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The Role of Peacekeeping in Mongolia’s Military Strategy: A New Paradigm for Security

From: Asia Policy
Number 17, January 2014
pp. 127-146 | 10.1353/asp.2014.0000

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Executive Summary

This article examines the military component of Mongolia’s security strategy and argues that the Mongolian Armed Forces (MAF) have redefined their objectives and identity by creating a modern military centered on peacekeeping and global peace-support operations.

Main Argument

Mongolia is developing a unique military strategy that attempts to balance conventional and peacekeeping capabilities. Having moved away from its previous security arrangements with Russia, Mongolia now pursues a foreign policy that will facilitate global engagement while allowing the country to maintain its sovereignty, national identity, and diplomatic freedom of maneuver through a “third neighbor” policy. This policy seeks to expand ties with other democratic nations in order to both counterbalance Russian and Chinese influence and increase Mongolia’s international profile. A relic of the Cold War, the MAF has discarded all but a few vestiges of its former makeup and embraced a new structure, doctrine, mission, and identity to complement this new foreign policy direction. The MAF has thus become a vital instrument supporting the third-neighbor policy by transforming itself into a modern military force focused on peacekeeping and global engagement.

Policy Implications

  • •   Mongolia’s peacekeeping deployment to South Sudan in 2012, its largest to date, has put the MAF on the global stage as a reputable and capable force that has built a capacity for diverse mission sets within the spectrum of peace-support operations. This capability will give the U.S. a reliable partner for future peace-related support operations.

  • •   Mongolia’s participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program has signaled the MAF’s desire and readiness to push beyond UN-sponsored peace-support operations, thereby providing the U.S. and regional states additional opportunities to improve interoperability.

  • •   Mongolia’s increased foreign military relations have complemented the country’s third-neighbor policy, despite pressure from both China and Russia. The U.S. should capitalize on this window of opportunity to enhance Mongolia’s peacekeeping capacity.

On a chilly early morning in June 2012, a group of Mongolian soldiers rolled onto Ulaanbaatar international airport’s parking apron. Waiting there was a United Nations–contracted IL-76 cargo aircraft, preparing to transport the soldiers to the Unity region of South Sudan in Africa. The region is considered one of the most violent and dangerous areas along South Sudan’s northern border with the Republic of Sudan. The soldiers were members of one of Mongolia’s elite units trained specifically for peace-support operations, and deployment of the unit marked the largest peacekeeping mission in the country’s history. This event established a high-water mark for the Mongolian Armed Forces (MAF) as they celebrated their tenth anniversary of supporting UN peacekeeping operations. Further, the unit’s deployment constituted a truly remarkable achievement for a nation that just 25 years earlier had discarded 67 years of Communist rule and international isolation in favor of democracy and global integration.

Mongolia sits landlocked between two world powers, the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Over the last quarter century, the country has abandoned its former alliance with Russia and managed to create a thriving democratic society and growing economy, despite its relatively small population of approximately 2.7 million people. In contrast with other satellite states of the former Soviet Union, Mongolia concurrently instituted a democratic political system, a market-driven economy, and a foreign policy based on balancing relations with Russia and China while expanding relations with the West. Mongolia is now pursuing a foreign policy that will facilitate global engagement, allow the nation to maintain its sovereignty, and provide diplomatic freedom of maneuver through a “third neighbor” policy.

The MAF is reshaping itself to complement this balanced approach to foreign policy and has become a vital instrument in Mongolia’s global engagement. A relic of the Cold War with strong institutional attachments to Russia, the MAF discarded all but a few vestiges of its former makeup and has embraced a new structure, doctrine, mission, and perhaps most important, an identity centered on peacekeeping. Since 2002, Mongolia has significantly increased its participation in globally diverse UN-sponsored peacekeeping operations. Although only comprising approximately 8,000 soldiers, the MAF now contributes the second-largest...



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