Wednesday, October 08, 2014

An Enticing Next Target For Putin

Moscow is turning up the rhetoric on Kazakhstan, a non-NATO member with a valuable space center

By Josh Gelernter, WSJ
Oct. 7, 2014 6:48 p.m. ET

The cease fire in eastern Ukraine is starting to crumble, with firefights breaking out as pro-Russia rebels try to retake the Donetsk airport they claimed in April and lost in May. Russian President Vladimir Putin may yet decide to impose the cease fire by rolling in Russian peacekeeping troops, which would mean Russia recapturing another slice of the old Soviet empire to go along with Crimea, and Abkhazia and South Ossetia in northern Georgia.

Estonia, a NATO-member Baltic state with a large population of ethnic Russians, fears that it is next in line for a Sudetenland-style Russian takeover. Meanwhile, Russia in recent weeks began military exercises on its border with an equally plausible target: Kazakhstan. Equally plausible, possibly more inviting.

Like Estonia, Kazakhstan’s population is about one-quarter ethnic Russian; unlike Estonia, it is not a member of NATO, and the treaty powers have no obligation to defend it. Like Ukraine, Kazakhstan turned over its nuclear weapons to Russia in the 1990s. Like Ukraine, it has something Russia very much wants. Russia has taken Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and with it a dominant position in the Black Sea. To ensure a dominant position in space, Russia needs the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan.

(More here.)

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