Turkmenistan was also the first country in Central Asia that joined NATO’s partnership for Peace (May 1994).
President Niyazov has recognized the legitimate interests of the Russian military in the region, saying the country’s security interests can be better served through cooperation with Russia, than by participating in multinational military organizations.
Membership in the latter belies his foreign policy of neutrality, as well as military doctrine which says that the main function of the Turkmen army is to protect the country from external aggressions.
Another military doctrine argues that the local wars, border conflicts and military alliances in the neighboring countries are the main source of danger for Turkmenistan. Although Turkmenistan does ot have disputed borders, the doctrine is based on the concerns about the civil conflicts in Tajikistan and the instability in the north of Afghanistan, especially after the collapse of its pro-Soviet regime in 1989, as well as traditional tensions with Iran.
On the other hand, the leadership of Turkmenistan, constantly update the fear that islamic fundamentalism might extend from Iran to the country, a prospect with low probability considering that Iranian fundamentalists adhere to a Shiite branch of Islam, while the state controlled Islam of Turkmenistan belongs to the Sunni branch.
The traditional animosity between the turkmen and iranian nationals is also a reason for reaching this conclusion.
Ashgabat was initially a supporter of a firm unified CIS forces, up to the step of nationalization by Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Moldavia and forced the creation of the Turkmen armed forces – “even though it will require substantial financial and material resources.”
Turkmenistan chose its own way and followed a unique path in Central Asia.
Although Turkmenistan established his own Ministry of Defense Affairs (since January 1992) and created a National Ceremony Guard (October 1991), Turkmen-Russian bilateral agreement since July 1992 stated that the formations and units in the turkmen territory would be under the jurisdiction of the Russian-Turkmen fighting joint group, alongside the Russian Defence Ministry that had unique control of air defense units, and of some long-range bombers, and the two Ministers of Defence coordinates the activities of gathered military forces, deployed on the territory of Turkmenistan.
Around 300 Soviet units were stationed in Turkmenistan in December 1991. Approximately 200 units and formations were transferred to the control of turkmen state.
The experiment proved successful and was ended on 1 January 1994.
Only about 45 members of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation (coordination and consultation), a small number of troops to strategic installations, and border guards remain.
The funding would not be shared, if Turkmenistan approach would err.
From that time, all Russian citizens that were in the service of Turkmenistan should sign a contract – as an incentive, such contracts generally guarantees 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 basis, Turkmenistan has created dual citizenship in 1993.
Exemples in which Ashgabat saw its own path, was Turkmenistan’s refusal to endorse the agreement on collective security in Tashkent and its decision to sign a series of bilateral agreements with Russia instead.
Niyazov has also refused to send peacekeeping forces in Tajikistan.
Ashgabat refrained from sending delegates to the meetings of the CIS, except for those relating to drugs and international crime.
With great fast Turkmenistan has adopted a policy of “permanent neutrality” in 1995, saying “for us, permanent neutrality, means permanent political sovereignty and permanent economic independence”.