Analysis: What's at stake with Putin's visit to Kazakhstan

Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Kazakhstan on Thursday to shore up ties with the former Soviet republic. NHK World's Senior Commentator Amma Hideo explains Putin's aim for the visit.

What does Putin want to achieve with this visit?

Amma: Putin wants to keep the former Soviet states in his sphere of influence. Kazakhstan has a large amount of oil and other commodities, and the largest territory in the five Central Asian countries. It is also a member of the collective security treaty, and economic union, formed mainly by Russia.

Putin described his meeting with Kazakhstan's leader as "practical and constructive." He says the strategic partnership and alliance relations between their countries are developing steadily.

What does it mean for Kazakhstan?

Amma: President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called the visit "historic." Tokayev has been skeptical about Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Much like Ukraine, Kazakhstan has many ethnic Russian residents and shares a long border with Russia. The invasion could be a concern to Kazakhstan's sovereignty. But he is acting cautiously so as not to be seen as anti-Russian. I think Tokayev intends to build a stable relationship with Russia, while at the same time drawing a line on the issue of sovereignty.

What do you make of China's increasing interest in the Central Asia region?

Amma: China regards Central Asia as the core of its Belt and Road initiative. China held its own summit with leaders from five Central Asian countries in May this year. President Xi Jinping unveiled a plan to provide Central Asian nations with about 3.5 billion dollars in loans and grants. China's move is aimed at building stronger ties with countries that are traditional allies of Russia.

Leaders of China and Central Asian nations gather in inland China in May for a two-day summit to discuss enhancing collaboration through China's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

From a Central Asian perspective, it can be seen as an opportunity to de-risk their economies, by allowing them to be less reliant on Russia.

This is not seen as a positive by Russia, but it regards China as a partner in countering the United States. So, Russia cannot oppose it.

The US and Japan are also stepping up their engagement in this area. What can you tell us about this?

Amma: Historically, this region is a place where major powers competed against each other. It was called "The Grand Chessboard."

Now, Russia's influence here is clearly declining. But the intentions of the major powers are mixed. If competition intensifies, it could destabilize the region.

Central Asian countries, on the other hand, want to maintain their independence. They maintain sovereignty with balanced diplomacy against the powers outside the region and take a tough stance in pursuing their own economic interests. The competition over "The Grand Chessboard" by the major powers has reached a new stage.