KAZAKHSTAN’S 2011 MILITARY DOCTRINE AND REGIONAL SECURITY BEYOND 2014
On May 15, the presidents of the member countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) met in Moscow to discuss further initiatives aimed at building the organization’s peacekeeping potential. Kazakhstan’s role in the CSTO, its views on security in Central Asia and how Astana perceives the threats facing the region are among the numerous aspects addressed in the 2011 Military Doctrine. This security document is an essential element in assessing Kazakhstan’s defense agenda in the near term and beyond the NATO drawdown in Afghanistan.
BACKGROUND: The 2011 Military Doctrine contains much less reference to Kazakhstan’s cooperation with NATO than the 2007 version, referring only to the importance of achieving NATO standards in international peacekeeping. The doctrine notes the defensive nature of the country’s posture, considering no state as a “potential enemy,” and reasserts the significance of Kazakhstan’s membership of the CSTO and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). However, commitment to these organizations when the vital security of the state is threatened is less clear, offering to strengthen military-technical cooperation within the CSTO as well as pursue joint training and further develop the collective Rapid Reaction Forces (Kollektivnye Sily Operativnovo Reagirovaniya – KSOR). KSOR was created in June 2009, deepening the strategic partnership within the CSTO and boosting its counter terrorist capacity. KSOR receives only one mention in the doctrine, and overall the document pays unconvincing attention to the CSTO as a means of strengthening Kazakhstan’s security.
Two areas of the 2011 Military Doctrine deserve close attention: the carefully crafted overview of the political-military situation and threat environment in Central Asia, and the priorities for military development. The first outlines the global military-political situation characterized by the highly dynamic and unpredictable nature of international relations, an increase in competition between leading actors and organizations, growth of separatism and ethnic and religious extremism, as well as the destabilizing impact on the security environment due to some states bypassing legal norms in their policy making.
The existence of unresolved disputes and risks of inter-state conflict persist, as do the dangers of dual use technologies and WMD materials expanding the scope for international terrorist groups should they acquire such capabilities. In addition to the conventional means of military conflict, the doctrine refers to asymmetric destructive power harnessing information and networking technologies in the pursuit of military-political objectives. The uneven distribution of resources, impact of globalization and other factors may exacerbate inter-state conflict, while in Central Asia conflict could arise due to instability in Afghanistan, or through border, territorial or water-linked disputes. Economic, religious or other types of conflict may erupt in the region while there are only imperfect conflict resolution mechanisms to address these issues peacefully. Disputed oil fields and the unresolved legal status of the Caspian Sea may also contribute to future conflicts.
IMPLICATIONS: To understand the nature of the threat assessment contained in the doctrine, it is crucial not to miss the precursor which states that the “nature of the threats to military security” has changed significantly; strengthening the relationship between external and internal threats. Comparing the 2011 Military Doctrine with the previous doctrine from 2007, the external threats to Kazakhstan’s security have shrunk from eight to six and internal threats have decreased from four to three. What has changed in the hiatus is the potentially destabilizing nexus between some of these external and domestic threats, coupled with the increasingly unpredictable nature of the security environment. According to the 2011 Military Doctrine, the main external threat to Kazakhstan’s security stems from socio-political instability in Central Asia and the likelihood of armed conflict in the region (drawing on the crisis in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010); followed by the presence of pockets of conflict close to the country’s borders.
A new feature in the threat assessment is the use of information technology and psychological warfare by state actors and organizations to interfere in Kazakhstan’s internal affairs, and the expanded influence of “military-political organizations” to the detriment of the country is placed above international terrorism and WMD proliferation. The new doctrine essentially streamlines internal threats to recalibrate these as: extremists, nationalists or separatists attempting to destabilize the country by using violent means; the creation or activities of “illegal armed formations” and the illegal distribution of weapons or other means to promote terrorism or acts of sabotage.
Any low to medium intensity conflict in Central Asia to which Kazakhstan becomes a party either directly or indirectly, or through a regional organization such as the CSTO, will necessitate integrated use of the Armed Forces and other non-defense ministry troops in combined operations. Achieving this level of interagency coordination will force changes to the role and function of the joint chiefs of staff in order to improve planning and force capability; further optimizing the structure of the Armed Forces; establishing groups of forces capable of acting rapidly in strategic directions; introducing automated command and control (C2) in the Armed Forces and other forces; standardizing military equipment with special focus on communications systems; developing information warfare capabilities; improving the system of air and missile defense; modernizing the weapons and equipment inventory and intensifying combat training with emphasis on precision-guided munitions; forming integrated material and technical support structures for the Armed Forces; enhancing the procurement system; modernizing military education and military science; and further developing military infrastructure in the Caspian region.
The threat assessment in the 2011 Military Doctrine does not place particular stress on either external or domestic threats; it contradicts arguments that Kazakhstan’s government now prioritizes building defense capabilities to respond to domestic security crises. There is broad similarity in the 2011 doctrine and the 2007 version on the nature of the threats facing the state, but the latest doctrine rewords and reorders these threats. In so doing it makes clear that Kazakhstan’s defense and intelligence agencies regard the potential for military conflict in Central Asia to have grown since 2007, though there is less priority assigned to international terrorism as a threat. Information and networking technologies harnessed against the state suggests more specific thought has been devoted to the ambiguous wording in the 2007 doctrine which simply referred to the sensitivity concerning interference in the country’s internal affairs. The domestic threat environment is not overly stressed, nor does the 2011 Military Doctrine suggest that Astana has shifted its policy on the possible supporting role of the Armed Forces during a national security crisis.
Nonetheless, in the preamble to delineating these threats, for the first time Afghanistan is specifically mentioned as a source of destabilization in the region. Yet, the 2011 doctrine does not imply any fluctuation in the security environment driven by the Afghan factor: equally Kazakh security specialists show little sign of panic concerning the implications for regional security post-2014.
Kazakhstan’s 2011 Military Doctrine promises transformation in the structure of the Armed Forces and in efforts to introduce high-technology assets. Pursuing these goals would prove costly for the state, and may compel rethinking the decision to cap defense spending at 1 percent of GDP. Introducing automated Command and Control (C2) systems during a period of expanding the role of the domestic defense industry is likely to lead to joint ventures with Russian companies, also pursuing the design and introduction of such systems in the Russian Armed Forces.
CONCLUSIONS: Kazakhstan’s 2011 Military Doctrine is realistic, defensive in nature, and reasserts the country’s growing regional and international role in defense and security. It does not imply any subordinate relationship to Russia as the country develops both defense cooperation and military-technical assistance from its close ally, or placing the CSTO or the SCO too close to the foundation of its national security planning.
Instead, Kazakhstan is attempting to realign its defense capabilities to meet the challenges of an unpredictable and evolving security setting that recognizes the shifts in the means and methods of warfare alongside the increasing sophistication of potential enemy assets and capabilities. Closing these gaps and genuinely building the country’s defense capabilities will mean spending more money, reworking the planning apparatus, recruiting and retaining educated and professional staff in key agencies as well as addressing underlying flaws in threat assessment. While Astana has demonstrated in the latest doctrine an awareness of the wider evolution in the security environment, it will need to decide how and where to allocate financial and human resources to constantly monitor the threat assessment.
AUTHOR’S BIO: Roger N. McDermott is an Affiliated Senior Analyst with the Danish Institute for International Studies, Copenhagen and an Advisory Scholar: Military Affairs with the Center for Research on Canadian-Russian Relations (CRCR) Georgian College Ontario, Canada.