Soviet Military Expansionism and Post-Soviet Revival: Soviet and Russian Military Bases Abroad

Soviet Union Military Bases Abroad

Since 1939, when the Workers and Peasants Red Army established first garrisons in independent Baltic States, the Soviet Union began rapid military expansion outside of its borders. The Baltic States acceptance of soviet military buildup in their territory resulted in occupation and annexation a year later, while refusal by Finland resulted in Soviet direct invasion. Soviet expansionism re-ignited in 1944 when the Red Army gained control over seven Eastern European countries and eastern half of Germany. The pre-1941 doctrine of the Soviet expansionism dictated that territory taken over by its military must be annexed into soviet state. The post 1944 doctrine was expressed by Joseph Stalin in his own words: “This war is not as in the past; whoever occupies a territory also imposes on it his own social system. Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach. It cannot be otherwise. If now there is not a communist government in Paris, this is only because Russia has no an army which can reach Paris in 1945.”[1] Basing on this military political doctrine the Soviet Union created a wide net of military presence in Eastern Europe, Latin America, Middle East, Africa and Asia. The United States of America followed a similar approach and created its own net of overseas bases.

The Soviet overseas military complex started to break up in 1989-1990 when the Soviet Army had to abandon the East Germany and rest of the Eastern Europe following the fall of the local communist regimes. The break down continued as the Soviet Union collapsed and in 1994 the post Soviet Army now Armed Forces of the Russian Federation had to abandon the Baltic States that regained independence on 1991. Following economic downturn, Russia had to close many of its bases, and general abandonment continued until 2004. In 2004 the Russian government lead by Vladimir Putin was alarmed by “color revolutions” in Ukraine and Georgia, and in response started grand revival of the armed forces. Part of the revival was to restore the overseas military expansion.

The Stalin’s doctrine of political control using military presence worked in Moldova (Transnistrian Moldovian Republic), Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia), Ukraine (Crimea) and lastly Syria. Since 2014 Russia has been looking forward to increasing its overseas military presence. Often the Russian apologetic and propagandist sources are complaining over large number of US and NATO overseas presence and how its poses danger for Russia. However, these complains are really just envy and penitence over lost Soviet overseas net and drives Russia to restore it.

This article presents unique maps of Soviet overseas military presence, provides information of the bases used in past and present and discusses further possibilities of the revival of the Russian military expansionism and what dangers and consequences it could provide.

Soviet Union bases in Europe


Estonia is the Northern Baltic State that gained independence from Russia in 1918- 1920. Despite their peace agreement with Soviet Russia, they were on the Soviet military and intelligence radar. In 1924 Estonian communists supported by Soviet intelligence attempted a coup in Estonian capital Tallinn, but failed. On August 23, 1939 the secret protocols of Soviet-German non-aggression agreement designated Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland as Soviet sphere of interest. In September 1939, in direct talks between Estonian foreign minister Karl Selter and Soviet commissary of the Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov, the soviet side demanded the establishment of a soviet naval and air base in Estonia “for its defense”. Previously, a Polish submarine Orzeł used Estonia as refuge and since the Soviet Union had invaded Poland on September 17, the Estonia was accused of inability of defending its own territory. Following tense negotiations involving threats and blackmail the Estonia was first of the Baltic States to allow Soviet garrison. In case of Estonian refusal the Red Army forces was gathered at the border and provocations like the sinking of the Soviet streamer Metallist  (that was sunk by Soviets themselves) were made. On September 28, the Estonian government agreed to soviet demands and signed a mutual assistance pact.

25,000 Soviet soldiers were allowed to garrison in Estonia and establish naval base in the island of Saarema and Hiiumaa. The size of Estonian army was 160,000 men unable to counter it and much smaller navy. [2] In June 1940 Estonia was occupied and annexed.

In 1941, Estonia was occupied by Nazi Germany and was regained by the Soviet Union in 1944. The Western Block never legally recognized Baltic States as part of Soviet Union, so the soviet military presence was considered illegal as well as conscription. Estonia, with its rapid coastline and various islands, was perfect for establishing submarine bases. Such as the nuclear submarine base in Paldiski and Hara. The Naval force was stationed in port of Tallinn and Saarema and other smaller ports. Also, a missile base was established in Viimsi. Estonia had strategical importance as a reserve hold for navy and gateway to Leningrad. As of Latvia, the coast line was guarded by Soviet border guards and often limited for civil use. During events of 1990-1991, the Soviet forces stationed in Estonia did not take much part in assaulting the independence restoration movement, partly because the commander of Tartu garrison Dzhokhar Dudayev refused to attack Estonian parliament and television. After Estonia restored full independence, the talks started of removal of the Soviet forces from the country and the removal commenced in 1994. Estonia was great loss for Baltic Navy and after 2004 it created a close NATO presence to St. Petersburg.


Latvia is the central Baltic State that gained independence during the same time as Estonia. Similarly, in October 1939 its foreign minister Vilhlems Munters was called to Moscow. Knowing Estonia had already agreed to demands, the Latvian government decided to allow the entry of 25,000 men and establishment of Soviet Naval base in Liepāja and Ventspils. Garrisons were established in western Latvia around Kuldīga, Aizpute and Priekule. In June 1940, Latvia was fully occupied and then annexed. After regaining Latvia from Nazi Germany, the Soviets started to establish a large variety of war and radio bases in Latvia.

First the Liepāja War port was larger then newly gained war ports in Kaliningrad and Baltysk, and therefore had prime importance. As a central Baltic state it had the largest soviet military presence. Latvia was an important place for the air force, where it could be held in reserve and for mid flights from East Europe to inner Russia. Also Latvia was bridgehead for a possible invasion in Sweden. In so, Latvia had many air bases, namely in Tukums, Daugavpils, Lielvārde and Vaiņode. Two nuclear missile bases were established in Zeltiņi (1977) and Eleja (1960) and missiles were stored in other bases. Riga was the center of the Baltic military district, infantry and tank bases were located in Ādaži, Dobele and a weapons testing range was in Zvārde. In case of nuclear war, there was a high probability that Latvia would be hit the most because of high concentration of the Soviet forces.[3]   Because of its geographical disposition, Latvia held two important communication objects. The early warning missile detection radar systems were built in Skrunda Dnepr radar (NATO designation “Hen House”). These stations were built around in the border edges of the Soviet Union to detect incoming nuclear missiles and be ready for retaliatory strike.[4] Another top secret object was Irbene space reconnaissance telescopes in forests of Slītere. Unknown until 1991, these two large antennas provided SIGINT data on NATO satellites and communications.

After Latvia regained independence, the Soviet forces left Latvia completely in 1994. Leaving behind its top priority naval base in Liepāja and radar in Skrunda. The Skrunda radar was destroyed, while Irbene space antenna was taken over by scientists. Most of the soviet bases are abandoned, except Ādaži polygon which has become a main infantry base for Latvian National Forces and NATO guest forces. Liepāja has become a Latvian naval base and will hold NATO ships in future. Lielvārde air base is now a secondary air field for the NATO Baltic air policing mission. The loss of Latvian infrastructure increased the importance of Kaliningrad region. Baltysk became the main naval base in Baltic Sea, and much of air force has been relocated Chernyakhovsk and Chkalov. Also, a new early warning radar system has been built in Pionersky.



Lithuania, while gaining independence in same time as Latvia and Estonia, was in a different political situation as it had a border conflict with Germany and Poland. In March 1939, Germany annexed Klaipēda or Mēmele that Lithuania had annexed in 1919. Lithuania also had to sign a mutual assistance pact with the Soviet Union, but did that with greater enthusiasm as the Soviet Union “gifted” Vilnius that was taken away from Poland by Soviets on September 17, 1939. Nevertheless, it was annexed in same time as two other Baltic countries. During the Nazi invasion, the Soviet forces in Lithuania were destroyed in the matter of days. After regaining Lithuania, it was an important border region and entry point into Eastern Europe. While it had a very small naval port at Klaipēda, it had important Plokštinė nuclear missile base, that held R-12 Dvina missiles. Karmelava base contained SS-4 rockets.  For matters of survival it was important to keep nuclear missile objects in Lithuanian and Latvian periphery as well as Belarus and Ukraine to keep the nuclear war damage out from Moscow and inner areas. Another important airfield was Šiauliai Air Base (Zokniai), which was converted and now used by NATO.[5]

The main aspect of loss of Lithuanian bases was the barred land access to Kaliningrad. The inability to supply and reinforce Kaliningrad from land, created a very volatile sea and air route from St. Petersburg to Kaliningrad across the Latvian and Estonian sea and air space, creating multiple events of border breach and scrambling’s by NATO forces.

Overall the loss of assets in Baltic States made Kaliningrad both dangerous and vulnerable for Soviet military and the Baltic States. While Kaliningrad military possess lethal danger to Lithuania, it also in theory can be cut off from rest of Russia by NATO forces. Overall the loss of the Baltic port significantly reduced the size and supply of the Baltic Navy. There is no chance that Russia could restore its military presence in Baltic States unless there would be an establishment of pro-Russian regimes that would initiate secession from NATO. While NATO in response to Russian expansion has started a buildup in Baltic States, an attempt to restore military presence in Baltic region would result a wide war.



Finland was also added to the Soviet sphere of interests, and Stalin also invited Finland for talks of mutual assistance pact.  The Soviets demanded them to move the Finnish border and give up the town of Viipuri, a few islands, and to lease the Hanko peninsula for the soviet naval base. Soviets also demanded them to dismantle all border defenses in Karelia. However, Finland rejected all Soviet demands and proposals, and started to prepare to defend themselves. The rejection resulted in war that was both victory and loss for both sides. While Soviet Union could not defeat Finnish army, it gained very important Viipuri city, and moved the border away from Leningrad then also managed to gain important lands in Karelia containing vital resources. Also, the war resulted the giveaway of the Hanko naval base. Soviets moved in and started to establish defensive fortifications, and set up 305 and 180 mm railway guns and hosted a small air force. As Nazi Germany started a war against the Soviets, the base was attacked by the German navy and then Finnish forces. The base was lost.

In 1944, Finland again had to sign a peace agreement with the Soviet Union, and this time instead of Hanko the Soviets demanded Porkala (Porkkalanniemi). The base was intended as forward attack point in case of war with Scandinavian countries. However, since Scandinavian countries were mostly friendly, the naval base building was slow in first years after 1944. However, in 1948 Finland received another offer of Mutual Friendship treaty that would strengthen the Soviet influence over the country. This caused “Scandinavian crisis” as the neighboring countries feared they would also fall to Soviets. Fear ignited on both sides that Sweden and Norway might join the western block and Soviets would attack them, so the Scandinavian countries increased their base building progress. In 1949 and 1950, Denmark and Norway joined NATO. The base held the 1st Marine Red army division and small naval forces meant for Skerry conditions. In 1955, the Soviet government decided to give up the naval base as part of a gradual downsize of the armed forces and attempts to sign arms race limitation treaty with NATO. The site is no longer used as naval base since.[6]

The loss of the naval base in the Strait of Finland was not a big issue in 1955. Finland never joined NATO and Russian policy for 50 years have been successful in preventing that. As part of prevention, there is also hidden Russian military buildup in Karelian region as documented by Finnish military observers.[7]



From 1967 to 2009 the Olavsvern was home for Norwegian Royal navy. In 2009 Norway placed the naval port on sale for 105 million Norwegian kroner (17.5 million USD)  and later sold for 38 million. It was allowed by NATO as it not need a bases there. However, Russia did saw need for Olavsvern and Norway now rents the port for Russian naval vessels. The Russian Naval Resarch vessels are traditionally associated with naval intelligence and according to some reports  the Russians in the base had undocked mini-submarines for surveillance and warfare preparations, and investigate the seabed and hydrographic conditions.[8] In the time of growing rivalry between NATO and Norway the Russian use of naval port in NATO country raises awareness and endangers Norwegian security. There have been calls for nationalizing and re-opening the base for NATO and Norway navy, so far the Norvegian government has rejected this.[9] This former naval base now used by Russian Navy is important for dominance in Arctic region.



Poland became victim to both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939. In 1945, it was fully taken over by the Soviet Army and kept its sovereignty and also acquired some of the German territory. However, in coming years Poland, as all other Eastern Europe countries, were taken over by communist forces loyal to Moscow. [8] In 1955, all of the Eastern European communist countries except Yugoslavia joined in Warsaw Pact as opposition to NATO.  Poland was home of the Soviet Northern Group of Forces that was devised from Soviet forces that reached Pomerania and Silesia as part of 2nd Belarusian front. The forces changed structure throughout the decades, however in all times they included sizable infantry and tank forces as of the 1988 6th Guards Motorised-Rifle Division (Borne Sulinovo, Poland) and 20th Tank Division. The Soviet Military encyclopedia states that the Northern Group of forces gave brotherly help to the Polish nation and were not involved in internal affairs. In reality, not only the Soviet forces made many war crimes against the local populace, it also contributed to rise of communist regime and helped to keep intact during martial law period. From Poland the invasion in Czechoslovakia took place in 1968.  The forces main HQ was located in Legnica, Lower Silesia, where Soviet military took over 1/3 of the city as their extraterritorial enclave (although for six years the operational headquarters was in Świdnica) Other major Soviet military bases were located in Bagicz, Białogard, Brzeg, Borne Sulinowo (one of the two largest), Burzykowo, Chojna, Dębice, Kęszyca Leśna, Kluczewo, Kłomino, Nowa Sól, Oława, Przemków-Trzebień (may refer to the same base as Strachów/Pstrąże), Strachów (pl) (now – deserted town shown as Pstrąże on maps), Świdnica, Świętoszów, Świnoujście (military harbor), Szprotawa, Wschowa, Żagań. Those bases included 15 airfields, 1 large and 11 smaller ports.[10]

After the removal of the Soviet forces in 1988, many of the Soviet army objects like Kłomino became abandoned, others taken over by Polish army. Poland had many reasons to be “ungrateful” to Russia and soon after liberating itself from Warsaw Pact it sought to join NATO which it achieved in 1999. It made first Russian NATO border with Kaliningrad as in 2004 the region became encircled by NATO countries. In present day situation, Russia views Polish Armed Forces and NATO guest units as direct threat and adversaries.


German Democratic Republic (East Germany)

The Red Army conquered all Germans lands in the East and gradually annexed them together with Poland. The Red army only reached small portion of Central Germany, but demanded a fair share which result in the gain of a 108,333 km² large occupation zone. As Soviet Union and Western Allies shifted in the Cold War, it was clear that Soviet troops will not leave its zone of occupation anytime soon. To legitimize their presence, they proclaimed themselves as the German Democratic Republic in 1949 and left Germany divided, opposing German Federal Republic and having allied controlled West Berlin. In this tense situation it became clear that the West and East frontier will be the first line of fire in war between both opposing blocks. Fearing soviet invasion, the US kept their presence in West Germany and helped to rebuild the new West German army. Meanwhile, the Soviets invested a lot in border protection and sealed off West Berlin with a wall and tightened the GDR border. In 1953, the Soviet forces quelled the anti-Soviet uprising. From 1945 to 1954, the armed forces were called the Group of occupation forces in Germany, and from 1954 to 1989 it was called the Group of Soviet forces in Germany, and from 1989 to 1994 the Western Group of Forces. The 1st Guards Red Banner Tank army was stationed in Dresden holding two tank divisions and motor rifle division. The 2nd Guards Tank Army was in Fürstenberg/Havel with one tank division and three motor rifle divisions. The 3rd Red Banner Army at Magdeburg was all consisted of a four tank division. The 8th Guards Order of Lenin Army at Weimar-Nohra had three motor rifle divisions and one tank division. 20th Guards Red Banner Army at Eberswalde had two tank divisions and two motor rifle divisions. The 16th Air Army at Zossen 3 fighter and one bomber division. Among minor forces there was the 35th Guards Separate Air Assault Brigade[11]. Also East Germany had many GRU Soviet Military intelligence service listening posts. Soviets, for a short time until 1959 had a nuclear rocket base in Vogelsang with R-5 rockets.[12]

Soviets only left East Germany in 1994 as a removal of this large force meant to crush Western forces in a swift attack, which was a long and costly operation. What was left was abandoned bases, and remains of the East German Army that had to be integrated into more superior GFR armed forces. The duty in East Germany was considered as the most prestige for the soviet armed forces and intelligence.


Annexed and divided by Nazi Germany, and then taken over by Red Army, the Czech and Slovakian nation also became a communist country that hosted the Soviet troops. In Czechoslovakia, it was the Central Group of Forces that at first were located in Austria until 1955 when the USSR withdrew. Before 1968, Prague Spring there were no permanent Soviet troops in the country. In 1968, USSR together with Warsaw pact armies invaded Czechoslovakia to topple the new pro-democracy government. A force of 85,000 men, with two tank divisions, three mechanized army divisions, three missile brigades, an artillery brigade and an airborne brigade that occupied the country with no significant resistance from the Czechoslovakian forces.   Official soviet military literature stated that this group is in the country only temporarily until it withdraws in 1989. The HQ was located in Milovice. Before the departure, it consisted of the 28th Army Corps (Olomouc,) 15th Guards Tank Division (Milovice,) 18th Guards Motorised Rifle Division (Mlada Boleslav,) 48th Motorised Rifle Division (Visoke Mito).

Czechoslovakia, after fall of communist block, divided in two countries that both later joined NATO. While both countries have NATO obligations, their politics for most of the time has been more on appeasing Russia than countering it like Poland. Czechoslovakia has also been and still is important producer of weapons and it also contributed to the creation of professional military simulations in digital environment the Virtual Battlespace Simulation.



Hungary was part of the Axis countries till the last days of war. It was occupied by Soviet forces and the communist government took over. At first, all Soviet forces in Hungary, Yugoslavia, Romania and Bulgaria were grouped under the Southern Group of Forces. In 1947 it was disbanded and in 1955 restored to control the Soviet forces withdrawing from Austria to Hungary. In 1956, in Budapest, an uprising began against the communist government, forcing it to collapse. Soviet troops stationed in Hungary already started to quell the uprising, while additional soviet forces from Romania with the lead of 33rd Guard Kherson Mechanized Division and put a bloody end to the Hungarian revolution. A group of Sothern Forces then became stationed in Hungary permanently. As usual, it was officially there temporary and was forbidden to intervene in Hungarian affairs. In 1988, it consisted of 13th Guards Tank Division (Veszprém) 19th Guards Tank Division (Estergom, ) 93rd Guards Motorised Rifle Division (Kecskemet,) 254th Motorised Rifle Division (Székesfehérvár,). In 1989, the soviet troops begun withdraw, and in 1991 the Southern group of forces was disbanded.[13]


Romania and Bulgaria

Romania and Bulgaria were both part of axis powers at first, and Romanians provided a significant number of troops in the Eastern front. In 1940, the Soviet Union had invaded Romania and annexed Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina. When Soviet forces pushed into these countries, their regimes changed allegiance and officially joined allies. That did not spare Romania and Bulgaria from becoming communist, and both countries became occupied by soviet forces. Romania was under soviet occupation until 1958 and Bulgaria till 1947.



Albania was annexed by Italy before WWII and regained independence in the aftermath, as its neighbors Albania evolved into a communist nation and maintained ties with the Soviet Union. As a result. the Soviet navy acquired its only naval base in the Mediterranean Sea at Vlorë called Pasha Liman Base. However, in the late fifties Albania, begun to fall out with USSR and became closer with communist China. In 1961, Albania went into a dispute over ownership of four soviet Whisky class submarines that were seized by Albanians. In 1962, Soviets left the base and in 1968, following invasion in Czechoslovakia, Albania withdrew from Warsaw pact. But, it was not as in protest of the invasion. The USSR itself had become too liberal for Albania so it better sought alliance with Maoist China. After the fall of the communist regime, the naval base is now used by Turkey. [14]



Yugoslavia in early years after its liberation from Nazi Germany, begun to draw away from Stalin who could not control Yugoslav partisan leader Broz Tito. As a result, Yugoslavia never joined the Warsaw pact and instead tried to create Non-Aligned states pact as opposition to NATO and Warsaw pact. Still, the Soviet Navy had some access to Yugoslav ports at Tivat, Bijela, and Kumbor that is now Montenegro. These bases were not permanent but served as repair and resupply ports for the soviet ships.[15] After Yugoslavia collapsed, these bases were still in power of Serbia and Montenegro and allowed Russian ship visits. In 2006, Montenegro separated from Serbia and started accession to NATO.  As Montenegro is heading close to enter NATO, one of the Russian concerns that these ports will be closed to Russia for good, and that is one of the reasons for extended Russian efforts to keep this country out of NATO.

Soviet Union Military Bases in Africa and Cuba


The communist revolution in Caribbean island of Cuba was the best present for Soviet militarists. It was very close to US mainland, it could be used for naval and intelligence purposes. US understood that very well and made numerous attempts to topple or assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro. All of them failed and Soviets managed to establish military presence in the island. Soviet navy visited the naval port at Cienfuegos. Here the Soviets unloaded the infamous SS-4 and R-14 ballistic missiles in 1962. This step was made because Soviets had no other place where to store their mid-range nuclear missiles that would reach US and intercontinental ballistic missiles were still too few. Also the Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev wanted to use them as diplomatic leverage on US to achieve scores in for instance in Berlin issue. The missiles were discovered all too soon by US and their reaction was unfavorable to USSR. In the outcome of the crisis the missiles were removed, but soviet navy and military advisors still continued to visit Cuba despite the agreement on 1962 denied them to. US however, did not raised no alarm over it anymore. In 2002 the Russian navy ceased its permanent activities in the Cienfuegos, however in 2016 new talks have been opened with both Cuba and Vietnam to again give access to Russian navy. This move is seen as Russian countermeasure against NATO expansion and new leverage against US in diplomacy and arms race. The talks are still underway and also since US dropped the sanctions on Cuba in 2016, the Cuban government must be mindful of the diplomatic consequences. Russian military presence in Cuba would stir up the relations between US and Russia and place Cuba in bad situation again.[16] Nevertheless the aim of restoring naval presence in Cuba is example of Russian agonizing over loss of its Cold War base net and reckless move to restore them.

Another importance of Cuba for Soviet intelligence was its close proximity to US that allowed to establish close range radio listening base.  The base was established in Lourdes in 1962 and operated from 1967. It had prime importance in eavesdropping of US military and space communications. After the fall of Soviet Union the base became more expensive and also Cubans gradually raised rent from 90 million to 200 million dollars in a year. Russia suffered crisis in 1998 and only started to recover when in 2001 the new president Vladimir Putin decided to close the base to save resources. It was closed in 2002. Ever since the worsening of relations with US, the Russian side had raised issue of restoring the base. In 2014 Putin visited Cuba and media spread news that both sides had agreed to restore the base, however Putin denied this and so far the base has not been restored.



During WW2 Egypt was allied with Great Britain and hosted the allied forces that defended them from Axis invasion. However, after the rise of Gamal al Nasser the relations with western block deteriorated and Egypt spiraled into Soviet sphere. Soviets became the main suppliers of weapons, sent their military advisors and also Soviet Air Force pilots and Russian anti air units. In 1969 16 transport ships from Mykolaiv (Nikolayev) Ukraine were sent to Egypt unloading the anti-air missile’s and equipment. The special ant air weapons were 125 “Pechora” (“Neva”), ZSI-23-4 “Shilka” and anti air missile Strela-2. The action was codenamed Operation “Caucasus”. To keep secrecy the troops had no insignia and only wore special clothes to determine soldiers from officers. They put up an Egyptian uniforms and issued multiple “maskirovka” or hidden actions to prevent detection. The anti-air weapons and other vehicles only moved during nights in day times they were disguised. With them 30 Mig-21 jet fighters were stationed. Also Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft’s and An-12 recon planes were unloaded. All planes were sent to Egypt in parts and then re assembled. In February 1 1970 the Soviet air force started air patrols.

However, the Soviet forces in Egypt were soon discovered and covered in western press. Israel started to air radio broadcasts to Soviet soldiers in Russian. In 1970 15-20 thousand Soviet troops served in Egypt.

In July 30 1970 Israeli Air Force came into direct battle against Soviet air force. Israeli Mirage III and F-4E Phantom engaged Mig-21 in three minute air skirmish which resulted in 5 Soviet aircraft lost and four pilots lost. Israel only had one aircraft damaged. Russian sources describes more direct encounters that also resulted loss of Israeli aircraft and damage to Soviet anti-air weapons. [17] Israeli Air force was unable to destroy all Soviet Air force group, but also the Soviets were unable to effectively counter the US and French made aircraft.

On July 18 1972 the Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat demanded Soviets to leave the country. In following years Egypt shifted back to western influence and made peace with Israel and regained Sinai Peninsula. In last decade the situation has changed. In 2011 Egyptian long running leader Hosni Mubarak was deposed starting a years of turbulence that ended in military coup. While the military coup was directed against Muslim Brotherhood government, the US did not approve the action and in result the new military government started to look for new cooperation with Russia. As in early 2017 reports suggest that Russia has deployed Special Forces in Egyptian air base at Sidi Barrani 100 km from Libyan border. Apparently Russia has military interest to intervene in Libyan civil war on the side of General Khalifa Haftar.[18] These developments are currently ongoing and shows that Russia intends to restore Cold War situation where Soviet Union had direct influence over Egypt and Syria encircling Israel.



When in 1948 Joseph Stalin recognized Israel he saw it as possible socialist satellite state. However, soon after Israeli-Arab war broke out, it was clear that Israel would become right wing state orienteered towards West. That made USSR to start supporting Syria and Egypt the leading countries against Israel. USSR also supported Arab nationalist regimes in Libya and Iraq and supplied all these countries with weapons. The two major Arab-Israeli wars in 1967 and 1973 was a display of soviet weapons against western, where western weapons proved superiority. As similar to Egypt, USSR also sent military advisors and instructors to Syria. Unlike Egypt, Syria never ceased its struggle against Israel and did not broke ties with Soviet Union and later Russia.

Most important part of this alliance was the establishment of permanent Soviet naval port in Tartus. It can hold four medium-sized vessels only if both of its 100 m (330 ft) floating piers, inside of the northern breakwater, are operational. It is not capable of hosting any of the Russian Navy’s current major warships which range in length from the 129 m. After the fall of Soviet Union the Russian naval operations in Mediterranean Sea vanquished, but the base was kept. Also a soviet listening base is thought to be located in the coast of Latakia and still operational.[19]

In 2012 the civil war broke out in Syria. Russia officially supported Syrian leader Bashar al Assad and in 2013 stepped in to prevent US from initiating military action against his regime for using chemical weapons. Over the next two years the situation in Syria gravely deteriorated and Russia decided to take direct part in 2015. Tartus became important entry point for Russian special forces and also as supply point. Russia currently holds its air force in Hmeimim air base, where it also sheltered the Syrian Air Force from US attack on April 6.[20] When with help of Russian Special Forces Syrian Arab Army captured Palmyra from Daesh Islamic terrorists, Russians started to establish base there. However, in December Palmyra was re captured by Daesh and the base was ravaged. In 2017 Palmyra was again taken back by Russian and Syrian Arab Army forces.

While Russia is engaged in war with all of those factions who oppose Assad, one group the Kurdish Autonomy of Rojava and Syrian Democratic Forces have friendly ties with Russians. This is important as the Kurdish faction also receives support from US and Coalition and is opposed by Turkey who plays its own role in the war. Recently news came that Russians would establish base in Kurdish controlled Manjbi province in Afrin city. It was claimed by Kurdish commanders while Russia denied it and claimed that they having merely a “reconciliation center” to help defend ceasefires.[21] The Manjbi province is currently separated from rest of Rojava or Northern Syria by Turkish forces and their allied combatants. Therefore from Kurdish point of view the Russian presence in Manjbi provides their protection from Turkey and Assad.

While war in Syria is currently ongoing and will not cease in any certain time, the Russia will keep its military presence in Syria as long as military and financial situation allows them to.



Libya gained independence from Italy after WW2 and in 1969 was taken over by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi who was inspired by pro-soviet Gamal Abdel Nasser and naturally sought connections with USSR. For USSR the Tripoli Naval port served an important place where to store, supply and repair ships. Soviet navy started to visit Tripoli from 1977.[22] While it was not permanent base for Soviets, they made visits for many years, also USSR supplied all the weapons for Libyan regime, who then send some of them to terrorist organizations in the Middle East. However, the Soviet military presence in Libya and Algeria never reached such peak as in Egypt. Both countries despite being friendly towards USSR never allowed more soviet military intervention, than naval visits and temporary stays.[23]

Russian navy continued to use Tripoli and Tobruk. In 2008 Gaddafi offered Russia to create naval base on his soil, but the talks did not materialize.[24] In 2001 Libya engulfed in Civil War and connections with Libya were lost. Vladimir Putin personally regretted that his president Dmitry Medvedev had approved NATO intervention to depose Gaddafi and that contributed to his decision to regain presidential powers and steer Russian foreign policy into confrontation with NATO countries. Strategically Libya poses a great importance for the Russian navy who would enter Mediterranean Sea from Atlantic Ocean on the way to Syrian Tartus port. In 2016 when Russian only aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov made long route from Barents Sea to Syrian shores it had no friendly port to stop and resupply as all NATO countries like Spain, Malta and Cyprus prevented access. Friendly port in Libya would be important. Therefore it’s suggestable that Russia would seek to support a specific side in Libya that would turn on Russian side and allow to restore access for Russian navy.



The Russian imperial navy used Bizerte port in Tunisia when it was still owned by France. The ships stationed there after the Bolshevik coup in 1917 remained in port and despite the French recognition of USSR in 1924 the ships never returned to Russia and were scrapped. In 1961 Tunisian army and Navy posed to take over the port from France who was still using it resulting in bloody battle. In 1963 Bizerte of Sfax was finally abandoned by French Navy and Soviet navy occasionally used as support base and visited by Soviet ships.[25]

Soviet Union in Africa and Asia


Ethiopia has long history of regime changes. In 1974 a regime of Coordinating Committee of the Armed Forces or Derg was established toppling the emperor Emperor Haile Selassie I. Derg was supportive to communist ideas and sought support from USSR. Soviets provided weapons for Ethiopian internal wars and in return gained access to Nokra naval base in the Red Sea. It served as naval support base and was abandoned in 1991. By then much of the Ethiopian Red Sea shores were controlled by Eritrean separatists who established recognized state of Eritrea in 1994. There have been no talks with Eritrea of restoring the base ever since.



For a brief period Soviets had friendly regime in Somalia that allowed to host their navy in Berbera naval port. Port was used for repair and resupply in sixties and seventies, however as the Somalian regimes became favorable to US the port was used by US navy. In 1991 the Somalian government collapsed and Berbera is in control of separatist government of Somaliland ever since. Its naval base is now used by United Arab Emirates who need it to continue war in Yemen against Houthi fighters.[26]



For many decades Yemen was divided in two countries with one more pro-soviet then another. South Yemen or People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen was supported by USSR and allowed Soviet navy to enter ports of Aden and the island of Socotra. Soviet naval base was also located in Northern Yemen in Al Hudaydah that soviets helped to rebuild after major fire in 1961. When both Yemen’s united in 1990 the bases were lost, but Russian navy occasionally visited Yemen while it was also visited by US navy. Overall both Yemen’s had significant Soviet influence and as country is again engulfed in civil war, there are speculations that Russia could also take part reclaiming some of its formerly used bases.[27]



Former French colony in Equatorial Africa gained independence in 1958 and became contested by Soviet Union and US as every other new African state. The country was led by Ahmed Sékou Touré. At first the dictator and Soviet Union did not get along as Soviet ambassador was expelled for meddling in internal affairs and during Cuban Missile Crisis the Soviets requested to use the airfield in Guinea for their jets, but were denied. However, in 1970 Portugal staged invasion by mercenary troops to overthrow Touré, because he was supporting independence movement in Portuguese Guinea. The invasion failed and Touré was forced to seek protection from Soviets. Soviet fleet was stationed in Conakry port and TU-95D reconnaissance planes were sent to airfield.  It was useful for tracking the US naval movements. In 1974 the Portuguese Guinea became independent Guinea-Bissau and Touré no longer felt danger and need for Soviet protection. Soviet naval and air force contingent meanwhile remained in the country. In 1977 Soviet Union pressed Guinea to have permanent naval base, however Touré resisted and forbid Soviet Airforce to take reconnaissance flights from his country.[28] Eventually Soviets had to abandon Guinea. Touré died in 1984 and their successors did not wat to Soviets back.



Angola a large country in Southern part of Africa was Portuguese colony. From 1961 a struggle for independence begun and was fought by three different factions: the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA), and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). Soviets supported MPLA and  while US and South Africa had in for UNITA and FNLA. MPLA received support from soviet military advisors and also Cuban armed forces. In 1975 the country gained independence and all three sides engaged in civil war for ultimate power. Soviet Union and Cuba became involved in the fighting.  11,000 soviet troops and 35,000 – 37,000 Cuban troops were involved in the war also facing South African army. Soviets lost 54 people while Cubans 2,016—5,00. War went on for two decades and becoming “Cuban Vietnam” forcing them to withdraw in 1988. Soviets left in 1991.[29] In Soviet varied medal and badge system there is specific medal badge for Soldier Internationalist that while most of recipients were  veterans of Afghan war, it was also received by those who fought in Angola.



Soviet military involvement in Mongolia begun already before WW2 because Japanese military invasion in China that threatened Soviet borders. In 1939 on the Mongolian border Soviet Union engaged Japan in the Battles of Khalkhin Gol halting the Japanese advance. From 1921 to 1924 Mongolia was occupied by Red Army who drove out White Russians commanded by Roman von Ungern-Sternberg. Mongolian People’s Republic formed in 1924 was dependent on Soviet Union to keep it save from China. Soviet troops were stationed in the country guarding the local Stalinist regime. In 1945 the Red Army used Mongolia as their base for mounting offensive against Japan in Northern China or Manchuria.

After WW2 Soviet Union contributed to the rise of Mao Zedong in China and kept its presence in Mongolia. After death of Stalin Mao Zedong was not in approval of Nikita Khrushchev new policies. The relations between two communist powers worsened to a point of armed conflict in 1969. In these circumstances Mongolia related to Soviet Union and felt endangered by Maoist China. In result Soviet troops were allowed to have base in Choir that hosted air force and anti-air units. Finally in 1989 Soviet troops abandoned Mongolia.[30] Currently Russian-Sino relations are in good standing, however should they got worse, the Russia would be interested to control Mongolia as its serves as buffer zone between China and Baikal and Altai region of Eastern Siberia.



The rise of communism in the most populated country in the world was certainly one of the greatest achievements by Stalin. Not only that Soviet army also gained control over Port Arthur (Lüshunkou) that Russian Empire lost to Japan in 1905. In 1945 it was occupied by Red Army and give to China who allowed it for Soviet rule for 30 years. However in 1950 the joint Soviet-Chinese agreement shortened the Soviet use till 1952. Because of war in Korea the Soviet stay in Port Arthur was extended.[31] In 1954 year after Stalin’s death the Soviets had to leave Port Arthur. Soviets never returned again to China and for now on had to keep close eyes on their borders fearing Chinese human wave attacks.



In the effort of driving Japanese away from Northern China and Korea the Red Army took over Northern part of Korean peninsula. Korea was divided across the 38th parallel and Southern side was controlled by US and allied forces. Naturally the Soviets begun establishing communist government in Northern Korea with leader Kim Il-sung. While South established Republic of Korea the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea wished to unite the peninsula by means of war. In 1948 Soviet forces left the Northern side, but handful of advisors and military equipment to support North Korean attack that begun on 1950 as approved by Stalin. Soviets helped in planning and provided supplies. When war broke out the USSR took part in the war in clandestine way by engaging in air war masking in Chinese or North Korean markings and took down 200 aircraft of the UN forces. It was known to the opposite side although USSR never acknowledged that it took part.[32] The Korean war ended in 1953 and left Korea in the permanent state of division. While there was no Soviet troops in North Korea, Soviets provided weapons support and training. After the collapse of USSR the support ceased and right now the Russian support for Korea in the light of constant threats from US are quite minimal. However, Russia might change its stance if the war in Korea would break out again.



Vietnam was French colony and during WW2 was invaded by Japan. After Japanese withdrawal French tried to restore power over the country, but faced significant armed resistance. Finally in 1954 the French left, but Vietnam was divided in two. North was controlled by communist government of Ho Chi Min while South was controlled by pro western forces.  Unlike North Korea, the North Vietnam did not engage full armed invasion in the South, but instead invested in guerilla war South Vietnamese jungle. Soviet support for communist Vietnam was limited until 1965 when Soviets signed treaty that provided North Vietnam with financial aid and military hardware. 3,000 soviet troops served in Vietnam in 1964-1965 and provided support for Northern Vietnamese air force. For traditional and religious reasons many Vietnamese were afraid of reaching great heights and crashed many times and needed also direct support. Similarly Soviet pilots also took seat in Vietnamese planes and engaged US air force.[33] Also special Soviet commandos were reported to take place in land combat.

In 1975 North Vietnam overrun South Vietnam. For the extended supports Soviets were awarded of using the Cam Ranh airfield that was built and used by US Air force. Soviets begun using in 1979. Soviet Air Force stationed MiG-23 fighters, Tupolev Tu-16 tankers, Tupolev Tu-95 long-range bombers, and Tupolev Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft. Also naval base was established as well as radio listening station. From 1993 the base was only used for reconnaissance flights and most of Russian air force left the airfield. While Russia had rights to use the Cam Ranh until 2004 in 2001 in efforts to downsize the military budget, Russians closed their air and naval activities. However, Russian ships continued to freely enter port and 2014 agreement allowed Russian navy to access it more easily. In 2014 Russian Il-78 tanker aircraft used Cam Ranh for re fueling Tu-95 bomber. Talks with Vietnam continue and likely the Cam Ranh will be used by Russian navy and air force again in the future.[34]



During warmth of Indonesian-Soviet relations, Soviets provided Indonesia with ships and weapons like Sverdlov-class cruiser, Skoryy-class destroyer, Riga-class frigate, Whiskey-class submarine (the first such vessels to be used in Southeast Asia), Komar-class missile boat, Ilyushin Il-28 long-range bomber aircraft and the PT-76. During the supplement soviet advisors stayed in Surabaya naval base. Later Indonesia shifted to western countries and acquired ships from NATO block.



In 1978 a pro-Soviet regime took power in Afghanistan. The regime started a wave of modern socialist secular reforms causing uprising by traditional Afghan tribes. Soviet Union was not satisfied with Afghan leader Mohammad Daoud Khan and decided to depose him and quell the anti-Soviet revolt in 1979. What seemed a simple operation similar to one in Czechoslovakia evolved into decade long guerilla war with mujahedin’s supported by US, Pakistan and Arab countries. During the war Soviet established many bases in the country like the Bagram airfield from which it conducted air strikes against mujahidin. Soviets lost 14,453 people and were forced to abandon the country in 1989.

Russian Federation military bases abroad


Ukraine was the most important part of the Soviet Union by economic means and hosted many of its military industries like tank production and shipbuilding. After Ukraine became independent some of the Soviet bases were taken over by Ukrainian army and some simply abandoned like Early warning radars in Mukachevo, Mykolaiv and one near Chernobyl. [35]Russia lost important ship building factory in Mykolaiv and tank factory in Kharkiv. However, Russia was extremely reluctant of losing its naval base in Sevastopol, Crimea that would cut short the Black Sea navy.

Originally Crimean peninsula belonged to Russian Soviet Socialist Federal Republic, however Nikita Khrushchev decided to join it up with Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. It  was not done because Khrushchev favored Ukraine, but because Crimea could be supplied more effectively from Ukrainian mainland that Crimea had direct connection with. There was no need for a Kerch bridge and as the borders between Soviet republics were formal it posed no danger for Soviet Black Sea navy. Situation changed in 1992 when Sevastopol was now part of Ukraine and Russia was looking for ways of how to keep their naval base. At first the solution was joint Ukrainian-Russian fleet that existed until 1997. In 1997 Ukraine and Russia signed partition agreement and navies were separated. The Sevastopol naval base was partly leased to Russia till 2017. After 2004 Orange revolution the tensions between two countries started to raise and Ukrainian government issued it will not lease Sevastopol to Russia after 2017. In 2010 however Ukraine had more pro-Russian government and agreement was reached that Russia would use Sevastopol till 2042 with additional five years in option.[36]

In 2014 in dramatic events the pro Russian president Viktor Yanukovych escaped the Maidan revolution to Russia. Its been admitted by Russian president himself had devised a plan to take control over Crimea years ahead in anticipation of possible Ukrainian shift of joining NATO and EU.[37] And these claims are approved by the scale of operation that took place in February-March 2014. Russia also took over some of the Ukrainian naval ships and some of the crews switched allegiance to Russian side. Russia unilaterally annexed Crimea and imposes its own laws and forced citizens to adopt Russian citizenship. In three years of occupation Russia has significantly increased its military presence in peninsula, bringing anti air defenses, air force and rocket defenses. The frontier between Ukraine and Russia remains tense and reached highest tensions in 2016 when Russia accused Ukraine of various diversions.[38] No response followed while the fears Russian attack on Kherson and Melitopol to gain land bridge remains.

In addition to initial direct invasion in Crimea, Russia made covert invasion disguised as separatist uprising in Eastern Ukraine gaining control over Donetsk and Luhansk. Failed attempts were also made in Mykolaiv and Odessa, however Russia had no land access to these cities so the plan of Novorussia uprising failed. Also attempts in Kharkiv were foiled, despite Russia having near border. Apparently Russia was not ready to mount attack on this densely populated city. In 2014 Ukrainian forces pushed separatist republic forces away from Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. In the winter of 2015 the separatist forces gained Debaltseve and the frontline has been locked ever since with skirmishes taking place every day. The two separatist republics formally known as Donetsk Peoples Republic and Luhansk Peoples Republic with their “own armed forces” are mostly Russian Armed Forces, Russian Special Forces and various mercenaries from Russia and abroad. Russia has many times confirmed it has specialists aiding the “separatists” while it denies its full involvement. While it’s clear that these separatist republics receives extended supply and that supply comes only from Eastern border that is not controlled by Ukraine.



Both Belarus and Ukraine claimed independence from Russia first in 1918 but were subjected to Soviet rule centered in Moscow. Contrary to Ukraine, Belarus was deeply integrated into Moscow rule at the point extinction of the Belarusian language and national culture. This allowed Russia to continue influence Belarus after 1992. In 1997 Belarus and Russia created Union State that placed Belarus under economic dependence from Moscow and aligned it to Moscow. The Union State also determines extended cooperation between Russian and Belarusian armies. In 2009 Regional Forces Group of Belarus and Russia were established and conducts joint training. Belarus has hosted Russian troops for its Zapad exercises in 2009 and 2013 and will host in 2017. Russian air force uses airfields in Baranavichi, Machulishchi and Babruysk. Last one was planned to fully become Russian air base, but talks with Belarusian government failed.[39] Russia also holds early warning radar station in Hantsavichy built in 1982 and significantly improved years ahead to compensate the loss of Skrunda radar in Latvia.

Russia and Belarus have joint training polygon at Hrodna district near Polish –Lithuanian border. Its speculated that in event of Russian-NATO war the Russian-Belarusian forces would be able to use so called Suwalki gap to gain land access to Kaliningrad and separate Baltic States from Poland and Europe. Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has stated in case of war the Belarus would fight side by side with Russia. His own political situation has become more weaker as his economic policies has stirred nationwide protests demanding to end his 20 yearlong rule, however he is reassured by his large police force and backing from Putin.



What is known today as Moldova for many centuries was called Bessarabia and until 1940 was Romanian possession. Before it was Russian possession and Stalin demanded it to be included as sphere of interest in Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Germany agreed and later regretted as they did not expect that Soviets would invade and annex Bessarabia and also annex Northern Bukovina that was not included in the agreement. Soviet forces were so close to Ploiești oil fields the Germany only source of oil supply; that frightened Adolf Hitler and motivated him to start war on Soviet Union.

The occupied territory was granted the rights of soviet socialist republic of Moldova and in 1991 it declared independence. However, there were no ethnic Moldovans and no Moldovan language as majority of citizens were Romanians. While the towns on the eastern side of river Dniester had Russian and Ukrainian majority. Their political leaders were against Moldovan nationalism that demanded Moldovan Romanian as official language and possibly integrate into Romania. A war broke out in 1992. With the help of Russian armed forces Transnistria the region on the Eastern bank of Dniester claimed independence as Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic. Russian peace keeping forces remain in Transnistria till this day and as enclave is heavily dependent on Russia. It also serves as proxy point for arms smuggling. During Ukrainian-Russian war it has stayed relative calm as Ukraine has prevented Russian air force access to Transnistria and as Odessa is in firm Ukrainian control, the Russian task force poses small danger.



Georgia also wanted independence in 1918-1920 but only fully gained in 1991 and quickly was involved in civil war with separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and also within own ethnic Georgian forces. Russia tried to “solve” the conflict by arranging ceasefires and sending in peace keeping forces that in fact established the integrity of the separatist republics and placed them under dependence. In 2004 Georgia was taken over by pro-western Mikheil Saakashvili who alarmed Russia over his will to join NATO and EU. Among other Saakashvili goals was to restore control over separatist republics, Russia knew that these two separatist republics would be major obstacle for joining NATO. In the summer of 2008 Russia held large military drills across the Georgian border alarming Georgia. In continuation South Ossetian troops opened fire on Georgian positions provoking Tbilisi in preemptive strike as it was also aware of gathering of the Russian tank column near the tunnel that lead into South Ossetia. In result Russia claimed that Georgian forces have attacked Russian peacekeepers in Tskhinvali the South Ossetia capitol and mounted invasion to draw back the assaulting Georgian forces. In coming days Russian troops entered Abkhazia and captured Georgian city Gori and were close to Tblisi capital of Georgia. The ultimate goal was the downfall of the Saakashvili regime however it stood firm and many foreign leaders went to Tblisi preventing Russia to move further. US also send ship squadron to Black Sea in warning and Russia was forced to negotiate ceasefire. Years later Russian leaders admitted the war in Georgia was planned in advance to stop Georgian accession to NATO and EU.[40]

The result was two unrecognized republics Abkhazia and South Ossetia that are within Russian military control and are integrated into Russian economy. In 2017 Abkhazian army units were integrated within Russian army.[41]

Consequently with hostility with Georgia, Russia has lost its naval bases in Poti and Batumi however it can use the naval ports in Abkhazia.



Armenia – once a grand kingdom re appeared on political map as small country in 1992 with major military conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabakh an Armenian ethnic region controlled by Azerbaijan. As in Moldovan and Georgian civil war the Russia intervened in Armenian favor. Armenia gained significant amount of Azeri land and Nagorno Karabakh claimed independence. The two countries are at fragile ceasefire ever since. In 2016 both countries engaged in new hostilities that ended in another stalemate.

Armenia had to return the Russian favor by hosting Russian forces at 102nd Military Base at Gyumri. The base has prime importance in keeping leverage on Azerbaijan and Turkey who has historically bad relations with Armenia. The base is also used against Georgia and has its importance in Syrian war as in training and transition of troops.[42]

In 2015 a deranged Russian soldier massacred seven Armenian civilians sparking massive protests against the military base. The murderer was sentenced for life. From time to time there are large protests against current Armenian government, however the base will probably stay for years ahead because it’s vital for Armenian national security.



Russian – Azeri relations because of Nagorno Karabakh have not been cordial and Azeri regime because of its oil reserves feels economically independent from Russia and instead seeks close alliance with Turkey to place pressure on Armenia. The most important Russian military object was Gabbala radar station that was Daryal type early warning radar covering all the Middle East. It was built in 1985 and remained in Russian possession until 2012. In 2006 Russia built new radar in Armavir Russia that was new Voronezh type radar, so the failure in negotiations had not much of impact.



Kazakhstan, a major Soviet republic, appeared on political map on 1991. It’s one of the most stable republics in Central Asia with prominent Russian national minority and large border with Russia. Therefore its authoritarian government sought good relations with Russia and allowed to use some of their land. Main base is Sary Shagan anti-ballistic testing range. Last known launch was in March 4 2014. Near the base there is Balkhash radar station that serves as early warning radar station Dnestr (NATO codename “Hen House”) similar to one formally in Skrunda, Latvia and currently in Belarus. These first generation radars were decommissioned and replaced with Daryal U radars (NATO “Pechora”).[43]  Russia also uses the Baikonur cosmodrome for its space launches, its also used by Russian Air force. As US has abandoned its space shuttle program the Baikonur is main entry point to International Space Station, however Russian space program is lagging behind and such private program as Space – X could possibly replace Russian rockets in future.



Kyrgyzstan emerged as independent republic and is one of the most unstable Central Asian republic with two major regime changes in 20 years. Despite that Kirgizstan has remained loyal to Russia and allowed to host Russian Air force in Kant airfield in 2003 that was first new Russian base in abroad since 1991. In 2012 the new agreement extended Russian use for fifteen years with extension of another five years   in return of easing the Kyrgyz debt to Russia. Its important object for keeping Russian military presence in Central Asia and countering the ambitions by NATO and China in the region.


Tajikistan emerged independent in the most volatile way, engulfing in civil war. The 201st Motor Rifle Division was stationed in the country and took place in the war, attacking Dushanbe and other cities. After civil order was reestablished the division stayed there ensuring the stability of the Moscow supported regime. In 2004 it was renamed as 201st Military base and Russians have right to stay in the country until 2024. The Russian military presence is important as Tajikistan borders war torn Afghanistan that poses danger to Tajik state. Russia has lost its military access to Uzbekistan who withdraw from Collective Security Treaty Organization in 2012 and allowed US to use their airfield at Karshi-Khanabad from 2001 to 2005. Turkmenistan is meanwhile more isolated from Russia and rest of the world.


Future Prospects

Currently, Russia is expanding its military bases in Syria and occupied parts of Ukraine. Russia is conducting talks with Cuba and Vietnam to restore their access to Russian navy and air force. Russia has significant interest in Nicaragua where its speculated that new spy center is being built.[44] Its possible that in case of building new canal in Nicaragua as alternative to Panama canal, Russia might try to press the country to establish naval base there. Russia is currently building up new military presence in Libya and Egypt and might well return to Yemen. There is also talks of desire to build new bases in Singapore, Seychelles and Venezuela.[45] These developments indicate that Russia is aiming on restoring pre 1991 situation of Soviet military outreach. This is part of general Russian policy to revise the post 1991 world order.

The Russian military expansion is limited by its economy and military budget that is weakened by sanctions and falling oil prices. Russian expansion is also determined by its advances in Ukraine and Syria. As for now Russia has limited the advance in Ukraine in more slow war of attrition. However, Russia has potential of major escalation in Ukraine. However, its development is unpredictable and restraints from doing it. The Syrian war would probably go on for some 2 more years as the Daesh terrorists and anti-Assad rebels are well supplied by benefactors from other countries. Also since US latest actions against Assad it cannot predicted that his regime will last. The bigger perspective is US/NATO and Russian relations. The US Donald Trump administration only in words sought to ease tensions with Russia, in praxis it only worsens the relations with Russia. The US political scene is very volatile over Russia hacking scandal and Trump campaign ties so gaining common ground with US so far not very successful for Russia. In lighter case Russia will continue to place pressure on US by expanding its overseas base network in worst case Russia may trigger military action in Baltic States to punish US and NATO. Such action would however may well end in bitter failure. Also an unknown variable is North Korea that is drawing US military attention and could result in number in unforeseen events. So the Russian military expansionism will continue for some time and bring many events and turnovers.



Much has been said about US military base network and his danger to world and US itself. What is important that while Soviet and Russian military expansionism is natural as it’s dictated by Russian traditional imperial aspiration and militaristic culture the US military expansionism was result of WW2 that placed US in unique position. US in its roots was anti-imperialist country that was imperialist during only early 20th century when it invaded Cuba and annexed Hawaii.

The Cold War situation where the US was obliged to use its military and economic potential to counter Soviet expansion was unique for the US and not fully desired. One could say that US should had to drop its base network after fall of Soviet Union as it did not provide any more danger. That claim is false as Russia immediately in 1992 sought to restore military presence in post-soviet space and did not rush to close its bases in Cuba, Vietnam and Syria. Plus US also had to keep its military presence to counter new emerging terrorist threats and keep status quo in South Pacific. Russia meanwhile has centuries of military expansionism as Russian Empire was very militaristic state and it’s no wonder  it attempted to keep its bases after fall of USSR and gradually restore them. From sense of military and political interests both sides have full rights to maintain a net of overseas military base net as the problems of the Cold war was not full resolved for both sides. The arms race between both sides will continue and it’s a question of sanity and logic that would prevent both sides from entering full scale conflict.


Author: mag.hist. Māris Goldmanis


[1] As quoted by Conversations with Stalin (1963) by Milovan Djilas

[2] Establishing Soviet military bases in the territory of the Republic of Estonia in 1939

[3] Latvia – Soviet War Base 1944-1994

[4] Skrunda Soviet Radar Station

[5] B. Česna, L.Davuliene, K. Aliulis. Lithuania’s nuclear past. A historical survey

[6]Финляндия, которая была Ленинградом


[10] See more: Applebaum, Anna. (2012) The Iron Curtain. The Crushing of the Eastern Europe 1944-1956.



[13] A Soviet missile base in Germany that spy planes never saw



[16] Great Power Competition for Overseas Bases: The Geopolitics of Access Diplomacy

By Robert E. Harkav.









[24] Mediterranean Politics, Volume 1 edited by Richard Gillesp


[26] Great Power Competition for Overseas Bases: The Geopolitics of Access Diplomacy

By Robert E. Harkavy



[29] Who Influenced Whom?: Lessons from the Cold War By Dale C. Tatum