New Amendments Enhance Kazakhstan’s Military Doctrine
Nov 1, 2022
On October 24, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev approved a revised military doctrine aimed at developing an “infrastructure in order to increase the mobility of the troops and adequately respond to the modern threat to military security.” This comes days after Kazakhstan officials announced incremental changes to Kazakhstan’s 2017 military doctrine at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building in Asia (CICA). Although Kazakhstan’s fundamental security infrastructure has been left intact, minor changes intend to consolidate power back to the center. This will enable the executive to oversee the newly created subdivisions of Kazakhstan's special forces.
Following the violent disturbances in Kazakhstan in January 2022, some thought the new military doctrine would succumb to Putin’s intimidation, allowing Russia to direct Kazakhstan’s foreign policy. However, Astana has maintained its multi-vectored, balanced foreign policy.
Military doctrines do not serve as a playbook for military architecture. However, they serve as a guideline for foreign policy objectives, defense budgets, and interstate military relations. Kazakhstan’s military doctrine is no exception; it only helps to advance the state's security agenda. It provides “a system of views officially adopted in the state on ensuring military security and defense.”
Four parts constitute the doctrine; an introduction, the second part is an “analysis of the current situation,” a section on “The main conditions and factors affecting military security and military threats to the Republic of Kazakhstan,” and a concluding section. The introduction explains the legal basis of the doctrine, its uses, and the objectives, along with definitions of terms such as “combat potential of troops,” “military force,” “conflict,” “armed conflict,” “low-intensity conflict,” and “hybrid conflict.” The concluding section asserts that necessary provisions may be implemented and “carried out within the framework of the documents of the State Planning System within the allocated budget funds.” The introduction and conclusion are standard. However, the second and third sections contain several updates to the doctrine, likely because of the volatility of current international affairs and technological advances.
In the second section, amendments were made to address the changing tendencies of military-political dynamics: "increased tension, expanding pockets of instability in the aims of individual states to alter the existing world order.” Technological advances and cyber warfare were mentioned as significant threats to Kazakhstan’s “military-economic potential.” Because opposing countries often “create unfavorable external conditions and destabilize the internal situation in the opposing state,” Kazakhstan plans to use “hybrid” measures to reduce these threats. Therefore, to “adequately respond to new threats and risks,” this doctrine explains that “[s]ubdivisions have been created in the Armed Forces to organize counteraction to information-psychological and software-technical (cyber) influences in the troops.”
In order to further reduce foreign meddling, mainly from Russia, it has also been decided to implement new infrastructures that combat "software and technical attacks" on "information systems of the military organization" to destabilize the country. Due to Russian interference during the January events of 2022, the state pays special attention to Russia's and its neighboring states' technological capabilities.
Furthermore, the amendments call for an enhanced domestic security capacity and a consolidation of power in Kazakhstan. To advance Kazakhstan's military capability, the doctrine details the formation of new military subdivisions to reach the “potential of the land, air force, and naval component,” along with the addition of the “necessary set of troops (forces), weapons, military equipment, and supplies in strategic directions.” To increase the mobility of the troops and ensure prompt response to threats, “a territorial defense command and control body has been created as part of the Armed Forces.” Additionally, amended Article 19 calls for the upgraded infrastructure of Kazakhstan’s National Guard by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) to increase mobility and enhance rapid response capabilities. This new subdivision, directed and administered by the MIA, will lead logistics, shorten response time, and bring the security architecture closer to the central government. However, these enhancements may point towards the January events and the need for the state to have tighter control over threat mitigation.
While the doctrine still boasts that Kazakhstan “does not consider any states as an adversary,” the notable updates are not due to an alignment with neighboring powers' foreign policy objectives. It is Kazakhstan's aim to enhance its self-sufficiency and disengage from great power competition which is most remarkable. According to the amendments, the military architecture will be restructured so the executive can better mitigate crises and maintain wartime economies. Through the new subdivisions, to “increase the stability of management,” the territorial defense system will reduce logistical delays by providing “logistic and technical support of the Armed Forces.” Restructuring the blueprint and making new amendments are intended to demonstrate a more independent foreign policy in response to Russian aggression.