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Central Asian boiler may blow up: interview with Andrey Kazantsev

Andrey Kazantsev. Photo: minval.az

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has enforced a curfew and his Central Asian partners have reacted by reinforcing control of their borders and even closing some sections. EADaily has asked Director of the Analytical Center of MGIMO Andrey Kazantsev what influence Turkey and the last events in that country have or may have on Central Asia.

The Kazakh authorities have qualified the shooting in Almaty as a terror act and have blamed Salafis and some other “sleeper cells” for it. Can the events in Turkey wake up “sleeper cells” in Central Asia, especially as at least two generations of locals have attended Turkish schools and universities?

I see no direct link between the coup attempt in Turkey and the terrorist acts happening worldwide. But there may be some demonstration effect here. Instability in one place triggers aggression in other places.

Are those cells disorganized or are there coordinated by a single center?

“Sleeper cells” have a complex structure. They have a specific logic in each specific case and are organized by specific people. All of them have information and financial connections with some “floating” terrorist centers. One of them is ISIL. They also have donors in the Middle East. There is some system that coordinates those groups, but there is no single center. Those saying that ISIL is a global center of terrorism are not right. There are lots of other terrorist organizations, like Al Qaeda, for example. This system is more like a network. There are lots of small cooperating centers.

It looks like some forces are testing the waters in Kazakhstan. May the other Central Asian nations also face such acts? Which of them must be ready for the next attack?

Yes, some forces are actually testing Kazakhstan as this is the most stable country of Central Asia.

It was a surprise, wasn’t it? We have always regarded Kazakhstan as an unshakeable state...

Today Kazakhstan is facing central economic difficulties. And it also has some political problems, coming from instability in the neighboring countries and internal contradictions. But it is still the most stable country in the region. If Kazakhstan faces instability, its neighbors will also suffer. And Tajikistan may be the first.

In its time, Uzbekistan suffered a series of terrorist attacks and now local authorities are on the watch.

This is the point. Kazakhstan is much more liberal than Uzbekistan. In Uzbekistan potential terrorists are underfoot. But if you keep the boiler closed for a long time, it may blow up. So, perhaps what happened in Kazakhstan is better as small attacks claim fewer lives unlike mass attacks like the one in Andijan in 2005.

In Uzbekistan there are strong radical Islamic organizations. Simply now there are deep under the ground. It is good that the Uzbek authorities are tough on them but you can’t keep the boiler closed for ever, can you?

What impacts may the coup attempt in Turkey have on Central Asia?

Turkey has huge ideological and cultural influence on this region. Today Turkey is facing instability and may face more riots and terrorist attacks. The Turkish army has been weakened and this may result in growing resistance from Kurds. All this can make Turkey even more unstable and prone to religious extremism. And this will certainly have impacts on Central Asia and Russia’s Turkic regions.

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