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Turkmenistan - Security Policy

President Niyazov acknowledged Russia's legitimate military interests in the region, stating that his country's security interests can be better served through cooperation with Russia than through participation in multinational military organizations. Membership in the latter contradicts its foreign policy of noninterference, as well as its military doctrine that the principal function of Turkmenistan's army is to protect the country from external aggression. Another military doctrine holds that local wars, border conflicts, and military buildups in adjacent countries are the main source of danger to Turkmenistan. Although Turkmenistan has no disputed borders, its doctrine is based on concerns about the civil conflicts in Tajikistan and the instability in northern Afghanistan, especially after the collapse of its pro-Soviet regime in 1989, as well as on traditional tensions with Iran. On the other hand, Turkmenistan's leadership completely discounts the fear that Islamic fundamentalism would spread from Iran into the republic, a prospect of low probability considering that Iranian fundamentalists adhere to the Shia branch of Islam, while the state-controlled Islam of Turkmenistan belongs to the Sunni branch. Traditional animosity between Turkmen and Iranians is also a reason for reaching this conclusion.

Ashgabat was originally a firm supporter of a CIS unified force until the pace of nationalization by Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Moldova forced it to confront creation of a Turkmen Armed Forces "even though it will require substantial financial and material resources." But, Turkmenistan, listening to its own "different drummer," followed a unique path within Central Asia.

Although it set up its own Ministry of Defense Affairs (January 1992) and created a ceremonial National Guard (October 1991), the bilateral Russo-Turkmen Agreement of July 1992 stated that formations and units on Turkmen soil would be under Russo-Turkmen "joint jurisdiction" with the Russian Defense Ministry retaining sole control over certain air defense and long-range bomber units and the two defense ministers coordinating the activities of joint armed forces deployed on the territory of Turkmenistan. Of approximately 300 Soviet units stationed in Turkmenistan in December 1991, about 200 units and formations were transferred to Turkmen control.

The experiment of joint command was unsuccessful and ended on January 1, 1994; only about 45 members of the Russian Ministry of Defense (for coordination and consultation), a small number of troops at strategic facilities, and border guards would remain. Funding would no longer be shared, but would fall fully on Turkmenistan. Henceforth, all Russian citizens serving in Turkmenistan would have to sign a contract; as an incentive, such contracts generally guaranteed a higher salary than they could get in Russia, official privileges, career advancement and a pension. To alleviate problems for those who remained on contract, Turkmenistan created dual citizenship in 1993.

One way in which Ashgabat listened to its "own drummer" was Turkmenistan's refusal to approve the collective security agreement at Tashkent and its decision to sign a series of bilateral agreements with Russia instead. Niyazov has also refused to send peacekeeping forces to Tajikistan. Ashgabat refrained from sending delegates to CIS meetings except those concerning drugs and international crime. With great fanfare Turkmenistan adopted a policy of "positive neutrality" in 1995, stating "for us, permanent neutrality means permanent political sovereignty and permanent economic independence." Turkmenistan was also the first Central Asian nation to join Partnership for Peace (in May 1994).

On the heels of the 2009 personnel reshuffling, Berdimuhamedov signed a decree "On the Military Doctrine of Independent, Permanently Neutral Turkmenistan." The doctrine highlights Turkmenistan's "internationally accepted" neutral status and its role as the "center of peacemaking and prosperity in the region." In his remarks, the President cited the establishment of the Ashgabat-based UN Center on Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia as confirmation of Turkmenistan's neutrality policy. Berdimuhamedov went on to point out that Turkmenistan fully supports the efforts of Q UN to transform Central Asia into a nuclear-free and WMD-free area, affirming that the country rigorously observes its international commitments to prohibit these kinds of weapons.

In accordance with the Constitution and the Law "On the Permanent Neutrality of Turkmenistan," the new military doctrine provides for non-alignment with military alliances and blocks, prohibits the deployment of international military bases on its territory, and prohibits nuclear weapons and other WMD from crossing its borders. In general, the doctrine has a defensive character, to ensure peace, territorial integrity and national unity. It also provides for further strengthening of the military forces, equipping them with up-to-date armaments and defense technology. In closing, Berdimuhamedov set goals for each military and law enforcement agency for the practical implementation of the new doctrine.

The Khazar-2012 demonstrative tactical exercises were held in Turkmenistan for the first time took place on the Caspian coast in September 2012. According to the conditional situation, the military and political situation has worsened in the Caspian region in summer 2012. A conditional enemy – ‘Blue’ committed a military aggression against the defences called ‘Green’. Using firepower and other arms, ‘Greens’ including the subunits of the Ministry of Defense, the State Border Service, the Ministry of National Security, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the State Service on Security of Healthy Society successfully counteracted against diversionists, destroyed vessels and manpower of the enemy, repelled aggression from the sea preserving the inviolability of the Turkmen borders. The Armed Forces successfully accomplished the task – reaching the sea borders of Turkmenistan they completed the combat operations there and forced the Blues to cease hostilities.

Upon completion of the tactical exercises, their participants performed a parade. The national aviation was presented by helicopters MI-17B-5, Augusta-109, Eurocopter-145, combat aircrafts – SU-25 and MIG-29, aircraft – AN-74. Then sailors picked up the baton demonstrating Edermen and Gayratly rocket vessels, Berkarar and Arkadag border protection vessels, Gayduvsyz boat, Bars-12 small border protection borders, high-speed boats and jet skis. Military equipment and vehicles, including BTR-80 armored troop carriers, Land Rower vehicles, and PMB-Survivor II armored vehicles were also presented during the parade.

President of Turkmenistan, Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces General of the Army Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov congratulated those present on successful holding of the Khazar-2012 demonstrative tactical exercises. Speaking with foreign diplomats, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted that the Khazar-2012 demonstrative tactical exercises taken place in Turkmenistan for the first time were held with the aim to improve the combat training of the Armed Forces of Turkmenistan and, first of all, the Naval Forces of the country. The Turkmen leader emphasized that the exercises were held in strict compliance with the Military Doctrine adopted in 2009 that was defensive in nature and met the requirements of the foreign-policy course of the country.

Neutrality is the foundation of Turkmenistan’s foreign policy. The national army does not even participate in peacekeeping missions. In 2016, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov approved a new military doctrine aimed at strengthening peace, developing friendly, fraternal, good-neighborly relations with all countries.

The defensive nature of the military doctrines of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is just as pronounced. Tashkent basically does not provide for the participation of the national army in military operations and operations outside the country or the deployment of foreign military bases on its territory. Earlier, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan agreed to jointly strengthen air defense and mutually use the airfields of the two countries in the interests of military aviation. Turkmenistan stands apart here, but the growing activity of armed Islamists in neighboring Afghanistan objectively pushes Ashkhabad to military integration with Tashkent and Nur-Sultan at least. Afghanistan remains one of the most unstable explosive countries in the world, despite being 74th in the world ranking of military power (one step higher than Turkmenistan). The situation has not changed over the years, most of the country is controlled by the Taliban. All neighbors, perforce, must take this into account and, just in case, do not lose contact with the Taliban. The government in Kabul is being supported by an American military presence. What will happen after the US troops leave, no one knows. Turkmenistan is considered the most vulnerable in the region due to the refusal of closer military cooperation with the Central Asian countries of the CIS and Russia. At the same time, Ashgabat maintains neutrality in the Afghan conflict, maintaining political and economic relations with the government in Kabul and the Taliban *. Earlier, Turkmenistan actively developed military-technical cooperation with warring factions in Afghanistan, supplied them with fuels and lubricants, small arms, and ammunition. Turkmen representatives continue negotiations with the Supreme Peace Council of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, created for dialogue with the Taliban *. Ashgabat offers itself as a neutral platform for negotiations between official Kabul and the armed opposition. They even discussed the opening of a Taliban consulate in the capital of Turkmenistan. Of course, such security intermediation does not guarantee. In addition to the Taliban, dozens of other terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan. In particular, IG deported from Syria are becoming the basic element for the expansion of terrorists into Central Asia. The fact that Islamists are appointed field commanders mainly by Uzbeks, Tajiks, Turkmens and Kyrgyz is a sign of much. In this field, the countries of the region need to work together. When ISIS militants intensified in the northwestern provinces of Afghanistan (Herat, Badgis and Faryab) in the spring and summer of 2015 with the predominance of the Turkmen population, local Taliban units took their side. The territory of Turkmenistan looks like a convenient base for active terrorist actions throughout Central Asia. It is no accident that Ashgabat began to pursue a policy of de-Islamization of the country and took the path of reducing the number of Turkish "public organizations" on its territory. Neutral Turkmenistan is not part of the military blocs. Turkmen observers sometimes participate in meetings of the CIS and the SCO on drug trafficking and terrorism, preferring bilateral ties with Russia or the United States over contacts with the CSTO or NATO on security issues. When militants tried to enter the region across the Afghan-Turkmen border in the spring of 2015, Uzbek and Russian troops were among the first to offer assistance to Ashgabat.

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Page last modified: 28-02-2020 18:57:46 ZULU