Mongolia builds NATO ties as 'counterbalance'

Updated: 2012-05-17 17:31

By Zhao Shengnan (

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Close links between Mongolia and NATO is a step forward for Mongolia to implement its "third neighbor" policy of building ties with partners other than neighboring Russia and China, analysts said.

The links also came amid the strategic shift of NATO and the United States toward the Asia-Pacific, analysts said.

Mongolia is scheduled to attend the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago on May 20, with the Individual Partnership and Cooperation Program status for the first time.

In March, Mongolia and NATO signed their first bilateral cooperation program under NATO's new policy of developing more flexible partnerships with countries that engages significantly with international security affairs. Under the program, Mongolia will cooperate with NATO in security, disaster prevention and personnel training and exchange.

Since the Cold War ended, Mongolia has been focusing on strengthening cooperation with Western countries and major international bodies, under the "third neighbor" policy to counterbalance the pressure of lying between two neighboring powers, China's and Russia, said Zhang Xiaoming, a professor at the School of International Studies with Peking University.

The most-prominent third neighbors have been the US, the European Union, Canada, Japan and South Korea, Julian Dierkes, an Asian studies expert from University of British Columbia, was quoted by East Asia Forum as saying.

NATO could help Washington accelerate its shifting strategic emphasis to the Asia-Pacific by growing toward the East, said Zhai Dequan, deputy secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association.

"Despite Mongolia's limited armed forces, Ulaanbaatar has joined some of the NATO's international tasks to add to its military strength, economic development and intentional status," he said.

Mongolia, with a population of 2.8 million, has provided troops for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan since 2010. It also sent two contingents to support NATO's peacekeeping mission in Kosovo from 2005 to 2007.