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Library of Congress – Federal Research Division

Country Profile: Kazakhstan, December 2006

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification; and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol.


Armed Forces Overview: When the Soviet Union dissolved, Kazakhstan inherited a large but antiquated military technical base, including nuclear weapons that remained the property of Russia after 1991. However, development of an officer corps and a national military policy has been a slow process that has suffered from inadequate funding. Only in 2001 did military spending reach 1 percent of gross domestic product. Since the late 1990s, the number of active military personnel has grown considerably, from about 40,000 in 1995 to about 66,000 in 2005. In 2005 the army had 46,800 active personnel and the air force, 19,000 active personnel. The maritime border guard had 3,000 personnel. Paramilitary forces totaled 34,500. A naval force, announced in 2003 as protection for offshore drilling rigs, has developed very slowly. In 2005 much of Kazakhstan’s equipment still was of the late Soviet era; hence, it required significant upgrading or replacement. The National Security Committee (KNB), successor to the Soviet-era KGB, is responsible for national security, law enforcement at the national level, and counterintelligence. It includes the Internal Security Service, Military Counterintelligence, Border Guard Service, and Foreign Intelligence Service. Little is known about the secretive Foreign Intelligence Service. The KNB has several commando units.

Foreign Military Relations: The critical foreign military link remains Russia, which is the main source of military equipment and personnel training. Kazakhstan is a signatory of the Collective Security Treaty of the Commonwealth of Independent States with Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Membership in that group, which conducted some joint military exercises in 2005, precludes joining another military alliance. Nevertheless, Kazakhstan also has cultivated military links with the United States. Under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Partnership for Peace program, U.S. and Kazakhstani troops have engaged in regular joint training exercises since 1997. In 2003 Kazakhstan signed a five-year cooperation program supplying small amounts of U.S. military equipment and expertise. Some U.S. assistance also has gone to the naval forces at Aqtau on the Caspian Sea.

External Threat: In 2006 Kazakhstan faced no threat of involvement in armed conflict with any neighbor.

Defense Budget: After resisting increases in the 1990s, the Nazarbayev government has raised the defense budget annually since 2000. Between 2001 and 2005, the amount increased from US$180 million to US$419 million.

Major Military Units: The army has four mechanized rifle brigades, two artillery brigades, one mechanized rifle division, one engineer brigade, one mechanized division, one multiple rocket launcher brigade, one air assault brigade, and one surface-to-surface missile brigade. The army is administered from four district headquarters. The air force consists of one division, including one fighter regiment, three ground-attack fighter regiments, and one reconnaissance regiment. The maritime border guard forces are stationed at the Caspian ports of Aqtau and Atyrau.


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