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Transcaucasus Military District

Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan made up the Soviet Transcaucasus Military District.

The Soviet Union had maintained a substantial military presence in Georgia because the republic bordered Turkey, a NATO member. The Transcaucasus Military District, which had coordinated Soviet military forces in the three republics of Transcaucasia, was headquartered in Tbilisi. In mid-1993 an estimated 15,000 Russian troops and border guards remained on Georgian territory. Georgia did not press Russian withdrawal as vigorously as did other former republics of the Soviet Union because it did not have enough personnel to patrol its entire border. At the same time, the continued presence of Russian troops energized the Georgian nationalist parties. In the fall of 1993, those groups saw Shevardnadze's call for Russian military assistance, and the significant increase of Russia forces that resulted, as an admission that his national security policy had failed and a sign that the traditional enemy to the north was again threatening.

The system of zones established by Article IV of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) can best be envisioned as four different sized zones nested within one another so that the smallest zone is subsumed and overlapped by the next largest zone and so on until the smaller three zones are subsumed and overlapped by the largest zone. A description of, and the special numerical limitations for, the flank area are set forth in Article V of the Treaty. The purpose of the nested system of zones is to prevent destabilizing force concentrations within the area of application. The northern part of the flank zone consists of Iceland and Norway for the Group of 16, and the Leningrad Military District (in the Soviet Union) for the Group of 6. The southern part of the flank zone consists of Greece and Turkey for the Group of 16, and Romania, Bulgaria, and the Odessa, Transcaucasus. and Northern Caucasus Military Districts (in the Soviet Union) for the Group of 6.

After Armenian independence, Russia retained control of the Russian 7th Army in Armenia, which numbered about 23,000 personnel in mid-1992. At that time, the 7th Army included three motorized rifle divisions. In the second half of 1992, substantial parts of two divisions--the 15th Division and the 164th Division--were transferred to Armenian control. The other division remained intact and under full Russian command at Gyumri in early 1994. Meanwhile, Russia completed withdrawal of the four divisions of its 4th Army from Azerbaijan in May 1993. Some Armenian warrant officers were assigned to the division at Gyumri, and the two countries discussed assignment of Armenian recruits to Russian units.

The Russian presence continued in 1994, with an operational command in Erevan providing engineer, communications, logistics, aviation, and training capabilities. Under the 1992 Treaty on Collective Security, which apportioned Soviet weaponry among the former Soviet republics, Armenia was allotted 180 T-72 tanks, 180 BMP-1K armored fighting vehicles, sixty BTR-60 and BTR-70 armored personnel carriers, twenty-five BRM-1K armored fighting vehicles, thirty 9P-138 and 9P-148 guided missiles, and 130 artillery pieces and mortars. An unknown number of weapons systems in the Osa, Strela, Igla, and Shilka classes were also designated for transfer. Much of this equipment was no longer serviceable by the time it was turned over, however.

In September 1993, Russia requested a revision of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty ( CFE Treaty), which had been negotiated between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in 1990, in order to achieve an increase in the number of Russian tanks and heavy weapons in the Caucasus. Although NATO perceived an increased military influence in the formulation of this more assertive Russian policy, Western policy makers recognized that at the end of 1993 Russia was the only power in position to play a meaningful peacekeeping role in the region.

The continued presence of Russian forces in Azerbaijan became problematic when Russian troops were alleged to have assisted Armenians in an attack that killed hundreds of civilians in the town of Khodzhaly, in southwestern Azerbaijan, in February 1992. In the face of widespread demands from the political opposition in Baku, components of a 62,000-member Russian force began to withdraw from Azerbaijan almost immediately. Striking a contrast to the protracted withdrawal of Russian troops from the Baltic states, the last Russian unit, the 104th Airborne Division, withdrew from Azerbaijan in May 1993, about a year ahead of the schedule that the two countries had set in 1992.

According to an agreement between Russia and the Transcaucasian states calling for distribution of former Soviet military assets among the participating parties, Azerbaijan would receive most of the matriel of the 4th Army that had been stationed there, together with part of the Caspian Flotilla. The Russians destroyed or removed much of their weaponry upon withdrawing, but a substantial amount was stolen, exchanged, or handed over to Azerbaijani forces. Some Russians answered appeals from Azerbaijani military leaders to serve in the Azerbaijani armed forces. By agreement with Russia, many former members of the Soviet Border Guards also continued their duties under Azerbaijani jurisdiction, with Russian assistance in training and weapons supplies. In January 1994, Russia and Azerbaijan discussed possible use of Russian forces to bolster Azerbaijan's border defenses.



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