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Alexander Cooley on Russia-NATO Crisis in NYT and Russia-Kazakhstan in Foreign Policy
January 13, 2022

Alexander Cooley (Claire Tow Professor of Political Science, Barnard College) in an article in the New York Times on the Russia-NATO crisis over Ukraine, is quoted as saying, “Russia has rebuilt a lot of its architecture to reclaim its sphere of influence.”

Colm Quinn quotes Cooley in his Foreign Policy article about what happens next for Kazakhstan after Russian troop withdrawal:

“The CSTO has always been viewed as a fig leaf for Russia and patronized as a talking shop, as something that lacks capacity,” Alexander Cooley, a Central Asia expert and professor of political science at Barnard College, told Foreign Policy. “Well, here you have a case where not only was there an intervention, but the speed at which the decision was reached was really jarring.”

For Cooley, the practical role of the troops—a relatively small group mostly charged at securing key infrastructure—is less important than the political role: “This is really about the Kremlin strongly backing Tokayev in this internal standoff—sending a clear signal to Kazakh security services that might be wavering that now the Kremlin backs authority and the government. Its role as a kind of regime preservation vehicle is now clear.”

Whether Kazakhstan moves deeper into Russia’s orbit after this episode is unclear. Cooley sees Russia’s intervention as opportunistic but with a potential payoff down the line once the focus moves elsewhere. “They saw they could put Tokayev in a type of political debt, and we don’t know how that’s going to be repaid.”