November 12, 2004


Mongolia Looks Afar in Its Quest for New 'Neighbors' (Mark Magnier, November 12, 2004, LA Times)

Because it can't up and move, Mongolia's "third-neighbor" policy tries to find allies who aren't on its doorstep. And the United States tops the list. [...]

Having recently regained its independence after seven decades in Moscow's sphere, Mongolia is keen to stay that way. "The third-neighbor policy is an important concept," said Munkh-Orgil, Mongolia's foreign minister. "We're more interested in developing relations with not one, two or three, but as many nations as possible. As a small nation, we want to be sure we have friends around the world."

In reality, its favorite friend is the United States, analysts say. Although Washington doesn't provide much aid, it's seen as the only global power able to counter an invasion, should it come to that.

And the simplest way to get the Bush administration's attention has been to support its agenda. By some calculations, Mongolia's 180 or so troops based in Iraq — over the objections of Russia and China — are among the largest per-capita contribution for any ally, a reflection of the country's small population. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage, who visited Mongolia early this year, credited Ulan Bator with "punching above its weight."

In return, Washington signed a series of economic agreements, although Mongolia has been disappointed that these haven't led to a free trade agreement.

"When bad people in bad countries hurt American interests, they're very eager to help them, such as Afghanistan or Iraq," Elbegdorj said. "Mongolia and small, [peaceful] countries deserve much more attention than Afghanistan, Iraq and other oil-rich countries."

In addition to welcoming its troop support, analysts say, the U.S. sees Mongolia as an important buffer between Russia and China and a listening post given its proximity to those countries and the Middle East. "With all this space, who knows what American equipment is out there, although it's got to be significant," one analyst said, requesting anonymity.

There's also talk of providing a staging area for U.S. materiel or even a military base, although Mongolia's constitution currently prohibits foreign troops on its soil.

Mongolia has also welcomed Japan and South Korea, two resource-starved countries and generous aid donors. Billboards around Ulan Bator are filled with ads for South Korean and Japanese companies, and signs on the road to the airport identify buildings funded by Japanese development funds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 12, 2004 8:22 AM

It's interesting that the WOT provides the precursor to abandoning the EU, strengthening military links with AU, India, the Stans, Japan and now....


All providing a ring around America's only remaining long term threat in the world; China.

Posted by: BB at November 12, 2004 10:34 AM

If you were squeezed in between China and Russia, you'd be sending out an APB for allies anywhere too.

Posted by: Bart at November 12, 2004 11:01 AM

The World turned upside down. We have had that song played for us before.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 12, 2004 11:18 AM


That is one way to look at it, here is another.

With Russia's collapsing population, they will soon lose the interest & wherewithall to defend Siberia.

They will ask Mongolians to settle there before they allow the Chinese to annex it.


An an aside, I got a ride home from a Mongolian cabbie a few months ago. He wants to go back and help build his country, but loves it here.

He said America generally popular there.

Posted by: BB at November 12, 2004 12:11 PM