Ever-Widening Arc: Mongolia, Turkey United in Framework of NATO Partnership

Rick Rozoff

On July Turkey’s Daily Sabah featured an opinion piece by the Mongolian ambassador to Turkey, Ravdan Bold, entitled Mongolia, Turkey friendship toward strategic partnership.

He began his article by drawing parallels between the histories of the two countries.

In only the second sentence, however, he denounced the only two nations bordering his own – Russia and China – for, in the avatars of Czarist Russian and the Chinese Middle Kingdom, having “coerced Mongolia into autonomy status with the Treaty of Khyakta signed in 1915.”

The nation he represents has been an independent state for a century and throughout the Cold War was a close ally of Soviet Russia. Arguably the latter’s closest ally politically and geographically.

The ambassador praised Turkey for supporting his nation in the United Nations as a non-permanent Security Council member.

He also promoted his nation’s economic appeal to outside investors, mentioning that Mongolia accounts for 60% of unprocessed cashmere and over 10% of world cashmere products. It is also rich in coal, copper, gold and spar. (The country also has uranium.)

Turkey is one of five nations that Ulaanbaatar has declared Third Neighbors. China and Russia being first two, Third Neighbors means exactly what it says: anyone other than those two. The ambassador said that his nation has established strategic partnerships with Turkey and the other countries in that category.

He said that over 2,500 Mongolian students have graduated from Turkish universities, adding “these graduates are the bridge linking the two countries.” (Mongolia’s population is less than 3.5 million.)

Then in what might seem a puzzling fact to anyone not having attentively observed international affairs for the past thirty years, the envoy added: “Mongolia closely cooperates with Turkey, as an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) member country, as well as in the framework of NATO partnership.” Mongolia is currently participating as an observer in a multinational military exercise in Turkey being supervised by NATO.

Turkey has the second-largest population and second-largest armed forces in the 30-nation military bloc. And Mongolia is no stranger to NATO either.

NATO first entered into military relations with Mongolia in 2005. The nation became one of the first eight of NATO’s Partners Across the Globe in 2012, and in 2020 was granted an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme.

In 2019 NATO’s Defence Education Enhancement Programme entered into a partnership with the Mongolian National Defence University to assist the latter in, among other training, that of staff officers and instruction in English and other foreign languages. That is, making the Mongolian armed forces NATO interoperable and prepared for deployments throughout the world. The country supplied troops for the alliance’s operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Although not a NATO mission, Mongolia also supplied troops for occupation forces in Iraq shortly after the invasion of that nation in 2003. The return of Mongols to Mesopotamia was surely not lost on Iraqis with a sense of history.

From 2017 to last year, NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme, by NATO’s report, “supported the development of cyber defence capabilities of the Mongolian Armed Forces, in cooperation with the NATO Communications and Information Agency.” It also “provided equipment, training and technical support for the creation of a Cyber Security Centre, incorporating a Cyber Incident Response Capability for the Ministry of Defence and General Staff of the Mongolian Armed Forces.”

In 2014 the Five Hills Peace Support Operations Training Centre in Mongolia was recognized as part of NATO’s expanding network of Partnership Training and Education Centres.

The Five Hills Training Area has been used by the Pentagon since 2003 for the multinational Khaan Quest military exercise. In 2019 the seventeenth and most recent iteration of the war games, co-hosted by the U.S. and Mongolia, the following countries were invited to participate:

Australia, Bangladesh, Benin, Cambodia, Canada, China, Croatia, El Salvador, Fiji, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Moldova, Nepal, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Togo, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vietnam and Zambia.

All of this, mind you, in a small country that has an almost-3,000-mile border with China and a 3,500-mile border with Russia.