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Central Asia

Large numbers of Soviet military forces were located in the five Central Asian republics when the Soviet Union dissolved officially at the end of 1991. All the newly independent states took measures to gain control over the Soviet units they inherited, establishing a variety of agencies and ministries to define the gradual process of localization. In the mid-1990s, as support grew in Russia for recapturing in some form the lost territories of the former Soviet Union, attention focused on the five Central Asian republics, which still had substantial economic and military ties with the Russian Federation. When the Soviet Union dissolved at the end of 1991, the main military force in Tajikistan was the 201st Motorized Rifle Division, whose position and resources the Russian Federation inherited. Although nominally neutral in the civil war that broke out in Tajikistan in the fall of 1992, the 201st Division, together with substantial forces from neighboring Uzbekistan, played a significant role in the recapture of the capital city, Dushanbe, by former communist forces. As the civil war continued in more remote regions of Tajikistan during the next three years, the 201st Division remained the dominant military force, joining with Russian border troops and a multinational group of "peace-keeping" troops (dominated by Russian and Uzbekistani forces and including troops from Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan) to patrol the porous border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

The openly avowed purpose of the continued occupation was to protect Russia's strategic interests. Those interests were defined as preventing radical Islamic politicization and the shipment of narcotics, both designated as serious menaces to Russia itself. Meanwhile, Tajikistan formed a small army of its own, of which about three-quarters of the officer corps were Russians in mid-1996. Tajikistan, having no air force, relied exclusively on Russian air power. In mid-1996 the preponderance of the estimated 16,500 troops guarding Tajikistan's borders belonged to Russia's Federal Border Service. Border troops received artillery and armor support from the 201st Division, whose strength was estimated in 1996 as at least 12,000 troops.

Russia has kept more limited forces in the other Central Asian republics. Turkmenistan consistently has refused to join multilateral CIS military groupings, but Russia maintains joint command of the three motorized rifle divisions in the Turkmenistani army. Under a 1993 bilateral military cooperation treaty, some 2,000 Russian officers serve in Turkmenistan on contract, and border forces (about 5,000 in 1995) are under joint Russian and Turkmenistani command. Altogether, about 11,000 Russian troops remained in Turkmenistan in mid-1996. Uzbekistan has full command of its armed forces, although the air force is dominated by ethnic Russians and Russia provides extensive assistance in training, border patrols, and air defense. Kazakstan, which has the largest standing army (about 25,000 in 1996) of the Central Asian republics, had replaced most of the Russians in its command positions with Kazaks by 1995--mainly because a large part of the Russian officer corps transferred elsewhere in the early 1990s. No complete Russian units are stationed in Kazakstan, but an estimated 6,000 troops from the former Soviet 40th Army remained there in training positions in 1996, including about 1,500 at the Baykonur space launch center, which Russia leases from Kazakstan.

In Kyrgyzstan, which has developed little military capability of its own, Russian units guard the border with China. But maintaining military influence in Kyrgyzstan has not been a high priority of Russian military planners; a 1994 bilateral agreement improves incentives for Russian officers to remain in the Kyrgyzstan's army on a contract basis through 1999, but, as in Kazakstan, the Russian exodus has continued. President Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan lobbied for a larger Russian military presence to improve his country's security situation, but no action had been taken as of mid-1996.


In the immediate postwar period, the Soviet Union established a formidable, closed enclave in the former East Prussia, including a large naval port at Kaliningrad (formerly Königsberg). When the Soviet Union collapsed, the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania deprived the new Russian state of major ports on the Baltic Sea, and 15,000-square-kilometer Kaliningrad Oblast between Poland and Lithuania was cut off from Russia. When Russia insisted on maintaining Kaliningrad as a heavily armed garrison, it aroused considerable international criticism, especially from Poland. Königsberg was awarded to the Soviet Union under the Potsdam Accord in 1945, but the Russian Federation holds no legal title to the enclave.

When Russia withdrew all its former Warsaw Pact forces from Poland and the Baltic states during 1992-94, some air, naval, and ground forces were relocated to Kaliningrad, ostensibly because of housing shortages elsewhere in Russia. In mid-1996 the official military garrison was estimated at 24,000 ground troops of the 11th Guards Combined Arms Army, including one tank division and three motorized rifle divisions, three artillery brigades, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, and attack helicopters. The Baltic Fleet, which has its headquarters at Kaliningrad, includes three cruisers, two destroyers, eighteen frigates, sixty-five patrol boats, and 195 combat aircraft, together with one brigade of naval infantry and two regiments of coastal defense artillery. Western experts estimate that the total Kaliningrad garrison includes as many as 200,000 military personnel, compared with the official Russian figure of 100,000.

In 1993 the population of the enclave was about 900,000, of whom about 700,000 were Russians. There is strong sentiment in favor of autonomy among the civilian population, and international pressure continues to advocate reducing the garrison to a level of "reasonable sufficiency," far below its current size. Many Russian military authorities agree with this idea because maintaining the Kaliningrad force is extremely expensive. However, a large-scale deemphasis of the military would be difficult because the entire oblast has been structured to meet the needs of the armed forces. In addition, Russian nationalists argue that Kaliningrad is a vital outpost at a time when Russia is menaced by possible Polish or even Lithuanian membership in NATO.

Data as of July 1996

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