The handling of the recent protests in Kazakhstan has shown that Turkey and the Organization of Turkic States, which Turkey heads, has lost its significance as a major player in Eurasia, a number of analysts have implied.

During unrest in Kazakhstan earlier this month – reportedly prompted by a rise in fuel prices – President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev did not turn to Turkey and the Organization of Turkic States for help in crushing the protests, but to Russia and the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin had declared the mission in Kazakhstan a success and that it had been, “a practice that warranted further study.”

CSTO troops began to withdraw from Kazakhstan on Thursday.

“We must make sure that events similar to the tragedy happening in the brotherly country of Kazakhstan will not catch us by surprise again and that we are fully mobilized and ready to push back against any new provocation,” Putin said.

“The unrest rattling Kazakhstan has reflected the irrelevance of Turkey and the Organization of Turkic States chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” said Turkish author and senior journalist Cengiz Candar.

“Turkey has aimed to utilize the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking states to realize its ambitions in Central Asia,” Candar wrote on Wednesday. “Nevertheless, it took only two months for the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) to prove its impotence, manifesting Turkey’s irrelevance. On Jan. 2, Kazakhstan imploded. And Kazakhstan’s security establishment hasn’t knocked on the doors of the Turkic Council but instead on the doors of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to maintain its survival in the face of the rattling violence in its commercial capital, Almaty. The CSTO, which was founded in 1992 and is led by Russia, includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Belarus and Armenia.”

The Organization of Turkic States, formerly known as the Turkic Council or the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States, is a regional organization that includes, in addition to Turkey, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Turkmenistan and Hungary both hold observer status.

In November, the Organization of Turkic States held a summit, in which it adopted a document “Turkic World Vision – 2040,” which set ambitions for the organization on foreign policy, security, and economic cooperation, among others. In December, the Secretary General of the organization, Baghdad Amreyev, said that the organization represented a “‘new geopolitical reality’ in the Eurasian space.” 

Other analysts shared Candar’s view of Turkey’s growing irrelevance. 

“Things looked rosy with the Turkic world for [the Turkish government] but now they have to deal with Russia. Russia is the clear winner,” said Gul Berna Ozcan, from the School of Business and Management, Royal Holloway, University of London.

“This has been a great reality check for Turkey’s ambitions via the Organization of Turkic States,” Rich Outzen, a former U.S. military officer and State Department policy-planning official, said. “Just because a great power like the United States is less interested in the region, with the Afghanistan pullout, it doesn’t mean that other great powers like Russia or China are also less interested and there is a free hand to shape anything the way other countries of the region want to. Russians have near-imperial interests in the area and absolutely want to shape it according to their wishes. Chinese as well.” 

Professor Michael Tanchum said that Russia’s intervention in Kazakhstan with CSTO troops was “an important cautionary signal” to Turkey and the Organization of Turkic States, “that their ambitions should not outrun their capacity.”

Kazakhstan is approximately the size of Western Europe and the largest landlocked country in the world. It borders Russia to the north and China to the east. It has a population of 18 million and sits on vast energy and mineral resources.

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