Russia’s Overseas Conflicts

Anti-government protests erupted in Kazakhstan last week after the government raised fuel prices. These protests were quickly quelled when Russian sent approximately 2000 paratroopers and the government instituted a shoot-to-kill order for any person protesting in the street. Protests died out quickly and life has returned to normal in Almaty.

Kazakhstan is in an interesting position because it has been balancing Russia’s sensitive USSR territorial boundaries with China’s complete economic dominance. Kazakhstan was part of the old USSR where Stalin would move people around to keep one population from dominating a certain region. They moved Asians and Europeans to a different part of the country which prevented local populations from claiming parts of their ancestral land. Part of this relocation meant that the capital Astana, recently renamed to Nur-Sultan, has a high number of European Russians.

These European Russians allow Russia to use its position to influence Kazakhstan, both economically and politically. Russia is the premier military power in Central Asia and has over a century of relations with the Kazakhs. Their cultures are intertwined, Kazakhstan depends on Russia to stabilize their economy, support them during trying times, and prevent China from dominating the region.

Relations were strained after Russia’s currency collapsed and Kazakhstan struggled to maintain its exports to Russia. This allowed China to gain even more economic influence in the country. Kazakhstan is the largest producer of Uranium and is also a top oil exporter which has made it a critical ally for Beijing. An even more important role Kazakhstan serves for China lies with its geography. Kazakhstan allows Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to transit critical natural gas across Kazakhstan into China. Kazakhstan is also critical to China’s rail line to Europe where Beijing ships some of its exports, Kazakhstan has moderate influence over Kyrgyzstan and allows China to develop its One Belt One Road initiative.

But Russia isn’t just involved in the unrest going on in Kazakhstan. Russia has been playing a larger role on the world stage in recent years.


Recently Russia has been involved in sending new tanks to Tajikistan as well as holding large-scale exercises. This was to give the people of Tajikistan confidence that the government could resist any Taliban incursion or attempt to destabilize the country. Tajikistan fought a brutal civil war against Islamists that left the country in tatters for decades. The country worries that the Taliban would be able to do to it what they did to the US-backed government now that they are free of the Americans. This also allows Russia the opportunity to permanently station troops in Central Asia and right on China’s border.


Russia has also built up nearly 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine. Ukraine was a staunch all-weather ally until an uprising pushed Ukraine toward Europe’s sphere of influence. This led Russia to take Crimea which holds Russia’s largest naval base. Private Russian contractors have also taken parts of Eastern Ukraine with Russian troops committing daily ceasefire violations.

Russia has been threatening to invade Ukraine to prevent it from joining NATO and becoming a staunch American ally. Having an American all-weather on its European doorstep is something that Russia fears most. Russia has fought wars in the eastern part of the country but all serious incursions into its territory have come through Eastern Europe. Armies led by Napoleon and the Nazis were able to push deep into Russian territory and wreaked havoc on the country. This is the reason why Russia is paranoid about NATO’s expansion eastward and why Russia is dead set on having a buffer zone between itself and the European Union.

President Biden has told Russia that it does not intend to take military action if Russia invades Ukraine. The country will also not be able to stand up to Russia for a long siege. Europe will never take military action against Russia and is unlikely to enact sanctions that will cripple Russia’s economy if it has a chance of impacting Europe’s economy. Even factions within Ukraine’s military will likely side with the Russians because they have been training together through their entire careers.


Russia has not stopped its foreign intervention at the previous border of the USSR. Private Russian contractors fought a war alongside mercenaries from the UAE in Libya against the UN-backed government. During the original Libyan revolution at the time of the Arab Spring, Russia gave the green light for America and Europe to intervene in the uprising on behalf of the rebels. Russia did not envision the extent America and Europe would take to support the rebels and topple Ghaddafi.

When a new uprising started to form in the east, Russia and the UAE quickly backed Haftar against the UN-backed government. This allowed Russia to support the rebels as they marched into Tripoli. The Haftar rebels were able to fight their way into the outskirts of Tripoli and were just about to claim victory before Turkish troops and drones arrived. Turkey was able to push Haftar away from Tripoli just as they were about to take the country. The Turkish military took half of the country before the two sides halted the fighting. The two factions have a ceasefire, but the country remains divided and dysfunctional.

Afghan Border

Russia is unlikely to stop its foreign interventions but it will likely have its hands full in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Russia will likely get involved in other places around the Afghan border to deter the Taliban from destabilizing the Muslim countries around it. A similar situation happened with the fall of the Libyan military. Weapons traversed borders and allowed militants to try to overthrow the Mali government, Chadian government, and parts of Niger and Nigeria.

The Taliban have also been experiencing brief conflicts on the border with the Pakistanis, Iranians and has even had a death on the Turkmenistan border. The Afghans are used to fighting and are trying to figure out how to rule a country where the entire economy has collapsed. To make matters worse in the country, ISIS has been conducting daily attacks on Kabul and the mountainous area of Afghanistan.

This will push Russia to provide unwavering support for all of the countries in its sphere of influence. They will likely start training with Turkmen soldiers, keep moving personnel and equipment to Tajikistan, and may even step in to help Kyrgyzstan. They will do this while China watches from the sidelines.

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