Kazakhstan and the Price of Russia’s Empire

MOSCOW – Paratroopers from Russia’s elite Spetsnaz brigade, the shock troops of the Russian military, have arrived in Kazakhstan to suppress violent, nationwide protests against the country’s Kremlin-friendly regime. The action comes at a time when Russian troops are already massed near Ukraine’s border, and just 15 months after a Russian rifle brigade intervened to end the fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh. Is President Vladimir Putin really attempting to rebuild the Russian Empire?

Of course, it is impossible to know with any certainty what the Kremlin sphinx has in mind. But, whatever Putin’s intentions, his actions are fatally undermining the idea that underpinned the Russian Federation’s creation 30 years ago.

Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first post-Soviet president, is rarely a topic of conversation nowadays. If Russians mention him, they are most likely recalling his excessive drinking or, more important, the inflation and poverty that pervaded Russia’s transition to a market economy. They are probably not crediting him with profound historical insights.

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