Having received no support from Russia in its conflict with Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz leadership decided to bring the history of the conflict to the United Nations. Kyrgyzstan’s permanent mission at the UN has informed the member states of the situation on the border of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, namely about the current kilometers-long traffic jam along the border that emerged after Astana toughened the border control on October 10. Heavy trucks have stuck on the border for long. As a result, Kyrgyzstan has appealed to WTO and Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) for assistance.
The appeal read out by Kyrgyzstan’s Permanent Representative to UN Mirgul Moldoisaeva says nothing about the reasons behind Kazakhstan’s actions. In fact, Astana has published an official statement earlier in October, when the conflict just started, saying that Bishkek violates a range of agreements, both bilateral ones and the agreements within EAEU, exports Chinese gray market products and its own products that do not meet sanitary and phytosanitary standards. As EADaily reported earlier, the Kyrgyz-Kazakh conflict has certain political subtext as well, though Astana denies it.
Some Russian political analysts give quite negative assessment of Kyrgyz President Atambayev’s actions of the last days. They blame him for irresponsible and deliberate actions to deteriorate the relations with Kazakhstan. They say the president understands that the new leadership of the country will have to settle those problem. In particular, Andrey Grozin, head of the Department for Central Asia at the CIS Institute, believes that Bishkek went too far. “Evidently, they whipped up a scandal for the election campaign and succeeded in the sense that the pro-governmental candidate Sooronbay Jeenbekov won the elections. Bishkek probably hoped that the conflict will fade away after the elections. There was fertile ground for it i.e. Nazarbayev congratulated Jeenbekov on the victory. Nevertheless, as singular and emotional person, Atambayev did not stop timely. Bishkek failed to foresee the scales of its campaign and Astana’s response. Astana took quite painfully the name calling, statements about Nazarbayev’s age and about his too long presidency, especially that the insults came from the junior partner,” Grozin told EADaily.
The expert believes that Bishkek’s appeal to UN, WTO is useless: “They just tapped Kyrgyzstan on shoulder and expressed hope that the problem will be resolves somehow.” The relations of Astana and Bishkek have never been warm. The “senior brother – junior brother” model that is common for the post-Soviet space often results in disputes like the one between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
“Grievances have accumulated for years, especially in the period before the oil crisis due to Kazakhstan’s imperious behavior with regard to the ‘southern junior brothers.’ However, the sides should get a way out of the current situation, the more so as Russia has made it clear that it is not going to interfere into that mess,” Grozin said. “Blackmail, threats to leave EAEU, to come closer to China, is another mistake, especially that these threats come from ‘lame duck.’ Hopefully, the sides interested in sooner resolution of this conflict will prove wise enough to ignore that mistake.” The sides to the conflict have different capacities: Kyrgyz economy yields to the Kazakh one 30-fold, Kyrgyzstan’s share in the trade turnover of Kazakhstan is below 1.5%, while Kazakhstan’s share in the Kyrgyz trade turnover exceeds 20%.
“If the current situation on the border continues after November 24 – inauguration of the new president of Kyrgyzstan - and Bishkek continues sustaining losses that have already accounted for 0.3% of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP, the entire system of Atambayev and his ruling Social-Democratic Party will collapse within several months. Then, Atambayev’s return to politics in any other capacity is out of question. Maybe, he will even have to change his place of residence and move to Moscow, Minsk or Rostov,” Grozin said.
Let’s wait and see. Meantime, by some information, Bishkek has run out of flour and coal for TPP. A source familiar to the situation in Bishkek said these problems could make Prime Minister Sapar Isakov speak of the levers to influence Astana and hint at its capacity to limit water supply to Kazakhstan. “In such case, Kazakhstan will close the border and Kyrgyzstan will face much bigger problems. A couple of months of such ‘attack’ will be enough for Kyrgyzstan to change its political system fundamentally,” Andrey Grozin said.