Relations between Mongolia and NATO started in mid-1990s, while tendency of more active and stable relations began only in 2000. Though, these relations hardly could be characterized as official ones. In reality, relations between the two sides were exercised more in the form of follow ups resulting from meetings of certain officials.
NATO is a multilateral treaty organization set up for providing mutual security of countries located on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Accordingly, there have been always two questions on stake: first, what kind of incentives are there for NATO to develop its relations with Mongolia, a poorly developed country in North-East Asia? Second, what kind of advantages would Mongolia have for its security and development strategy by establishing official relations with NATO?
Collective Security versus Cooperative Security
State policy of Mongolia on national security is predominantly basedon utilization ofpolitical and diplomatic means as well as exercise of comparatively independent defense policy.
Our security and defense foreign relations built on principle of providing its national security not by forming or joining any military alliances with one or group of countries with in the framework of collective security, but by cooperation with other nations within the UN or regional security mechanisms or mutual security arrangements with other countries.
This approach originates from, firstly, our multi-pillar foreign policy principle of equally balanced relations with all countries in accordance with our non-allied and peaceful policy, and, secondly, provisions of the main documents on our statehood, national security and defense policies.
Particularly, (I quote) the Constitution of Mongolia states that “Stationing of foreign troops in the territory of Mongolia or allowing them to cross the state borders for the purpose of passing through the country’s territory is prohibited unless permitted by an appropriate law.”
The Concept of Foreign Policy of Mongolia states: “Unless facing external military threat, it shall pursue a policy of refraining from joining any military alliance or grouping, allowing the use of its territory or air space against any other country.”
The Fundamentals of State Military Policy of Mongolia states: “In all cases other than facing military threat, or such threat is real, to its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity Mongolia shall not join any military alliances.”
Therefore, in its security foreign policy Mongolia pursues not collective defense policy, but principle of defense cooperation.
This is also connected with the lessons that Mongolia obtained from its hard experiences in the last century.
You all know that, during the Cold War era, Mongolia was an active member of collective defense system formed by the socialist countries. Understandably, this policy and activity provided our country with certain level of security at that time. But that also brought many negative consequences for us.
Besides being particularly isolated from the rest of the world, including western countries and even our southern neighbor China, our country existed as a buffer state between the two great powers with affiliation to the USSR and ready to be a field of heavy clash between them. That is sour truth ofour history.
That is why Mongolia is not rushing to change our observer’s status to a full membership in Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
The following may help to understand practical implementation of our foreign policy in security field:
– Priority of having open and equal cooperation with the two neighbors in security and defense fields;
– Membership in OSCE;
– Partnership agreement with NATO; participation in some programs implemented by PFP while not being a member of this organization;
– Military-technical cooperation agreements with Russia, Turkey and Ukraine;
– Active cooperation with Japan, Korea and India in defense sector;
– Cooperation with the USA in fighting international terrorism by sending troops to Afghanistan and Iraq;
– Participation in international peacekeeping operations held by NATO under the UN mandate.
Reasons for eastward expansion of NATO
Collapse of communist regimes in some European countries resulted in totally new security environment in Europe demanding establishment of principally new regime of international relations. Expectations that NATO might dissolve itself after termination of Warsaw Pact and disappearance of the only countering force against NATO had been strong. This idea was also connected with some contradictions within NATO i.e. between the USA and European countries, as well as between NATO member Western European countries based on national, religious and economic interest differences. .
But, in reality, NATO did not dissolved, even it get stronger expanding eastward. After collapse of the socialist system,instability in Eastern Europe, especially in the former USSR, civil wars in Balkans and Yugoslavia, and bloody events continuously happening in Caucasus and Central Asia were signals of new threats to NATO that might rise from Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
In addition, the newly found Russian Federation not only did not reject its old great power position and ambitions, but in contrary it actively was striving to create a new powerful military-political alliance on the territory of the former USSR. Moreover, process of unification of the Islamic world activated to include Islamic republic’s in Central Asia, in some cases with cooperation from the Russian Federation.
In other words, the reason for NATO’s expansion could be considered as an expression of its intention to prevent possible threats that might rise from Eastern Europe and Central Asia as well as Russia, and to promote more stable situation in these regions.
At that time, all these centers of challenges facing NATO were located out of Western European boundaries. Thus, NATO faced two alternatives to choose: either to take regulative measures against these possible threats within the zones of its responsibility meaning import of threats to its territory, or provide its security by exporting its precautionary measures outside of its territory meaning expanding borders of its influence and taking new territories under its control. The NATO leaders decided to choose the best way of exporting its security measures i.e. expanding zones of its responsibility by inclusion of new member countries into the alliance.
NATO’s expansion policy and activities are implemented in the following four main forms:
– Providing political, military and economic assistance to countries seeking for membership and support in bringing up their armed forces to certain standard or the NATO requested level.
– Expansion of zones of its responsibility eastward and to Baltic’s by inclusion of new member states.
– Implementation of PFP program or development of political and military cooperation with non-European countries.
– Signing treaties of special relations with some countries
Analysis of these policy and activities has resulted in distinguishing the following tendencies:
1. The NATO’ expansion has clear aim to establish friendly relations with countries having direct or indirect influence to its military security, and cooperate with them within the framework of political and military confidence.
2. From the point of its content, the policy of this political-military organization set up in the form against spread of communism during the Cold War era are now turning to activities aimed at restricting factors of destabilization in some certain regions rather than aiming against certain country or political-military alliance. Within this framework, the NATO’s activity content could be defined as policy against “axis of devil”or terrorism, against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and deepening of democracy.
3. The NATO activities nowadays turning to aim of creating and strengthening dominant position of the USA in resolving urgent problems of international security cooperation rather than protecting NATO’s interests in certain regions.
Incentives for Mongolia’s relations with NATO
For NATO Mongolia is not a country of direct interests for its security. But it is clear that NATO is interested in Mongolia as country successfully implementing democratic model reforms in political, economic, social and military spheres showing example other post-communist countries, particularly in Central Asia.
At present, international security situation in North-East Asia, where Mongolia is located, and in bordering Central Asia is comparatively stable. But it is necessary to note that there are a number of factors in these regions that could destabilize the situation and which concern NATO and Europe. Interests of Mongolia are similar to those of NATO and its main member countries in many issues such as neutralization of above mentioned concerns, including prevention of getting Korean Peninsula confrontation out of control, internal situation in Russia and China as well as tension in relations between them.
In general, since 1990s, the main idea of Mongolia’s foreign policy is providing its security interests by exercise of multi-pillar foreign policy, developing comprehensive friendly relations and cooperation with its two great neighbors, making “the third neighbor policy” an important leverage in its international relations, making use of international institutions and structures existing in the region. In this sense, NATO could be considered as important factor and third neighbor guaranteeing our security interests.
Development of Mongolia-NATO relations
Mongolia within the framework of its policy and actions for providing its security by political and diplomatic means aims to establish and evelop cooperation with NATO. Unofficial meetings with NATO officials we started in 1995, and more initiative steps has been made since 1998.
In 1998 Secretary of National Security Council Mr. R.Bold and 1st Deputy Chief of General Staff Major General B.Shagdar paid first visit to NATO HQs and discussed possible ways of our cooperation. Since that the Mongolian Foreign Minister and Defense Ministers visited NATO several times. Johson
From the NATO side, Sir Garry Johnson, Director of International Security Advisors Department paid official visit to our country resulting in number of follow up meetings.
AnotherimportantissuescooperationwiththeUSAinsecurityanddefensefields whichalways include, though unofficially, a matter of relations with NATO. Particularly, the USA’s support to Mongolia is the most important leverage in our relations with NATO.
Thus, since 1998 the two sides held active consultations on official and unofficial levels. At the beginning Mongolia considering situations in the two neighboring states and in Central Asia, as well as PFP processes paid attention to developing its relations not with NATO directly, but its member states on bilateral basis. In addition, our country closely watching PFP processes considered problems that might occur for Mongolia joining PFP. At that time despite Mongolia’s wills to enter the PFP it did not receive full support. One of the main reasons for negative resolve of Mongolia’s membership in PFP was the fact that Mongolia was not a member of OCSE.
Originally, invitations for joining the PFP were issued to all member states of NACC and other members of OCSE. Because Mongolia was not a member of OCSE, such invitation has not been send to us.
In this consideration, Mongolian Foreign Minister Mrs. N.Tuya suggested the following five directions of PFP-Mongolia cooperation with NATO:
– Exchange of information;
– Training for emergency situations of natural disasters and industrial accidents;
– Language training for Mongolian military personnel;
– Peacekeeping activity training for Mongolian Armed Forces units;
– Scientific and technological research.
Though NATO did not officially recognized “PFP-Mongolia cooperation” proposal, but it agreed to consider these five suggested directions of cooperation. Participation of Mongolian armed forces’ team in the PFP-lead CENTRAZBAT field exercise in 2000 was a start of actual relations between the two sides. It was followed by a joint Mongolia-Belgian Armed Forces unit’s peacekeeping field exercise held in Mongolia in February 2003. Further, such kind of cooperation has greatly expanded in forms and numbers.
In addition, our peacekeeping unit having mission in Iraq was subordinated to NATO-member Polish division command as well as Mongolian peacekeepers cooperated with NATO member states in Afghanistan.
The current state of Mongolia- NATO cooperation could be generally concluded that though “PFP-Mongolia cooperation” concept has not been accepted de jure, but it exists de facto. In total, the actual nature of our policy towards development of relations with NATO aims at creation of rational political and legal basis for Mongolia and NATO cooperation and participation in some PFP programs without raising doubt and objection from our two neighbors. It is clear that such policy is reaching certain success.
In 2000, the NATO Council held a particular discussion of its relations with Mongolia and came to decision that cooperation with Mongolian environment, science, civil defense and peacekeeping fields is possible as it was suggested by Mongolia. In 2001, Mongolian Prime Minister N.Enkhbayar during his visit to European Union met General Secretary of NATO Mr. G.Robertson. It was agreed that bilateral relations between NATO and Mongolia could be implemented on case-by-case basis in a format similar to NATO’s “Non-triple” countries (without permanent cooperation mechanism) principle.
Further, in 2002, in order to coordinate issues of cooperation with NATO, after consultations with the relevant ministries and departments the Mongolian Foreign Minister issued an order setting up “Coordination Group responsible for relations with NATO” consisting of representatives of these relevant ministries.
Special Program for Mongolia-NATO Partnership and Cooperation
Mongolia, considering contribution and growing role of NATO in providing universal peace and security, has been implementing recently measures aiming broadening cooperation with this international organization, including formation of legal basis for cooperation with NATO and working out relevant agreements and programs.
As a result, the North Atlantic Council has adopted Special Program for Mongolia and NATO Partnership and Cooperation (19 March 2012) providing Mongolia with the similar to Australia, Japan, Korea and New Zealand status.
The purpose of this partnership is to deepen mutual understanding by the way of consultations and cooperation within the framework of interest of the two sides based on common desire to strengthen universal peace, democracy, human rights, legitimacy and international security.
A new NATO partnership concept was adopted during the NATO member states foreign ministers meeting in Berlin, April 2011. It is worth to note that Mongolia and NATO partnership and cooperation program was the first program adopted in accordance with this new concept.
The new Program provides Mongolia with opportunity to cooperate with NATO in direction of creating mechanisms for overcoming existing or emerging common security threats, crisispreventionand management, exchange of specialists, training and organization of joint exercises.
In recent years, Mongolia and NATO relations have been broadening. Delegation headed by the Mongolian Defense Minister visited NATO HQ in March 2010. Mongolia took participation in international conference on Afghanistan held in London and Bonn in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Head of the Mongolian state very first time participated in the NATO’s summit on the Afghanistan issue held in Lisbon in November 2010.
In May 2011, NATO delegation headed by Under-Secretary General on Security Policy and Partnership Relations J. Appatur visited Mongolia and started discussions related to the above mentioned Program. In September 2011, delegation headed by Director of NATO International Military HQ Lieutenant General Y.Bornemann visited our country and exchanged opinions on international peace support and alliance military actions, military training and other issues of common interest.
In 2005-2007, two our military teams participated in NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. With the recognition and support from NATO leadership and member states, Mongolia became the 45th country sent its military to ISAF, a NATO-led security support mission in Afghanistan.
Options for perspective policy
The UN is a political organization having no subordinated military forces. Thus, UN member states interested in Peace Enforcement Resolution play certain role in resolving urgent security issues by contributing military personnel and setting up international forces.
Peacemaking missions follows the same route. There is a tendency that NATO would be the main peace enforcement and peacemaking force for regions where NATO interests may be challenged. 1999 Kosovo war and continuing conflict in Afghanistan are clear indications of this tendency. From the setting up the PFP, NATO has been the active instrument for the UNin armed conflict and crisis management.
It is becoming clear that the practical importance of the PFP is in its role for preparing military forces of NATO and Partnership countries for the joint mission. The PFP input was of great importance for international IFOR /SFOR and KFOR military missions’ success.
Conclusions and recommendations
Though Mongolia is not a member of any NATO organizations and not joined any of its structures, many forms of mutual cooperation such as exchange of information on security related issues, training of Mongolian military personnel and state officials at G. Marshall Center for Security Studies, training of Mongolian Armed Forces’ officers and sergeants in various peacekeepers’ courses, conducting joint exercises and training in peacekeeping and emergency management as well as joint conferences and research studies on security issues are now prominent. Within this Program these forms of cooperation have potential for broadening and taking other new forms.
On the other hand, our relations with NATO contribute in some ways to strengthening democracy in our country, bring up dignity of Mongolia on international arena and providing national security. In addition, these relations became an important part of our third neighbor concept aimed at balancing interests of the two our neighbors which lately conducting more active policy towards Mongolia.
No doubt that we have to closely watch events in Ukraine. The most important here is how this would end and what kind of changes may occur in relations between NATO and Russia. So far, it is understandable that Russian attitude towards NATO would change much taking probably adversary trend.