it because Russia is our old ally and partner, a former union republic, we have a common history and a close mentality?
A good reason, but in recent years, the leadership of Russia has shown an unfriendly, and sometimes aggressive attitude towards the former union republics. It has conflict points in Moldova (Transnistria), Georgia (South Ossetia), Ukraine (Crimea). Against this background, the growth of anti-Russian sentiments in many former Soviet republics is not surprising. Kazakhstan is no exception. I do not think that the cry: “For the Russian brothers!” will find a broad support in the Kazakhstani environment.
2. Is it because we together with Russia are part of the CSTO, the SCO, the EEA unions?
Yes. The unions oblige its members for mutual assistance. But alliances are always mutual obligations. If the members of the union consider each other equal, then decisions must be taken together. Then the responsibility for the consequences of such decisions, naturally, is shared by all members. But when one member of the union alone makes some decisions and not on behalf of the union, but on its own behalf and gets involved in the conflict, then according to all the canons of law and logic, the other members of the union do not have to bear responsibility for this. Unless, of course, the external enemy first did not attack the ally. In our case no one attacked Russia. It on its own got involved in the Ukrainian conflict. It itself decided to bomb ISIL in Syria and at the same time violated the Turkish border. Should Kazakhstan in this situation be responsible for Russia’s actions? I think no. Moreover, I think that Kazakhstan even has the right to criticize an ally, because it independently made a decision and took actions that could directly damage Kazakhstan. As it was with the announcement of an embargo on the import of European goods.
3. Is it because Russia is one of the few countries in the world that has challenged the world dominant – the US?
This argument is popular in certain circles of Kazakhstan, especially among those who support the idea of a “bipolar world”. I agree with this idea to some extent. But my reservation is that the world leader should be opposed by the second pole of power, but by civilized forces. I am sure that if there were no Russia and China, such a force would be Europe. And it would compete in a civilized manner with the United States within the framework of international law, limited to notes of protest and “trade wars”. But not military conflicts at all. In my opinion, Russia can not be considered as a civilized force at the moment.
4. Is it because with the weakening of Russia, the US or China will enslave Kazakhstan?
Despite how ridiculous is this thesis, but it also has admirers in Kazakhstan. In my opinion, these are mostly the people who are subject to Russian propaganda. In fact, of course, this is a false message, born to tune Kazakhstan against the US and China and force them to seek protection from their northern neighbor.
Now let’s see what are our reasons for supporting Turkey?
1. Is it because Turkey, like Kazakhstan, is a Turkic-speaking country?
In my opinion, a weak argument. The possession of the languages of one linguistic group does not affect the political and economic interests of countries. For example, Russia and Ukraine speak very similar languages, but this did not prevent them from coming into conflict.
2. Because Turkey is a Muslim country?
Personally for me, as for an atheist, this is not an argument. And not just for me. Kazakhstan is a secular and not a Muslim country. The similarity of the faith of the majority of citizens of one country with the faith of the majority of citizens of another country should not, in my opinion, dictate the policy in relations between these countries. In particular, if they are secular states.
3. Is it because Turkey is against authoritarian Putin?
Indeed, for many Kazakhstanis this has now become a strong argument. However, the leader of Turkey, Mr. Erdogan can hardly be called a democratic progressive leader. More likely, quite the opposite. One is worth the other. So I would not turn the current confrontation between Turkey and Russia as a confrontation of democracy and dictatorship.
4. Is it because Turkey was the first to recognize Kazakhstan’s independence and is our long-standing partner?
This fact is undoubtedly remarkable for both our countries and adds warmth to the relationship. However, I do not think that it is a strong argument in this particular case, as it does not outweigh our long-standing partnership relations with Russia.
To what conclusion did I come?
I believe that Kazakhstan should not take either side. We need to maintain neutrality.
But we do not have to hide our head in the sand. We must have a clear position.
I would describe it as follows:
“We are for the counter-terrorist operation of the combined forces in Syria and Iraq. The united coalition must include both NATO and Russia.
The coalition should not use bombing either against Assad or against the rebels, but exclusively against ISIL.
If unintentional violations of the Allied airspace will occur during joint operations, this should not be an excuse for destroying aircraft.
However, if any of the countries opposes the violation of its borders by foreign planes, then no other country should violate its borders until it has agreed with it on the interaction. ”
I do not presume to say that all interested parties immediately rush to follow our recommendations. But, I think that we should have our own position and voice it every time.
P.S. Based on the principles I have suggested, the situation with a downed Russian bomber can only be resolved as follows: Turkey’s actions should be recognized as legitimate, but we must admit that further tension between NATO and Russia forces threatens a major conflict, so both sides should sit down at the negotiating table and agree on joint actions in Syria and Iraq against a common enemy – ISIL.