Kazakhstan has travelled a long way since gaining independence in 1991 to become a confident and self-assured middle power with a clear vision of its position in the world. The multi-vector foreign policy has enabled the government of Nazarbaev to uphold national interests in the international arena efficiently. Its membership in the EEU ought not to be regarded as a deviation from the pattern that has been carefully established over a quarter of a century.
Kazakhstan has entered into a deep economic alliance with Russia and three other post-Soviet nations voluntarily, and it has sought to be and thus far has succeeded in being treated as an equal in the EEU and averting its (geo)political mission creep. It is difficult to assess the organisation’s prospects for success or failure in the future, and exactly how “powerful” and “supranational” it may become, but the important thing is that Kazakhstan has sufficient instruments and safeguards to protect its national interests within the EEU framework. The articulation and recalibration of these interests is an ongoing process based on a robust public debate. While Nazarbaev’s personal agency is undeniable and hugely important in this context, there is a critical mass of support for Eurasian economic integration in Kazakhstan at the elite and popular level. There is an equally strong consensus that the country will not be party to any neoimperialist venture or an ideological alliance under the conceptual veneer of Eurasianism. One can only agree with a prediction made by an astute observer from Russia: “Obviously, no matter who replaces Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s stance on the Eurasian Union will remain pragmatic” (Malashenko 2013, p. 122).