Turkmenistan Table of Contents
President Niyazov has acknowledged Russia's legitimate military interests in the region, stating that his country's security interests can be better served through cooperation with Russia than through participation in multinational military organizations. Membership in the latter contradicts its foreign policy of noninterference, as well as its military doctrine that the principal function of Turkmenistan's army is to protect the country from external aggression. Another military doctrine holds that local wars, border conflicts, and military buildups in adjacent countries are the main source of danger to Turkmenistan. Although Turkmenistan has no disputed borders, its doctrine is based on concerns about the civil conflicts in Tajikistan and the instability in northern Afghanistan, especially after the collapse of its pro-Soviet regime in 1989, as well as on traditional tensions with Iran. On the other hand, Turkmenistan's leadership completely discounts the fear that Islamic fundamentalism would spread from Iran into the republic, a prospect of low probability considering that Iranian fundamentalists adhere to the Shia branch of Islam, while the state-controlled Islam of Turkmenistan belongs to the Sunni branch. Traditional animosity between Turkmen and Iranians is also a reason for reaching this conclusion (see Religion, this ch.).
Data as of March 1996