Australia Could weakened Russian influence in Central Asia be an opportunity for China?
Russia’s mobilization won’t fix its military problems
What Putin’s troop surge can — and can’t — do in Ukraine.Russian President Vladimir Putin this week announced that 300,000 more men would need to fight in his increasingly difficult and costly war in Ukraine. But amid Ukrainian victories, major strategic and personnel problems in the Russian armed forces, and domestic frustrations over the mobilization announcement, whether Putin can accomplish his goals in Ukraine — and the nature of those goals at this stage — isn’t clear.
More than 100,000 Russians have crossed into Kazakhstan since Russian President Vladimir Putin put the country into a state of partial mobilisation.
In a speech last week, Kazakh president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev described the fleeing men's situation as "hopeless".
For now, Mr Tokayev has vowed to "take care of them and secure their safety".
Kazakhstan has traditionally been a Kremlin ally but analysts say it's open support for people Moscow may consider criminals is a further sign it could be drifting out of Russia's orbit.
Unlike other allies China and Belarus, not a single Kazakh official has voiced support for Mr Putin's war — and Mr Tokayev is taking an increasingly strident tone against it.
‘No Training’: Putin’s Army Just Got Sloppier Than Ever Before
Men that are being conscripted into Russia’s war in Ukraine during Moscow’s “partial mobilization” are allegedly being sent to the front without any training in some cases. “Mobilized Russians are immediately taken to the front—without any preparation,” human rights group Perviy Otdel warned in a Telegram post. “We were officially told there would be no training before we are sent to the war zone,” one mobilized Russian said in a video shared by Perviy Otdel. Basic combat training for American troops, by comparison, lasts approximately ten weeks, according to the U.S. army.It’s not clear how, or if, Russia plans to arm and equip the new influx of manpower.
He's vowed not to recognise Russia's claims over eastern Ukraine or Crimea and he's promised not to help Russia bypass sanctions.
This is despite Mr Tokayev and his government effectively being propped up by a Russian-led military mission in January.
So could Ukraine's lightning offensive around Kharkiv not only have punctured Russia's depleted army but also its status as a regional power in Central Asia?
And could a diminished Russia be an opening for China to build even stronger ties with its neighbours?
'We can imagine ourselves in the same situation'
Since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, Russia has sought to maintain influence among the bloc's 15 now-independent states.
Mr Putin himself declared more than 20 years ago that the former Soviet republics were within Russia's "sphere of influence".
Top Diplomat Warns Russian ‘Army of Trojan Horsemen’ Hides Among Us
Ukraine’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations warned Thursday he is concerned that some men fleeing Russia to ostensibly avoid conscription might actually be Kremlin “Trojan horses” meant to wreak havoc later. “While genuine members of opposition should be considered for temporary protection in Europe and elsewhere, the army of Trojan horsemen of would-be Russian soldiers in Europe may pose a security threat, especially to neighboring countries and beyond,” the ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, said.
Kazakhstan is the biggest former Soviet republic in Central Asia, both economically and geographically, and a significant portion of its population is ethnically Russian, particularly in the north.
While the two have long maintained good relations, Kazakhstan and Russia's relationship today is complex.
On the one hand, the countries have strong diplomatic, security and economic ties, according to Nargis Kassenova, a senior fellow in Eurasian studies at Harvard University.
"We're probably the most Russified former Soviet republic," she said.
"The Russian language is very widely used … we read Russian books, we watch Russian TV, we are inside the Russian information space.
"On the other hand, Russia violates the territorial integrity and sovereignty of one of the former Soviet republics, and we can imagine ourselves to be in the same situation."
In March, one Moscow official called for the "denazification" of Kazakhstan, the same justification Russia's government is using for its gambit in Ukraine.
A rare glimpse of daily life in occupied Ukraine
Fear, loathing and defiance - how Ukrainians are coping under Russian control.Little has been heard about the daily struggles of people living in Russian-controlled areas. We found that experiences differ hugely, from a basic struggle for survival amid the ruins of Mariupol, to fleet-of-foot improvisations in places like Kherson - a city which found itself occupied with barely a shot being fired. But - whether the takeovers were bloodless or brutal - the same battle for identity is being waged.
In early September, in a now deleted social media post, deputy chairman of Russia's security counciland Russia could turn its attention to the fate of its northern regions next.
Mr Medvedev later said his account had been hacked.
Temur Umarov, a Eurasion analyst for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace based in Tashkent, said Central Asian countries faced "a very risky situation".
"Because they logically put themselves in the shoes of Ukraine and understand that when Moscow uses this narrative of artificial state [in Ukraine] … that the same logic could be used towards them."
No Central Asian country has voiced open support for Russia's war in Ukraine.
Still, any decoupling would not come without risks.
"So we haven't seen any country in Central Asia that supported Russia … but at the same time, we haven't seen any country criticising Russia openly," Mr Umarov said.
'Good ties with neighbours guarantee safety'
Mr Tokayev used a proverb in his speech last week — "good ties with neighbours guarantee safety" — suggesting he would not push so hard as to provoke a Russian response.
Calls from the front lines reveal morale collapse in Russian army: report
Morale in Russia's ranks remains low, according to calls obtained by the New York Times after they were intercepted by Ukraine's defense ministry from the front lines.In a series of phone calls obtained by the New York Times soldiers detailed atrocities, theft and an overall feeling of contempt for Russia’s top brass, including President Vladimir Putin.
Andrew D'Anieri, the assistant director at the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Centre, says there was a balancing act for Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries.
"Russia is a privileged economic partner in the region … especially in Kazakhstan. It accounts for roughly 40 per cent of commodities trade," Mr D'Anieri said.
"We talked to Kazakh officials here in [Washington DC], and they say that 'we are going to continue to trade with Russia, we have one of the longest borders in the world with Russia … we are going to rely on them for some things."
Still, it is evident that Kazakhstan's positions have not been welcomed in Moscow.
Russia has intermittently shut down pipelines Kazakhstan uses to export oil that traverses Russian territory in recent months — and there has been heightened rhetoric among Russian bloggers and hardliners.
"The rhetoric in unofficial Moscow is increasing, and I think that tells us something about how angry official Moscow is at Kazakhstan," Mr D'Anieri said.
'The shift from Russia to China is only going to continue'
As leaders gathered earlier this month in Uzbekistan for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting, Vladimir Putin cut a more lonely figure than usual.
He is known to keep leaders of other countries waiting.
Space Armageddon: Why the Pentagon fears Russia and China’s star wars weaponry
The Pentagon is reportedly gravely concerned about the threat to U.S. security posed by Russia and China’s developing space warfare capabilities.The danger of space warfare is increasing, as the two-theater war scenario that the U.S. has long feared is no longer hypothetical. Moscow and Beijing are strengthening their anti-U.S. partnership at a time when Russia is engaged in a brutal war on Ukraine and China is turning ever more aggressive with Taiwan. Having all but lost the conventional phase of the war, Putin is reportedly mulling nuclear warfare, which may trigger NATO intervention even as China menaces Taiwan.
Former German chancellor Angela Merkel was reportedly once left waiting four hours for a meeting with the Russian president in 2014.
But at the SCO meeting in Tashkent, Vladimir Putin was left awkwardly waiting before some leaders came to meet him.
"Putin being made to wait by the president of Kyrgyzstan is not something we see every day," Mr D'Anieri said.
Analysts say the war in Ukraine is accelerating cooperation with new partners for countries in Central Asia.
China has already formed strong economic ties in the region through its Belt and Road Initiative and Mr D'Anieri said it could look to form more.
It's notable that Chinese President Xi Jinping'ssince the start of the pandemic was to Kazakhstan earlier this month.
While Russian officials have made veiled threats against Kazakhstan, Mr Xi reassured Mr Tokayev, saying he "firmly supports Kazakhstan in safeguarding national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity".
"China has been eating Russia's lunch in the far east economically for many years," Mr D'Anieri said.
"That shift from Russia to China is only going to continue."
'Three decades of independence did not pass in vain'
So could Russia's wager on empire lead to a terminal decline in regional influence?
"I would say that even before the war, it was inevitable that Russia's influence and Russia's soft power in Central Asia was declining," Mr Umarov said.
The post-Soviet generation — those born after 1991 — are now the majority in Central Asia.
Mr Umarov said many no longer looked to Moscow as an attractive cultural or economic centre of gravity.
Ms Kassenova agreed, saying "three decades of independence did not pass in vain".
"There is a generational change, and indeed, there is a demographic change … there is the foundations for trying to be more than just a satellite or client of Russia," she says.
As for Russia's future in Central Asia, Mr D'Anieri predicted its power would wane "in the short, medium, and long-term".
"Russia today is much weaker militarily and economically, and it's more isolated diplomatically … the invasion of Ukraine has really made Russia the big loser in the region," he said.
Kim Jong-un leverages global instability, fires missiles and raises concerns about nuclear tests .
North Korea's missile tests are a sign of fracturing global stability, something dictator Kim Jong-un is keen to leverage.Two missiles fired at the weekend reached an altitude of 100 km, covering a range of 350 km, Japan’s State Minister of Defence Toshiro Ino said in a statement. “These actions by North Korea are a threat to the peace and security of our country, region and the international community and it absolutely cannot be tolerated,” Ino told reporters.