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The Future of Transcaspian Security

Authored by Dr. Stephen J. Blank.

October 2002

48 Pages

Brief Synopsis

This monograph explores the unprecedented opportunities that are now before the United States and recommends actions that the Government and armed forces, especially, but not only the U.S. Army, should undertake to consolidate and extend the newly emerging military partnership and cooperative security regime that are now developing. Because the opportunities being presented to the United States and NATO were never possible before to this degree, the proper way to exploit them will become a subject of debate.


The new U.S. and NATO partnerships with Russia offer an enormous opportunity to shape and transform the security environment throughout the former Soviet Union. The Russian government now supports partnership and integration with NATO and the United States, and Russian military effectiveness is in our vital interest. So the time for an expanded program of engagement with the CIS governments, including Russia, and enhanced shaping of the regional security environment is at hand.

These programs can and should take place under both U.S. and NATO auspices. Their overall objective should be the general enhancement of security and stability in troubled zones like the Transcaucasus and Central Asia. They should contribute to the integration of Russia’s armed forces with those of the West, as well as the forces’ transformation to a new and reformed model of an army that is more attuned to current strategic realities and more accountable, professional, and subject to democratic control. Similar goals can be postulated for the armies in other CIS countries. Both the United States individually and NATO collectively possess the resources and organizational structures to accomplish this transformation, and many of the governments in the CIS support the overall improvement in military capability and security that such programs would bring about.

Not only would these programs create a lasting basis for strategic engagement with critical states in the war on terrorism, they would also enhance those governments’ stability against the threat of insurgency backed by foreign or domestic terrorism, restrain Russia’s neo-imperial tendencies, expand democratization of CIS defense establishments, and provide an opportunity for restoring consensus within NATO concerning roles and missions abroad as well as defining NATO’s future territorial reach.

To this end, this monograph makes the following recommendations. Based on the existing Russian cell at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) headquarters in Tampa, Florida, CENTCOM and the Russian General Staff (GS) should establish a permanent liaison and cell that covers not just Afghanistan, but also Central Asia.

Once the new Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for the CIS begins, Russia should invite the Pentagon to send its representatives to be a permanent liaison to the new regional command structure and to the existing antiterrorism center. These links should be integrated within an overall coordination cell.

U.S. and Russian forces should take advantage of the experience of the CSTO and the Central Asian Battalion (CENTRASBAT) to conduct further combined exercises with Transcaspian militaries. These can and should also be conducted under the auspices of the Partnership for Peace (PfP), and Russia should be encouraged to join and take part as an equal member of PfP. These exercises can and should be supplemented by regular seminars and discussions on threat assessment, doctrine, and coordination.

A special joint training center could be established at Bishkek or Dushanbe (Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan). Finally, both Washington and NATO should encourage assigning liaison officers with Russia and Transcaspian militaries at various levels, not just at the CENTCOM/GS level, but down to regional units like Russia’s 201st division in Tajikistan and Russian border guards there and Russian liaison units with U.S. forces in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

Finally, Washington and Moscow should maintain permanent cells and/or liaison with the new Common European Security and Defense Program (CESDP) organization coming into being in Brussels to ensure tripartite coordination among it, Russia, and the United States (as well as NATO).

These U.S. and allied activities will surely contribute to the long-term stabilization of the region which is in our own and our allies’ interests whether or not Russia contributes to those programs. They certainly are also in the interests of local governments. Therefore, the new partnerships we have forged in the CIS, including Russia, offer dramatic opportunities for expanded “defence diplomacy” (to use the British term) and security sector reform that can only have a mutually beneficial impact for all concerned parties.

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