WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Friday that Kazakhstan will find it difficult to lower Russian influence after inviting in troops to quell unrest.
“I think one lesson in recent history is that once Russians are in your house, it’s sometimes very difficult to get them to leave,” Blinken told reporters.
Kazakhstan invited in the Russian-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to combat rare protests sparked by concern over fuel prices.
“It would seem to me that the Kazakh authorities and government certainly have the capacity to deal appropriately with protests, to do so in a way that respects the rights of protesters while maintaining law and order, so it’s not clear why they feel the need for any outside assistance,” Blinken said.
He called on foreign troops and Kazakh authorities to “adhere to international human rights standards,” hours after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev thanked Russia for assistance and issued shoot-to-kill orders.
Blinken, who spoke with his counterpart from Kazakhstan on Thursday, renewed his call for respect for peaceful protests, media freedom and for the end of an internet blackout.
“We’re watching the situation with real concern and we’re encouraging everyone to find a peaceful resolution,” he said.
Russia later slammed Blinken as “boorish.”
“US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tried to make a funny joke today about the tragic events in Kazakhstan,” Russia’s foreign ministry said Saturday in a statement on Facebook.
“A boorish attempt, but then again not his first one,” it said, adding that Blinken “ridiculed a totally legitimate response” of the CSTO.
It is not clear how many troops are being sent in the force — which includes units from ex-Soviet states Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan — but media in Moscow have said the Russian contingent is expected to number less than 5,000.
“If Antony Blinken is so into history lessons, here’s one that comes to mind: When Americans are in your house, it can be difficult to stay alive, not being robbed or raped,” the Russian foreign ministry said.
It mentioned “unfortunate peoples who had the bad luck to see these uninvited guests at their doorstep” — naming Native Americans, Koreans, Vietnamese and Syrians among others.