Military intervention in Kazakhstan is a significant move by Russia, and is fraught with risk. If the Russian forces’ mission were to expand, that would lead to the mass alienation of the Kazakh people from Russia, or even their outright hostility and resistance. This, in turn, would reverberate in Russia itself, where the first polls suggest that twice as many people oppose the despatching of troops to Kazakhstan as support the move. 

Alternatively, if Russia succeeds in propping up the regime and making it more pro-Russian — not just in words, but also in deeds — then Kazakhstan, like Belarus, could become a more reliable ally and partner for Russia. Nur-Sultan’s multi-vector foreign policy would then be streamlined, as has happened recently in Minsk and Yerevan. At this point, the odds appear to favor the latter scenario, which explains the Kremlin’s decision to go ahead with the intervention.

This article was first published by the Carnegie Moscow Center.