Turkmenistan held its first ever naval exercise on Wednesday, and it was a rare attempt for the foreign press to get a glimpse of what's going on there. All the big wire services carried reports on the exercise, and AFP's was the most detailed:
President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov observed the exercises through binoculars from atop a two-story structure built on the deserted Caspian Sea coast about 60 kilometres (40 miles) from the nearest city of Turkmenbashi.
In the war games, the aggressor was given the name of the “blue” state while Turkmenistan was the “green” nation.
“A ship from the ‘blue’ country penetrated Turkmenistan waters to seize a Turkmen tanker...and the coastal city with its oil refinery,” a pamphlet with the exercise scenario said.
Observers — who included various diplomats from Western states — witnessed a staged hijacking, the burning of a refinery and moves by Turkmen airforce and navy on a screen.
By pushing back the enemy, “the ‘green’ state (Turkmenistan) made the ‘blue’ state abandon their aggressive intentions, reinstalling control of the state border,” the military commentator declaimed to the audience.
Berdymukhamedov, who arrived at the exercises in a helicopter and was welcomed with a chorus and orchestra, told diplomats that “Turkmenistan’s military doctrine is defensive but we must protect our border as we are a maritime state.”
What's interesting about this is that there wasn't even a pretext about this being directed toward "terrorists" -- the scenario was about aggression from another country. Given that the Caspian is a closed sea, the list of potential adversaries is limited. This summer, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan renewed tensions over a disputed gas field in the middle of the sea; beyond that, Turkmenistan hasn't really had any conflicts with other Caspian states. Of course, we shouldn't read too much into this, either -- it's possible Turkmenistan just feels it should have a navy, and justifiably believes it ought to hold drills, and needs to come up with some sort of scenario. In any case, it'll be interesting to see how/if Azerbaijan reacts.
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 our 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 of our independent Motherland 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, aircrafts – 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.
The "State Service on Security of Healthy Society," if you're wondering, is apparently the new name of Turkmenistan's drug control agency. Most notable in the list of equipment that took part is the Arkadag patrol boat, which is apparently domestically produced and plans for which were only announced in February. I also don't recall seeing any mention of a Berkarar ship previously, so perhaps that's a ship of the same type as the Arkadag?