The Washington Examiner published a piece on December 18 called Why Kazakhstan is strategically important for Washington written by Janusz Bugajski, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation and co-author of Eurasian Disunion: Russia’s Vulnerable Flanks with Margarita Assenova.

While not attempting to reduce a complicated, multi-factor situation like that in Kazakhstan to solely external dynamics, or even to what is evidently a new battleground involving a wide array of regional and global actors – the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Organization of Turkish States (all of which count Kazakhstan as a member), NATO (Kazakhstan has an Individual Partnership Action Program, the penultimate step before full membership in the bloc), Russia, China, the U.S, the European Union, Turkey, the other four Central Asia nations, Caspian Sea neighbors Azerbaijan and Iran, Pakistan and India – it’s becoming increasingly evident that there is a new Great Game at play in Central Asia and Kazakhstan is shaping up as a king on the Grand Chessboard (as the infamous Zbigniew Brzezinski deemed it).

The Washington Examiner article identifies the nation’s geostrategic significance as follows.

It is the only Central Asian nation bordering “America’s two major adversaries, Russia and China,” and one which also “stands at the forefront of countering threats from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.”

The author candidly identifies the “triple challenges of restricting any spillover from Afghanistan, containing an assertive China, and affirming independence from Russia intersect in Central Asia,” claiming that “Kazakhstan is reaching out for greater American involvement.”

He reminds readers that Kazakhstan accounts for 12% of world uranium reserves and 43% of total uranium ore production, and that it is the world’s ninth-largest exporter of crude oil, representing over 70% of Central Asia’s GDP, and also possesses the world’s 15th-largest established natural gas reserves. Chevron and ExxonMobil are involved in its oil sector. It also has an at yet not fully determined supply of rare earth elements.

The author discusses the US Strategy for Central Asia 2019-2025: Advancing Sovereignty and Economic Prosperity project launched three years ago, profering this advice: “[The] initiative needs to be developed to help the region withstand pressures from Russia and China. Military and intelligence services can be intensified to counter terrorist threats, and multinational regional formats must be supported. Washington can also help Kazakhstan secure membership in the prestigious Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development when it reaches the needed benchmarks.”

Bugajski ends his piece with the sanguine expectation that “U.S. firms [will] have many opportunities in a wide range of sectors, including energy, mining, engineering, construction, transport, agriculture, healthcare, and IT.”

Whichever precipitant or combination of factors triggered the recent violent unrest in Kazakhstan, at this point three decades of geopolitical maneuvering by major players on three continents appears to be culminating in a match that could, in its own right and connected with the NATO-Russia conflict along what the former claims as its Eastern Flank – from the Arctic Circle to the South Caucasus – provoke the acceleration and exacerbation of geopolitical rivalry with global consequences.