Turkmenistan - Naval Forces
From the time of the Russian Civil War in the early twentieth century, the Caspian Sea has been one of the most important transitroutes, when used properly, which can severely affect the balance of power not only in Central Asia but also in the Northern Caucasus. It is through the Caspian Sea the Entente assisted the anti-Bolshevik regimes of Caucasus and Transcaucasia in 1919-1920. The Russian Federal Border Service Group in Turkmenistan paid great attention to the protection of maritime borders on the Caspian Sea. It should be noted that for Russia the control of the Caspian Sea is needed for the success of the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya.
With the help of the bilateral military cooperation agreements Russia had hoped to hold Turkmenistan in the Russian orbit of influence. A coalition of Russia, Turkmenistan and Iran could weaken the position of Azerbaijan and, as a result, the United States and Turkey. After the departure of the Russians in 2000, a solution to the problem of the delimitation of the maritime boundary between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan was joined by American specialists. Large-scale fighting in the region unlikely, but mutual provocation of Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are highly probable.
An important goal of Turkmenistan's foreign policy is working in international groups to solve a range of issues involving the Caspian Sea. That body of water, which affords Turkmenistan a 500-kilometer coastline with numerous natural resources, including oil and fish, is threatened by extreme levels of pollution, as well as fluctuating water levels. In August 1993, Turkmenistani delegates attended a meeting in Moscow to discuss the status of international claims to jurisdiction over the Caspian Sea and its resources. Treaties between the Soviet Union and Iran dating from 1921 and 1940 gave each country free navigation and fishing rights within ten miles (sixteen kilometers) of the entire Caspian coastline, putting other coastal nations at a disadvantage.
A second issue is the cartel formed by Turkmenistan, Kazakstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Iran to control sales of Caspian caviar on the world market as a means of preventing individual Caspian Sea states from selling too much to obtain hard currency. The cartel lacked an enforcement mechanism. Turkmenistan is a member of the Caspian Sea Forum, which includes all the nations bordering the sea. Until 1995 that organization had not taken concrete action to limit pollution by oil extraction and shipping activities of the member countries, however.
In late 1994, Turkmenistan joined Kazakstan, Azerbaijan, and Russia in forming the Caspian Border Patrol force for joint border security. In 1995 and 1996, friction increased among the Caspian states as Iran and Russia exerted pressure for the sea's resources to be divided equally among the group, a formula that would prevent the other three countries from taking advantage of their proximity to rich offshore oil deposits. The "joint" Caspian Sea Flotilla is based at Astrakhan, Russia. This force is maintained by Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan and contributes to Turkmenistan's littoral security. However, this is unlikely to prevent Turkmenistan from developing a stronger naval force, and Turkmenistan's economic interests in the Caspian Sea have provided an incentive to build more robust force.
Fleet development is among the main priorities of military construction, primarily due to the unresolved legal status of the Caspian Sea and the need to protect the emerging national drilling fleet. Responsible for the security of a 954 nautical mile coastline, Turkmenistan's naval service was long the weakest among the littoral Caspian Sea states. Despite promises by the government to prioritize the navy, for many years the navy lacked funds to procure or refurbish combat vessels, lacked necessary port facilities and had a shortage of qualified personnel. However, in recent years, the navy has managed to find the funding and political support, largely as a result of Turkmenistan's desire to establish better control over its offshore oil and gas resources, some of which are the subject of disputes with neighboring Azerbaijan.
In 2006 the navy had 700 active personnel [some sources report up to 2,000 and even 3,000, which is doubtful]. A small naval base operated from Turkmenbashi. The naval force on the Caspian Sea had five boats. In 2008 Turkmenistan bought three guided-missile patrol boats and two smaller patrol boats from Russia. Turkmenistan has said it wants to buy two or more larger warships, possibly corvettes, as well. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov announced in January 2010 that the country would create a navy, based at the port of Turkmenbashi, by 2015. In the context of forming a Caspian fleet, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov decided in 2010 to create a Military Maritime Institute at the Defense Ministry. Additionally, in mid-2010 President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov outlined his intention to establish a naval academy as well as a naval base on Turkmenistan's Caspian coastline, most likely at Turkmenbashi, by 2015. The announcement, which echoed statements made in August 2009, said the base would be built for the "reliable protection of the sea border and for effective struggle against smugglers, terrorists and other criminal elements."
The navy has begun to revitalize its fleet and transform itself from a coast guard into a force capable of conducting limited combat operations. To strengthen the fleet, Turkmenistan in 2001 decided to buy in Ukraine through "Ukrspetsexport" war patrol boats of "Grif" ["Vulture"] and "Kalkan-m" projects. It is also planned to supply 10 multi-purpose Grif boats and four Ukrainian-made Kalkan-M vessels equipped with 12.7 mm heavy machine guns. The number of boats is planned to bring up to 20 units through acquisition of an improved version of "GRIF-t" ("Condor") and type "Kalkan-m-10 (both built and supplied by Ukraine).
Most of the Excess Defense Articles (EDA) provided by the United States to the Central Asian states was miscellaneous office or kitchen equipment, tools, or uniform items. The primary exception was the 82-foot patrol boat, Point Jackson, delivered to Turkmenistan for maritime security on the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan got two "Sable" Navy patrol boats produced by Russian firm "Almaz", with speeds up to 50 knots, in late 2009. In October 2011, the navy received two new Project 1241.8-class missile corvettes and was set to receive two new 57 meter NTPB (New Type Patrol Boat) patrol vessels.
These acquisitions significantly improved Turkmenistan's naval capabilities in the Caspian Sea. However, at present the Turkmen Navy remains the weakest in the region compared to the naval capabilities of other States bordering the Caspian Sea.
Initially the naval forces were part of the Border Service. The Naval Forces of Turkmenistan were established on October 10, 2011 by Decree of the President of Turkmenistan, Supreme Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Turkmenistan, General of the Army Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. The Day of Naval Forces was first observed the following year in Ashgabat, naval unit and Turkmenbashi city as well. On the occasion of the Day of Naval Forces of the country, festive solemnities were held in the Central House of Officers of the Ministry of Defense of Turkmenistan in Ashgabat and units of military sailors on the coast of the Caspian Sea as well as in the Naval Institute of the Ministry of Defense of Turkmenistan.
In the course of solemnities on the occasion of the Day of Naval Forces of Turkmenistan, it was held the concert performances of masters of art as well as military music and song groups, sport contests and other cultural events. Excursions to the historical and natural sights of Balkan province were organized for students of the Naval Institute and military sailors. Celebrations in honor of the servicemen of Naval Forces and students, who gained successes in battle and humanitarian training, took place in the military unit of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Turkmenistan and on the basis of Naval Institute of the country.
Turkmenistan Navy Equipment
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