Other Former Soviet Republics
Although a strong body of opinion in Belarus supported the April 1996 bilateral agreement that would bring closer integration with Russia, independence-minded Belarusians in Minsk staged large-scale protests, and the policy encountered substantial opposition in Belarus's parliament and among reform factions in Russia. Nuclear weapons in Belarus, which reportedly were under tight Russian control after 1991, were scheduled for transfer to Russia by the end of 1996.
The last Russian troops left Estonia and Latvia in 1994, leaving significant populations of Russians behind. Russian officials criticized citizenship and other laws allegedly discriminating against those groups in the Baltic republics, and some Russian enclaves in the Baltic states made separatist threats. Border disputes with Estonia and Lativa remained unresolved and heated in mid-1996.
Azerbaijan, which anticipated substantial economic rewards from Western development of its Caspian Sea oil, resisted Russian offers to station peacekeeping troops in its war-torn Nagorno-Karabakh region. Azerbaijan's president Heydar Aliyev was a former member of the Soviet Politburo and came to office in a Russian-supported coup in 1993. But Aliyev has proven more independent than Russian policy makers expected. He has accused Russia (with some justification) of supporting Armenia against Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In 1994 Russia demanded and received a 10 percent interest in a Western-dominated oil consortium that is to develop rich offshore Caspian Sea deposits for Azerbaijan. Russia called for construction of a new export pipeline that would terminate at the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk and allow Russia to collect transit fees and control the flow. In 1995-96 Russia objected to a territorial delineation of Caspian Sea resources to pressure Azerbaijan for concessions on oil revenue sharing and political and security matters. Azerbaijan decided on dual routes for oil shipments, one of which would bypass Russian territory by crossing Georgia to reach the Black Sea.
Many Western experts believe that Russia's relationship with Ukraine was the truest test of its willingness to accept the independence of the former Soviet republics. After regaining its independence at the end of 1991, Ukraine argued with Russia over the division of the Black Sea Fleet and the disposition of the Crimean Peninsula, which Nikita Khrushchev had "awarded" to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954 to mark the 300th anniversary of the union of Ukraine and Russia. After the end of the Soviet Union, the ethnic Russians who had come to dominate the Crimean Peninsula lobbied for autonomy from Ukraine or reunification with Russia. Ukrainian-Russian relations improved after the election of Ukraine's president Leonid Kuchma in July 1994. Russia did not support Crimean separatism, and both countries moved toward a peaceful settlement on dividing the Black Sea Fleet (see Naval Forces, ch. 9). The United States-Russian-Ukrainian Trilateral Nuclear Statement signed in early 1994 resolved many disputes over compensation for the transfer of nuclear weapons from Ukraine to Russia, and Ukraine transferred its last nuclear weapon to Russia in June 1996.