What We’re Watching

What our analysts are watching and key events they are keeping an eye on
10th January 20224 min

Uprising in Kazakhstan. The president of Kazakhstan has claimed that the recent violent demonstrations that have shaken the country were an “attempted coup d’état” by “armed fighters“, adding that his forces would “never” fire on peaceful protesters. It’s been over a week since an uprising in Kazakhstan saw protesters overrun the Almaty city administration, airport and presidential palace after an energy cap was removed from Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) prices. Authorities shut off internet access nationwide and declared a national state of emergency. The scale of the protests are all unprecedented for Kazakhstan and as a result, on the 6th of January, the leaders of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CTSO) agreed to invoke the organisation’s Article 4 obligations to send “peacekeeping” forces to Kazakhstan following a request from the country’s president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The president considered the protests an “external” and “terrorist” threat. Kazakhstan was in the middle of a power transition process that involved former long term ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev stepping back from daily management of the country and leaving the presidency while remaining the head of the country’s national security council. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, was chosen to become the country’s president, who was not from the immediate family of the former long-term president. We will be watching the regime’s strategy to quell the protests the demands for change and any signs of the power transition being shelved.

US-Russia talks. This week will see a flurry of talks between the US and Russia to discuss Russia’s demands for security guarantees after Russia moved 100,000 troops to Ukraine borders. A US delegation headed by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and a Russian delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov will meet on the 10th of January 2022 in Geneva. This meeting takes place prior to a flurry of diplomacy that include meetings of the Russia-NATO Council on the 12th of January 2022 in Brussels and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on the 13th of January 2022 in Vienna. We will be watching for any breakthroughs, which look unlikely. These talks show that Russia sees bilateral negotiations with the US as the only format likely to reduce tensions. We will also be watching for Russia’s rhetoric and actions and build-up of forces if progress is not made. 

Read our analysis: Is Russia preparing to invade Ukraine? 

Nuclear Pledge. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, Russia, China, France and the UK – signed a joint pledge to reduce the risk of nuclear war. The pledge stated that: “We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.  As nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences, we also affirm that nuclear weapons—for as long as they continue to exist—should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war. We believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented.”  These five nuclear weapon states are the only ones recognised as such in the 1967 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), with the other four nuclear powers – Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea – having no such status. The NPT is reviewed every five years, with a review currently delayed by the pandemic. Under the NPT, the five permanent member states (known as the P5) are required to gradually disarm themselves of nuclear weapons. This has clearly not been taking place as these nuclear powers have been modernising their nuclear programs, increasing their warheads and work has begun on developing the next generation of nuclear weapons. This announcement was likely for public consumption, but we will be watching the developments in the programmes of the nuclear powers as these have an impact on these nations projecting power. 

Read our analysis: the Geopolitics of nuclear weapons

Pakistan mini budget to ‘increase malnutrition. Pakistan’s finance minister Shaukat Tarin presented a contentious supplementary finance bill, popularly known as the ‘mini budget,’ before the country’s Senate on the 4th of January 2022. The bill was presented amid warnings by opposition lawmakers and economists that the measures it introduces were anti-growth and will trigger inflation. The bill was presented in the lower house of parliament the previous week and included the imposition of sales tax on nearly 150 items in order to revive the $6 billion loan program IMF. Opposition politicians and economic experts say the new measures will usher in a new wave of inflation, which the government denies. The mini-budget, once passed by the National Assembly, according to experts will increase malnutrition and stunting in the country because of the increase in cost of goods that are critical for nourishment. With inflation increasing, GDP growth shrinking and the national debt increasing we will be watching for national discontent and whether the opposition can take advantage of this sentiment, as the country heads for elections in 2023.

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