Tokayev at a meeting with Putin sent a hidden signal to the Kazakhs
Why did the GDP call the President of Kazakhstan to Sochi
Vladimir Putin received his Kazakh counterpart Kasym-Jomart Tokayev in Sochi. Organizationally, the trip looked strange: the visit was not announced in advance, the press was not invited to cover the talks, and Tokayev’s arrival became known from a video posted on the social network.
Western experts say that after Tokayev's resonant speech at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, relations between Russia and Kazakhstan are developing tensely. At the protocol part of the meeting, Tokayev tried to send calming signals to the internal audience.
The previous meeting of the Presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan took place in mid-June as part of the SPIEF. Tokayev, speaking at the plenary session of the forum, in the presence of Putin, said that Kazakhstan does not recognize the LPR and DPR, and called them “quasi-state territories.”
This public demarche did not go unnoticed. In early July, the court of Novorossiysk, citing environmental problems, suspended the activities of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), through which Kazakh oil is transited. This was hardly a mere coincidence: Russia traditionally solves political problems with its allies by economic measures.
And, although after a call to Moscow, the suspension of the CPC was replaced with a fine, Kazakhstan urgently began to look for ways to diversify supplies. “Kazakhstan has never been a maritime country,” but “now times are different,” Tokayev explained the adjustments in the strategy. Reuters claims that, in addition to deliveries bypassing Russia by sea, Nur-Sultan is going to agree on the sale of part of its oil through Azerbaijan's largest oil pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and through its own pipe leading to the Georgian port of Supsa. According to the agency, the parties will sign an agreement at the end of the summer. And indeed: on August 24, the President of Kazakhstan is going to visit Baku.
Although there are still 5 days before Tokayev's trip to Aliyev, much more is known about it than about the talks with Vladimir Putin in Sochi. The Azerbaijani program includes meetings in narrow and extended formats. Discussion of strategic partnership with an emphasis on enhancing trade and economic, transport and logistics, cultural and humanitarian cooperation. The signing of bilateral documents, a large delegation, the participation of the press.
In Russia, the plans of the Kazakh leader, apparently, are much more modest. Until the last moment, the negotiations were not reported at all. (For comparison: the arrival of Erdogan, who visited Sochi on August 5, was confirmed by the Kremlin almost a week in advance, negotiations with the head of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, were announced 10 days in advance). The press was not invited to cover Tokayev's visit, which, like the visits of Erdogan and Widodo, is considered a work visit (his arrival in Sochi became known from a video posted on Telegram). There are no plans to accept any statements and documents based on the results of the negotiations.
This approach makes us suspect that complex issues of bilateral relations are on the agenda. And not only economic, but also political. The Kremlin is ready to turn a blind eye to the fact that Kazakhstan is trying to distance itself as much as possible from the conflict in Ukraine, but categorically does not accept the rapprochement of Nur-Sultan with the position of the “collective” West, which is becoming more and more evidence. And, although the Russian Foreign Ministry officially calls them “fakes” and attempts to “drive a wedge” into relations between good neighbors (see statements by Deputy Director of the Information Department Ivan Nechaev), Vladimir Putin’s desire to dot the i’s in a personal conversation with Tokayev is understandable.
The President received the Kazakh guest at his Sochi residence Bocharov Ruchey. The first footage of their meeting, filmed by the head of state's personal cameraman, was broadcast by TV channels around 4 p.m. — that is, about two hours after reports of Tokayev's arrival in Sochi. Putin went out to meet his colleague on the porch – they shook hands and hugged – however, without much emotion.
At the protocol recorded for public demonstration, the words on duty were heard about the development of trade and active interaction on international platforms. And also about the upcoming anniversary – in October, Russia and Kazakhstan will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. According to Putin, a number of joint events are being prepared for this date. In particular, joint exercises are planned through the CSTO.
Tokayev thanked Putin for the invitation to visit Sochi, which means that the visit was most likely organized at the initiative of the Russian side. “I am glad to see you in good health,” the President of Kazakhstan addressed the GDP. He expressed hope that the Russian leader would be able to personally attend the CIS summit in Kazakhstan, which will be held in autumn.
Separate words of Tokayev can be regarded as signals to the internal audience that there is no need to be afraid of a conflict with Russia and that the visit, indeed, is of a working and friendly nature. In particular, the President of Kazakhstan suddenly announced that our countries are united by the longest land border in the world. “And, by the way, delimited,” he stressed. “Therefore, of course, there are no grounds for making pessimistic forecasts regarding the future of our cooperation,” Tokayev continued.
He explained that “the specifics of the geopolitical situation” require “synchronization of watches” at the level of heads of state in order “perhaps to give additional instructions to governments.” “They work successfully, interact with each other. Nevertheless, life prompts new tasks, which, of course, need to be addressed,” the Kazakh leader said.
“Additional orders” may well be associated with the expansion and increase in the volume of parallel imports. Although Nur-Sultan has officially stated that it will not help Russia bypass Western stations, it is Kazakhstan, together with Turkey and Uzbekistan, that has become the largest supplier of products that have left the Russian market. According to the Bureau of National Statistics of Kazakhstan, the export of smartphones to Russia in the first half of the year increased by 2,000 times in monetary terms. The republic also supplies the Russian Federation with such high-tech products as processors, controllers, memory cards and smart cards. Previously, these goods were either imported from Kazakhstan in minimal quantities, or not supplied at all.