The impact of the Caucasian War on the foreign policy of Kazakhstan

Term Paper, 2014

12 Pages, Grade: 80/100

Free online reading


1. Introduction

2. Kazakhstan

3. The Caucasian War

4. Event analysis- the Caucasian War

5. The impact of the Caucasian War on the foreign policy of Kazakhstan

6. Conclusion

1. Introduction

On December 1991, Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine declared the contract about the establishment of the USSR as null and void and resolved the establishment of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States). The collapse of the Soviet Union was a far-ranging geopolitical event, because it resulted in a new political map on the territorial of the geographic biggest state of the world. The central Asian republics, which established in this procedure, were hardly prepared for their independence because they have had nothing more than administrative units inside of the USSR; their leaders had to absolve a “crash course in nation building”. By consolidation of states sovereignty, formation of national identities, constitution of political institutions and the establishment of efficient economic structures these countries had to build up several parallel evolutionary steps and processes, that were achieved step by step and about a long period in Western states.

This situation caused enormous challenges, such as an enormous potential for tension and conflicts. This article takes the escalation of the Caucasian War on Georgian Territory that took place five days in August 2008, as an example for the analyzation of the political coherence and the regional instability. Thereby the paper puts a focus in the country of Kazakhstan. The country of Kazakhstan will be presented in the first chapter and in the next chapter a short introduction into the Caucasian war and its background. The essay will provide an event analysis of the war and its factors and identifications of obvious and concealed vital interests of states and big powers. In chapter 5 the article then addresses the impact of the events around the Caucasian war on the long-term foreign policy of Kazakhstan.

2. Kazakhstan (bpb 2014)

The Republic of Kazakhstan is a contiguous transcontinental country in Central Asia, the worlds largest landlocked country and the ninth largest country in the world. It has borders with Russia in the north, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, and also adjoins a large part of the Caspian Sea in the west. The terrain of Kazakhstan includes flatlands, steppe, taiga, rock canyons, hills, deltas, snow-capped mountains, and deserts. The capital is Astana, the country has 17 million inhabitants (estimated 2013) with 131 ethnicities (63% Kazakh, 23% Russian, 12% others), it allows freedom of religion, 65% of the population is Muslim. Kazakhstan was the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991; the current President Nazarbayev has been leader of the country since 1991. Since independence, Kazakhstan hast pursued a balanced foreign policy and worked to develop its economy. Kazakhstan has an emerging market but the largest economy in Central Asia and a leading position above all post-soviet states. It possesses enormous oil reserves; energy is the leading economic sector. Production of crude oil (60% of K. exports) and natural amounted gas are the basis of the economy, furthermore minerals and metals and a considerable agricultural potential.

Kazakhstan is member in SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) as well as in OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe).

3. The Caucasian War

The Caucasian War (also known as the South Ossetia War, Five-Day War, or Russo-Georgian War), a conflict between Georgia and Russia, along with the separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, took place on Georgian territory. The hostilities between soldiers of the Georgian army and South-Ossetian militia began in July 2008 and escalated in the night of the 8th of August. Until the ceasefire at the 12th of August was negotiated, about 850 people died and 2500 to 3000 people were injured, the UNHCR estimates 158.000 refugees.

South Ossetia is a secessionist region of Georgia that has functioned as an independent entity since the fall of the Soviet Union. The region was informally aligned with Russia, and Russia acted to prevent the region’s absorption by Georgia. Finally after the war, Russia withdraw from South Ossetia, the region is still an autonomic part of Georgia.

The Caucasian war plays an important role on the level of international relations, despite its length of only 5 days and its proportionally small amount of victims. The conflict sources the question of national independence – a question that could have complex consequences for other nations or ethnicities who pursuit autonomy or total independence (Rietberg 2012). The region of Caucasus is occupied by a big amount of different ethnic groups, who distinguish socio-culturally and socio-structurally. Some ethnic groups established their own state previous, others never had autonomy. There were always tensions, conflicts and war in this territory that caused migration. Russia has big security interests in this region of neighbor countries with port to Europe and Middle East.

4. Event analysis- the Caucasian War

It was the first time after the fall of the Soviet Union that Russia used military violence outside the Russian territory. They had to intervene, as they argued, because Georgia would have committed genocide, and so they had to acclaim the independence of South-Ossetia and Abkhazia (IFSH 2008:11). One must assume that this was also an overall Russian sign of its power in the region, a signal of its ability and `will to act´ in what it considers its sphere of influence in the post-soviet countries (Frost 2008). This acting shows up that Russia was willing to take a decision against the will and interest of the Western states, who did not want to jeopardize Georgia´s independence, since the country is the central geographic area for the EU as well as the NATO-states for energy export.

The complexity of problems in Russia's position is the violation of other states´ sovereignty: Russia claims the right to defend its citizens also outside the Russian territory. This conflict is a general conflict in antagonism of territorial integrity and self-determination in the international law: On the one hand, a violation of states sovereignty; on the other hand, the main principle of equal rights and status and self-determination of nations and minorities. The Caucasian War represents these paradoxes.

In addition to the matter of sovereignty there are many other factors that need to be considered for an analyzation of this war. There is also the main matter of oil and gas supplies. Russia is one of the world’s biggest energy providers. The increase of prizes for oil and gas had a backlash to politics; the monopolistic power of Russia was being criticized by the Western countries. As an alternative, the BTC-pipeline brings gas from the South Caucasus to the West, circumventing Russia, and another pipeline from Kazakhstan that was threatened by Russia's advance. (In fact, the BTC pipeline was reportedly bombed by Russia several times, but supposedly undamaged (Frost 2008)). Future pipelines that would go from Central Asian states, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and into Georgia or its neighbor Azerbaijan as transferring countries (for instance the Trans-Caspian and Nabucco pipelines) which would flow toward Europe, now had to be considered in jeopardy with Russia's destabilization of the region, and possible more control over pipeline routes due to its successful military campaign, because Georgia is the central geographic area for the EU as well as the NATO-states to cut Russia's energy-export. The U.S. continuously supported Georgia's democratic aspirations, and its national desire to join Euro-Atlantic political, economic, and security organizations is therefore essential; the U.S. has legitimate interests throughout Eurasia and its regional policies.

As a summary it can be said that the interest of the Western states for stability in Caucasus clashed with the Russian interest to keep up the Status quo in the post-soviet area. This situation did hardly change until today; the frozen conflict could fast escalate again. The diplomatic relations between Russia and Georgia after the war are cut, and less stabile between Russia and the U.S., as well as they are with Europe. Russia won the war politically, but he was a big strain on Russia's foreign policy.

5. The impact of the Caucasian War on the foreign policy of Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan represented a low-key, close position in the Caucasian War. Although the country was the second biggest investor in Georgia behind America (ISFH 2008:12), and was therefore trembling about its investments, they did not convict Russia's acting. This fact can only be understood if one considers Kazakhstan's long-term foreign policy.

The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the establishment of nine new landlocked states, and the landlocked factor has influenced political and economical developments in the former Soviet Union (Idan/Shaffer 2011:264).

Idan and Shaffer come to the conclusion that states with seacoasts would be more successful in integrating into US- and European-led economic and security structures than landlocked ones, while the former Soviet states with lack of sea access remained closely integrated with Russia. The landlocked states would be much more dependent on Russia and vulnerable to its demands, while sea access enabled the coastal states to find alternatives to trade with Russia (Idan/Shaffer 2001:264/265). They emphasize that landlocked states in general would have much less maneuverability and narrower policy options than their coastal counterparts and this would affect their foreign policy. Understanding this factor could be a very helpful analytical tool in international relation studies (266/267). Idan and Shaffers statement confirms Kazakhstan's political acting.

The main factor that influences Kazakhstan's politics is the fact that the country has no direct access to the sea, but possesses enormous oil recourses.

In the Soviet period, all of Kazakhstan's oil was transported by pipeline to Russia. At independence in 1991, Kazakhstan made the strategic decision to focus on developing its oil production and exporting it as the major source of income for the new state (Idan, Shaffer 2011:249).

In contrast to the coastal states, which export their oil primarily by tankers, Kazakhstan faced a decision early about the route for the states major oil export pipelines.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Fig. 1: Contingent of export routes of Kazakhstan's oil export

Thus, from its inception Kazakhstan was clearly aware of its unique predicament as a landlocked state and integrated this consideration into its early state strategies (249): „Ethnic composition of our country is too motley, our interests are too important and the prospects too bright for us to afford dependence on the relations with some certain country or reliance thereon.“

(Liesener 2013:43/44 cited Nazarbajew) .

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Fig. 2: Kazakhstan's and Azerbaijan´s multiple pipelines

The countries policy aimed to address the landlocked challenge, including: 1. a multidirectional foreign policy, 2. the use of multiple pipelines in its oil export policy, 3. large investments in transport and export infrastructure in port and transit states; and 4. distinctive concessions to transit states (Idan/Shaffer 2011:249). Hence it is identified that Kazakhstan changed its political relations into a “multi-vector” foreign policy that strives to balance the foreign relations to the new states with all the major global and regional powers: Russia, China, US, Iran and Turkey (250).

The network with America is strategically and stable, one of the most important foreign policies is the cooperation with China, but the country also explores expertly and prudent the international area and the development of close relations and diplomacy. In this way Kazakhstan maintains cooperation also with Great Britain, Saudi-Arabia and of course the vital partner EU (Rachymbekow 2007). By refusing to join an exclusive alliance system, Kazakhstan maintains multiple transit options (Idan/Shaffer 2011:250). According to that, the country has to balance permanent between the interests of the great powers to ensure its national interests in independence for its export and trade; by refusing to join an exclusive alliance system, Kazakhstan maintains multiple transit options for its recourses.

Kazakhstan and its neighboring country Uzbekistan (also a landlocked country) have distribution rivalries with Tajikistan and Kirghizistan, because the region has water scarcity.

Thereby Kazakhstan has the leading position above all post-soviet states, but Uzbekistan claims this status (Wolkowa 2008). Kazakhstan has the largest economy in Central Asia and a high economic growth; the economic and social reforms of the government since the independence of the country have proved itself (Rachymbekow 2007).

Traditionally, Kazakhstan maintains close relations with Russia as a natural geopolitically, geo-economically and geo-culturally partner. Especially the Russian federation and Kazakhstan play a significant role in the cooperation structures of the post-soviet area; in the international arena Russia and Kazakhstan often act in common and thereby often push through complex problems (Rachymbekow 2007). The Caucasian war did not change this consolidation; the cooperation of Russia and Kazakhstan build up a framework in the security system of Eurasia and gained eminent experience in common resistance against terrorism and extremism, against drug trafficking and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Beyond maintaining diplomatic relations with all presented countries, Kazakhstan is member of different intergovernmental organizations. The three most important that should be presented in this paper is the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), the CSO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) and the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization).

The OSCE is the worlds largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization and has 57 participating states.

The CSO is a Eurasian political, economic and military organization (member states: China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan). It represents more than a quarter of the worlds population and is thus the biggest regional organization of the world. Kazakhstan used the organization as an additional vector of its activity to promote the status of landlocked states in general and of course its own status within the framework of its chairmanship from 2007 until 2011.

The CSTO is an intergovernmental military alliance, member states are Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. Also in this organization Kazakhstan used its influence and took the chairmanship in the year 2010.

6. Conclusion

As shown in this article, the Caucasian war and its long-term consequences was and still is a threat to the sovereignty of the post-soviet states and their independent acting on the global market. Russia set a clear signal of its will to influence the countries with violence. The multiplicity of involved states, political and economic parties and organizations with divergent preferences increase the complexity of possible solutions and not at least the potential for conflicts in the region.

Kazakhstan found its solution and security in this surrounding field from the beginning through good balanced multi-vector diplomatic relations. The government tries to maximize its advantage and reaches its own strategic goals in this complex regional and global interaction through friendliness with all big global players. They try to stay independent against the hegemony of the US but cooperate with them on the same time. Instead of the industrial and infrastructural dependency of Russia at the states establishment in 1991, the government released of this dependency without harming the close cooperation.

Next to diplomatic relations with single states Kazakhstan tried to increase its status and influence by participation and assumption of chairmanship in the presented major intergovernmental security organizations. Through this acting Kazakhstan reached a reputable and respected position in the international arena of diplomacy.

Since its independence the state was very successful with this strategy, although the country is inhabited by more than hundred ethnicities. The government with its President Nazarbayev understood to accomplish its diversity instead of rivalry.

This success can be measured in examination of its diplomatic relations as well as in the countries economic growth.

The game of success in a long-term operations diplomatic network is not always easy to balance. The country gained a lot of experience in this field also with its leader Nazarbayev who understands skilled and smart to attend the foreign relations. The country manages this balance of consideration of all interests of stakeholders and actors effective and favorable until today and subsequently compensates its disadvantage in lack of sea access. But in this point also lies a potential of conflict that should be well-considered for the future: The interests of stakeholders conflict with each other but have to be included in its entirety and well-balanced.


Bpb (2014): Kasachstan, das Land in Daten. Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung. Online:

Frost, P. (2008): Georgia-Russian-War- Implications for Central Asia and the World. Online:

Idan, A. & Shaffer, B. (2011): The foreign policy of post-soviet landlocked states, Post-soviet Affairs, Vol.27, No.3 (July 2011).

ISFH (2008): Der Kaukasuskrieg 2008, ein regionaler Krieg mit internationalen Folgen, eine Stellungnahme aus dem IFSH, verfasst von: Brzoska, König, Kreikemeyer u.A., Hamburg.

Liesener, M. (2013): Die Integration Kasachstans in den globalen Ölmarkt. Die mulitvektorielle Erdölpolitik eines langeschlossenen Produzentenstaates im Spannungsfeld konkurrierender geopolitischer Interessen in der kaspischen Region, Dissertation, Berlin.

Rachimbekow, A. (2007): Kasachstan- Ein “Geheimfavorit” in der Schanghaier Organisation für Zusammenarbeit, Moskau. Online:

Rietberg, S. (2012): Der Kaukasuskrieg 2008 und die Theorien der internationalen Beziehungen. Online:

Wolkowa, I. (2008): Medwedjew macht Shanghai-Treffen zur Bühne. Russische Position zum Kaukasus-Konflikt erörtert, Haltbarkeit der neuen Allianz in Zentralasien offen. Online:

Fig. 1: Contingent of export routes of Kazakhstan's oil export. From: Liesener, M. (2013), p.819: Die Integration Kasachstans in den globalen Ölmarkt. Die mulitvektorielle Erdölpolitik eines langeschlossenen Produzentenstaates im Spannungsfeld konkurrierender geopolitischer Interessen in der kaspischen Region, Dissertation, Berlin.

Fig. 2: Kazakhstan's and Azerbaijan´s multiple pipelines. From: Idan, A. & Shaffer, B. (2011): The foreign policy of post-soviet landlocked states, Post-soviet Affairs, Vol.27, No.3 (July 2011).

12 of 12 pages


The impact of the Caucasian War on the foreign policy of Kazakhstan
University of Haifa
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
1233 KB
caucasian, kazakhstan
Quote paper
Uta Freyer (Author), 2014, The impact of the Caucasian War on the foreign policy of Kazakhstan, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Look inside the ebook
Title: The impact of the Caucasian War on the foreign policy of Kazakhstan

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free