Kazakhstan and the ‘resource curse’12 January 2022, 11.03
Approximately three years ago, I read an article in The Guardian written by Nicholas Shaxson, the author of “The Finance Curse: How Global Finance is Making Us All Poorer.” Shaxson had worked as a Reuters correspondent in the petrol- and diamond-rich African country of Angola. In the above-mentioned article, Shaxson scrutinizes poverty in Angola, which suffered a brutal civil war in the 90s. He argues that all the wealth accumulated by minerals being consolidated in the hands of a single group constituted a grave problem. Pointing out that the Western petrol and diamond industries financed the civil war, Shaxson touches upon the “resource curse” theory. According to this theory, “many countries with abundant natural resources seemed to suffer from slower economic growth, more corruption, more conflict, more authoritarian politics and more poverty than their peers with fewer resources.” This curse had bought to the brink of catastrophe many countries in our near region.
In 1953, when Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh nationalized foreign petrol firms in the country, he was overthrown by a joint American-British coup. Furthermore, coalition forces spearheaded by the U.S. and U.K. invaded oil-rich Iraq in 2003 for bogus reasons. Ultimately, the Iraqis also fell victim to this resource curse. Excluding a few states, resource-rich countries suffer more or less a similar fate.
At the time I was reading Shaxson’s article, the unrest in Kazakhstan, which is rich in oil, natural gas and uranium, due to the hike in fuel had become widespread. The events in Kazakhstan are extremely saddening given its significance in the Turkic world. Of course, Shaxson’s argument partially explains the disaster that has befallen the country.
After declaring Kazakhstan’s independence in 1991, Nursultan Nazarbayev governed his country for three decades. He resigned in 2019 by handing over the keys to the kingdom to Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. He was then appointed as chairman of the Security Council of Kazakhstan and given the title “Elbaş,” meaning leader of the nation. The Kazakhstan administration was largely made up of a unification of Tokayev’s and Nazarbayev’s forces. Judging by recent events, it seems that this isn’t working out for them. President Tokayev both accepted the resignation of the government led by Prime Minister Askar Mamin and discharged Karim Massimov, who was the head of the country’s National Security Committee and served as prime minister during the Nazarbayev era. Furthermore, he was detained and charged with treason. What was even more intriguing is that Nazarbayev also left his post as chairman of the Security Council.
President Tokayev's request from Russian President Vladimir Putin to activate the Collective Security Treaty Organization, of which Kazakhstan is a member, points out that there is much more than meets the eye surrounding the unrest. According to Article 4 of the “Collective Security Treaty,” an armed attack that threatens the security, stability, territorial integrity and sovereignty of any of its members is considered an act of aggression against all member states.
Putin swiftly gave Tokayev’s request the thumbs up and deployed soldiers to the country. The current members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which was established in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, are Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia. As far as my knowledge goes, this is the first case of soldiers being deployed to one of the member states.
In a Washington Post article, Alexander Cooley argues that the crisis in Kazakhstan is not just about the protests but is also a symptom of the power struggle between Tokayev and Nazarbayev. According to Cooley, Russia’s deployment of armed forces to Kazakhstan sends the message to Kazakh authorities that the country’s authority does not lie with Tokayev.
The waters are exceptionally muddy where the “actual events” of Kazakhstan are concerned. Russian, European and U.S. media are clashing with their contradictory scenarios. What we hope is that the “resource curse” has been forever lifted from our brother country Kazakhstan.
- resource curse
- Nursultan Nazarbayev