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Breaking Away from the Bear

Authored by LTC Dianne L. Smith.

August 03, 1998

83 Pages

Brief Synopsis

Lieutenant Colonel Dianne L. Smith examines the development of post-Soviet Central Asian armed forces, Central Asian efforts to guarantee their national security, and the implications for the United States of this struggle. She cautions that the United States use its influence and its military-to-military contact programs judiciously. This is a region of great instability, with massive infusions of energy wealth just beyond the horizon. If these states can create viable methods to ensure domestic and regional security, this wealth may produce prosperity and secure well-being for their citizens. If these states fail to create institutions to preserve their national sovereignty, the new century could presage long, lingering chaos and waste on a grand scale. One need only look south to Afghanistan for such a model.


In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Central Asian states preferred to ensure their security through the unified command of the Commonwealth of Independent States and collective security. But, the decision of Ukraine, and then Russia, to create independent republican forces compelled the Central Asian states to create their own armed forces. Depending on their relative success at developing viable military forces, each state has compensated with other tools of national power. Budgetary considerations and assessment of real-world threats have compelled each state to make hard decisions concerning relative investment in conventional armed forces, security forces, or border guards. To avoid further dependence upon Moscow, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan have attempted joint security ventures. Tajikistan remains dependent upon Russian troops and Central Asian peacekeeping forces. Turkmenistan hopes that a policy of nonalignment and neutrality (albeit with active support from Russia) will prove successful. Although they are willing to let Russia assert some authority within Central Asia, each seeks alternative sources for security.

The United States supports the development of Central Asian armed forces to ensure that collective security is just that.collective. Indeed, America has a strong interest in ensuring that Central Asian militaries develop to relative sufficiency so that they are players in the game and not just tools of Moscow. v

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