Country Listing

Azerbaijan Table of Contents


National Security

From the very beginning of its existence as a post-Soviet independent republic, Azerbaijan faced a single compelling national security issue: its enduring struggle with Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding territory. The withdrawal of Russian troops and matériel left an Azerbaijani army ill-equipped and poorly disciplined. Government efforts to build a new national defense force achieved only limited results, and Armenian forces continued to advance into Azerbaijani territory during most of 1993. By the end of that year, the Aliyev regime had bolstered some components of the Azerbaijani military, however.

Forming a National Defense Force

Even before the formal breakup of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, Azerbaijan had created its own Ministry of Defense and a Defense Council to advise the president on national security policy. The national armed forces of Azerbaijan were formed by presidential decree in October 1991. Subsequently, the Azerbaijani Supreme Soviet declared that the Soviet 4th Army, which included most of the Soviet troops based in Azerbaijan, would be placed under Azerbaijani jurisdiction. About the same time, the Azerbaijani Supreme Soviet summoned Azerbaijanis serving in the Soviet armed forces outside Azerbaijan to return and serve in their homeland. By the end of 1991, the Supreme Soviet had enacted independently several statutes governing military matters.

Formed in mid-1992, the Azerbaijani navy has about 3,000 personnel in sixteen units from the former Soviet Caspian Flotilla and Border Guards. The navy has five minesweepers, four landing ships, and three patrol boats. The air force has about 2,000 troops, forty-eight combat aircraft, and one helicopter squadron.

According to legislation and a decree both promulgated in 1991, the president serves as the commander in chief of the Azerbaijani armed forces. In this capacity, the president oversees defense and security efforts undertaken by the prime minister and the ministers of defense, internal affairs, and security. Between 1991 and 1993, Azerbaijani presidents exercised this power by ousting several defense ministers because of alleged incompetence. Despite propitious legislation and decrees, however, efforts to field a national army faced many challenges.

In the pre-Soviet period, many Azerbaijanis graduated from Russian military academies, and Azerbaijani regiments of the imperial army were noted for their fighting skill. In the Soviet military system, however, Azerbaijanis were underrepresented in the top ranks of the armed forces, despite the presence of the Higher All Arms Command School and the Caspian High Naval School in Azerbaijan. Many Azerbaijani conscripts were assigned to construction battalions, in which military training was minimal and the troops carried out noncombat duties. Preinduction military training in most Azerbaijani secondary schools was also reportedly less stringent than in other Soviet republics. For these and other reasons, the Azerbaijanis were not prepared for long-term warfare in Nagorno-Karabakh when independence arrived.

Data as of March 1994