Tuesday, October 25, 2005

"Third Neighbor"

Via Elephants in Academia (which is via Publius Pundit in turn), a story by Bill Gertz in the Washington Times (reg. required) re: Rumsfeld in Mongolia.
Mongolia is focusing its defense efforts on building close relations with its neighbors rather than undertaking a large-scale military buildup, the official said. It considers the United States its "third neighbor" after Russia and China.

"We have a strong bilateral relationship based on shared values," the official said.
(bold mine) Nice, huh ?

Mongolia is doing this mainly out of self interest. And that's a good thing. That's what countries are supposed to do. Anyway there's a lot that can come with this kind of relationship. For one:
The United States is providing Mongolia's forces with $18 million to upgrade outdated and aging equipment. Part of the money will help pay for setting up an international peacekeeping training center under the Global Peace Operations Initiative. The center is under construction at the Five Hills Training Center outside Ulan Bator.
Publius makes a good observations as well.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

Economic help for Mongolian Private Sector

Good news from the Asian Development Bank:
ADB will support the Mongolian Government in promoting higher private sector-led growth and inclusive social development, in a new Country Strategy and Program (CSP) for 2006-2008.

The CSP proposes assistance from ADB's concessional Asian Development Fund totaling about $85 million over the three years, averaging about $28 million a year. This will be supplemented by an additional $40 million from ADB's regional fund and cofinancing sources. The lending program will be supported by technical assistance grants averaging about $1.9 million a year.

The CSP aims to help Mongolia maintain stable broad-based economic growth and address priority goals of reducing disparities in development between urban and rural areas, while improving access to jobs, incomes, and higher quality public services.

Planned for the period are projects to address urban development, public administration reform, agriculture, transport, and health.
Of course, the intractible problem here is the amazingly primitive state of Mongolia's population. And I mean that in a proudly positive way. As I've noted before, Mongolia's singular for its success (largely accidental) at presrving its historical way of life, which consists mainly of herding on wide open, non-private (and non-government) land. One of the problems has been people migrating to the cities to seek work as the economy isn't strong--or developed--or even really existing at all--in the countryside. After all, there are not all that many Mongolian towns in the sense that a westerner might understand the term. Herders live a fairly independent and transient life, so it's hard, even impossible, for shops and garages and barbershops and manufacturers to pop up and have much logevity. If you can't make money (or even survive) herding, there's very little option than to move to a city (esp. Ulaan Baator). But there are so few jobs in the cities, that people fleeing to the city for work (1) doesn't help them and (2) doesn't help UB and even (3) doesn't help the Mongolia economy all that much. There are many factors for this. And people have been working on solving the problem.

With the ADB doing what they're doing, it looks like help is slowly and surely on the way. But agian, as I've noted (I'll add links later; sorry), the change that it seems must happen will happen with a heavy cost: the ending of traditional Mongolian life. Indeed, permanence and a departure from the age old nomadic way of life may be the only way for Mongolia to ever take economic flight. More on this later.


Rumsfeld's Visit

So, SecDef Donald Rumsfeld's come and gone. And he got a horse in the deal, too. (He named the horse Montana, so much does Mongolia remind him of Montana.--Ah, how that warms the cockles of my Montanan/Mongolian heart!) .

Anyway, the US-Mongolia relationship seems to be ever tightening--something that's mutually beneficial to both. Mongolia's a rising star in peace-keeping, and one that's unabashadly friendly to America--somehwat of a rarity these days. From a WaPo story, we learn of the benefits to both. For America, there's the need for allies who are proactive with regard to active peacekeeping and (see more on this in the article) anti-terrorism:
On what he said was the first visit by U.S. defense secretary to Mongolia, Rumsfeld sought to encourage Mongolia's efforts to build a peacekeeping force with global reach.

"If there's anything that's clear in the 21st century it's that the world needs peacekeepers," Rumsfeld said at a news conference with his Mongolian counterpart, Sharavdorj.

..."I congratulate the people of Mongolia, the government and the armed forces of Mongolia for selecting that (peacekeeping) as a principle aspect of their military focus, and certainly the United States is anxious and willing and ready to be of assistance," Rumsfeld said.

For Mongolia, there's the need for foreign assistance and constructive attention from movers and shakers in the geopolitical realm:

A contingent of six U.S. Marines is working closely with the Mongolian Army, which numbers 11,000. The Pentagon is planning to supply the army with body armor and other equipment to help Mongolians design a more modern force proficient in peacekeeping duties.

Sandwiched between Russia and China, Mongolia is eager for closer military-to-military relations with the U.S. and a measure of international prestige for a focus on peacekeeping. Peacekeeping can also prove lucrative; those missions placed under U.N. control pay relatively well.

Also of note in the story, Rumsfelds comments regarding two recently-minted Mongolian heros:

Rumsfeld also spoke to a group of 180 Mongolian soldiers who had served in either Iraq or Afghanistan in recent years.

He told them that history would look kindly on their efforts and he thanked them for their contributions.

"It's a privilege to be able to look you in the eye and say thank you," Rumsfeld said.

He singled out two soldiers, Sgt. Azzya and Sgt. Sambuu-Yondon. They were on a patrol near Hilla, Iraq, in February 2004 when they fired on and killed the driver of a truck who turned out to be a suicide bomber. Their action apparently saved a number of lives of Mongolian and other coalition troops.

Rumsfeld's visit is no doubt heartening to many Mongolia watchers. But the next state visit looks to be billed even better. President Bush himself. Mongol's eyes were bright upon hearing this news. Perhaps a trip to Mongolia to see Bush in Mongol's homeland? Depends on how much our readers donate :)


Friday, October 21, 2005

New Blog!

Well, folks, Mongolian blogs are really popping up these days. And it's a good thing, since we've been posting so little of late. Anyway, stepping into the now-not-so-yawning vacuum of Mongolian blogs is Alex Batbold. Alex was born and raised in Mongolia and has been living in the US for the past seven years, so I'll be anticipating some interesting observations from him about Mongolia, etc.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Alex!


Friday, October 14, 2005

Rummy to Mongolia

Looks like the US Secretary of Defense is on the way to Mongolia. Via acyyx.