Getting Military Assistance Right

 

Mongolia proves we actually knew what right looks like.

America’s military successes are mostly unremarked. Success depends in part on not highlighting our presence or influence in a foreign land. Also, it often does not suit our domestic politics, left and right, or the national defense establishment, to highlight missions that do not end in a ticker-tape parade, with bushel baskets of medals and fat publishing contracts for generals. Yet, America’s military is quite good at much more than “breaking things and killing people.” As we draw all the right and wrong lessons from the past 20 years in Afghanistan, our mission to Mongolia, starting around the same time, stands in stark contrast.

Robert Kaplan told the tale of “The Man Who Would Be Khan” in the Atlantic in 2004.

[Colonel Tom ] Wilhelm’s assignment to Ulan Bator occurred against the following backdrop: Mongolia, with one of the world’s lowest population densities, is being threatened demographically by the latest of Eurasia’s great historical migrations—an urban Chinese civilization is determined to move north. China—which ruled much of Mongolia from the end of the seventeenth century until the early twentieth century, during the Manchu period—covets the oil, coal, uranium, and empty grasslands of its former possession. Given that a resurgent China has already absorbed Tibet, Macao, and Hong Kong, reabsorbing Mongolia—a country that on the map looks like a big piece of territory bitten away from China—seems almost irresistibly a part of China’s geopolitical intentions.

[…]

When Wilhelm arrived in Mongolia, in 2001, U.S.-Mongolian defense relations had no focus. All that existed was a hodgepodge of unrelated aid and training programs that had not been staffed out in detail in Washington or in Ulan Bator. Mongolia’s post-communist military had no realistic vision of its future. It wanted a modern air force but wasn’t sure what such an air force would do, or how it would be sustained, or its aircraft maintained.

China was a clear regional threat all the way back in 2001. The threat was largely ignored by our foreign policy establishment, committed to the myth that economic liberalization drives political liberalization. This domestically useful fiction was still defended this past year by Condoleezza Rice. Even as the Chinese Communist Party encouraged domestic economic advancement, lifting many millions out of rural poverty, it was acting as a colonial, an imperial power. Peter Robinson gently challenged Rice on September 11, 2020, drawing this response:

China has not faced a reckoning about the essential contradiction between economic well being and political repression, yet. We don’t know, maybe it never will. But, I will not yet concede that they will not eventually have to deal with that contradiction.

Kaplan reminds us Tibet had already been effectively absorbed, despite decades of “Free Tibet” bumper stickers, t-shirts, and posters. He also called quiet conquest correctly on both Macao and Hong Kong. With the 1997 agreement between Britain and Beijing, Hong Kong was set on the road to becoming a normal communist Chinese city. True, Xi violated the terms of that agreement, but the agreement itself set a date in 2047, after which there would be no special status, no quasi-independence, for Hong Kong.

Like Afghanistan, Mongolia is a land-locked country, with powerful neighbors controlling air and land access. Mongolia was cut loose in the collapse of the Soviet Union, having been extracted in the 1800s from a failing Chinese empire by an ascendant Russian empire. Effectively, any trade, any hope of economic improvement, depended upon the tolerance of Beijing and Moscow.

mongolia

How, then, might America effectively reinforce a small country on China’s periphery, increasing China’s cost of seizing Mongolia’s land and resources? The traditional answer from our foreign policy and national defense establishment was massive public works and military hardware sales. These contracts would benefit powerful constituents of members of Congress. Yet, such projects would be entirely unsustainable in a poor, land-locked country.

There was no way Mongolia could afford to build and sustain a conventional military on the U.S. model. How, as a practical matter, would they even take delivery of a fleet of military aircraft and U.S. Army equipment? Would Putin permit shipment through Vladivostok? Would China allow shipment by railroad? Indeed, replacing Russian Cold War equipment with modern U.S. aircraft and armor could do no more than provide an excuse for either China or Russia to reposition a much larger force and start conducting military exercises, intimidating Mongolia and raising the international cost of other states seeking friendly relations and access to Mongolia’s natural resources.

So, there was little prospect of any American defense official leading a big-ticket project on behalf of any defense contractor. No member of Congress was going to extract big campaign contributions associated with funding military sales. Absent powerful pressure to do the wrong thing, the way was open for American ingenuity.

Wilhelm, with the active support of Ambassador John Dinger, quickly provided a sense of purpose. He and Dinger developed a “three pillars” strategy for the country and persuaded the Mongolian military to sign on. The three pillars are:

1) Securing Mongolia’s borders not against a conventional military threat from China (such security would be impossible) but against illegal border incursions, criminal activities to finance terrorism, and transnational terrorism itself, particularly by the Uighur separatists of western China. Aided by the Chechens and the broad militant Islamic network, Uighur extremists represent the future of terrorism in Central Asia.

2) Preparing the Mongolian military to play an active role in international peacekeeping, in order to raise its profile in global forums and thus provide Mongolia with diplomatic protection from its large, rapacious neighbors. The dispatch of Mongolian troops to post-Saddam Iraq elicited shrill cries of annoyance from Russia and China, but it was the first building block of this pillar.

3) Improving Mongolia’s capacity to respond to natural disasters, most notably drought.

The first pillar amounts to building a light mobile paramilitary force that does not look like infantry units massing on the Chinese border. Mongolia needed a sort of Bundesgrenzschutz, the West German Cold War paramilitary border security force countering smuggling and spies. By denying criminal and terrorist groups safe haven, Mongolia reduces the security reason and pretext for China to extent military and political control north.

The second pillar, international peacekeeping, should not draw sneers. Whatever your impressions of “peacekeeping” and the UN, this strategy actually matters beyond American shores. Mongolia has become a center for peace operations training, playing off the American Army concept of maneuver training centers, most famously the National Training Center.

The flagship event of the Mongolia-US defense cooperation calendar is the multinational peace operations exercise “KHAAN QUEST” held early at Five Hills peace operations training center near Ulaanbaatar. Conducted since 2006 “KHAAN QUEST” establishing itself as one of the main event of the peacekeeping training calendar of the Asia-Pacific.

Leaving aside the third pillar, a review in 2021 shows Mongolia holding its own between powerful expansionist neighbors. Indeed, Mongolia is trading with China while turning to Russia for limited military equipment modernization. America’s part is in assisting Mongolia in running an international military training center and exercises that focus on cooperation rather than scenarios that could be taken as provocative by China.

Published in Foreign Policy
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  1. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Clifford, this argument doesn’t look very plausible to me.

    I do agree with the goal of containing China, and keeping China out of Mongolia is part of such a strategy.  But what makes us think that we have accomplished this?

    Your sources appear to admit that we have not, and cannot, provide sufficient military assistance to Mongolia to forcibly resist a Chinese conquest.  The military part of the strategy, as you describe it, is to equip the Mongols to assist with international peacekeeping efforts which will, according to the source that you quote, “provide Mongolia with diplomatic protection from its large, rapacious neighbors.” 

    Did this work in Hong Kong or Macao?  Obviously not.  Why, then, would one expect it to work in Mongolia? 

    Moreover, the sources that you cite seem to describe this “diplomatic protection” strategy as a future plan, not something that has been accomplished.  It looks like a bad plan to me, but even if it’s a good plan, it doesn’t look like it explains the reason that China hasn’t already taken Mongolia.

    So why haven’t the rapacious Chinese conquered the Mongols?  Well, I don’t know.  Maybe they’re not interested, in which case we don’t have a problem, and in this case, we’re wasting money in Mongolia.  But there is an alternative hypothesis.

    The alternative hypothesis is that Mongolia is a buffer state between China and Russia, useful to both of them, though that usefulness to China diminishes as Chinese power eclipses Russian power.  It does seem very likely, to me, that the Russians don’t want China to take over Mongolia.

    So how to protect Mongolia, if we want to do so?  Well, it seems to me that we can’t do so in present circumstances.  So it would be a waste of time, effort, and money to try.  Unless you think that the soft-power “diplomatic protection” posited in the source that you cite will be effective, which I doubt.  Again, why didn’t this work in Hong Kong?

    It seems to me that the potentially successful strategy is to work with the Russians.  They probably don’t want China in Mongolia any more than we do.  Less, actually.  This would mean that we need to stop alienating Putin.

    And why are we at odds with Putin?  Well, because we foolishly tried to advance NATO and the EU into Ukraine, an important buffer state on Russia’s western border.  Russia wasn’t going to like that any more than it would like the Chinese moving into Mongolia — or, frankly, any more than we would like China moving into Mexico.

    In conclusion, it doesn’t look plausible for us to take credit for keeping the Chinese out of Mongolia.  Even the sources that you cite admit this.  So I don’t think that we should be patting ourselves on the back, and the future strategy that looks plausible is not the one that your sources recommend.

    • #1
  2. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    And why are we at odds with Putin? Well, because we foolishly tried to advance NATO and the EU into Ukraine, an important buffer state on Russia’s western border. Russia wasn’t going to like that any more than it would like the Chinese moving into Mongolia — or, frankly, any more than we would like China moving into Mexico.

    So Jerry what happens when we run out of Ukrainians to feed Putin? As far as I know the Ukrainians don’t have any plans to take Moscow. Although Ukraine would like to be a member of NATO no promises have been made to Ukraine for NATO membership.

    Perhaps we can make Putin happy by letting him take the Baltic States, with a side of Poland, Finland, Norway, as well a slice of Sweden for dessert.

    China ships the precursors necessary to produce Fentanyl to Mexican drug cartels. I suppose as long as we can enjoy Nike’s, and I-Phones produced by Chinese political slave labor the world is a wonderful place.

    • #2
  3. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Whether the current model should be credited for Mongolian security or not, it does represent about the best that can be done in a practical sense. 

    • #3
  4. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Whether the current model should be credited for Mongolian security or not, it does represent about the best that can be done in a practical sense.

    Exactly. More, we resisted the temptation to sell U.S. military aircraft to a nation that could not afford to sustain them.

    • #4
  5. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Clifford, this argument doesn’t look very plausible to me.

    I do agree with the goal of containing China, and keeping China out of Mongolia is part of such a strategy. But what makes us think that we have accomplished this?

    Your sources appear to admit that we have not, and cannot, provide sufficient military assistance to Mongolia to forcibly resist a Chinese conquest. The military part of the strategy, as you describe it, is to equip the Mongols to assist with international peacekeeping efforts which will, according to the source that you quote, “provide Mongolia with diplomatic protection from its large, rapacious neighbors.”

    Did this work in Hong Kong or Macao? Obviously not. Why, then, would one expect it to work in Mongolia?

    Moreover, the sources that you cite seem to describe this “diplomatic protection” strategy as a future plan, not something that has been accomplished. It looks like a bad plan to me, but even if it’s a good plan, it doesn’t look like it explains the reason that China hasn’t already taken Mongolia.

    So why haven’t the rapacious Chinese conquered the Mongols? Well, I don’t know. Maybe they’re not interested, in which case we don’t have a problem, and in this case, we’re wasting money in Mongolia. But there is an alternative hypothesis.

    The alternative hypothesis is that Mongolia is a buffer state between China and Russia, useful to both of them, though that usefulness to China diminishes as Chinese power eclipses Russian power. It does seem very likely, to me, that the Russians don’t want China to take over Mongolia.

    So how to protect Mongolia, if we want to do so? Well, it seems to me that we can’t do so in present circumstances. So it would be a waste of time, effort, and money to try. Unless you think that the soft-power “diplomatic protection” posited in the source that you cite will be effective, which I doubt. Again, why didn’t this work in Hong Kong?

    It seems to me that the potentially successful strategy is to work with the Russians. They probably don’t want China in Mongolia any more than we do. Less, actually. This would mean that we need to stop alienating Putin.

    And why are we at odds with Putin? Well, because we foolishly tried to advance NATO and the EU into Ukraine, an important buffer state on Russia’s western border. Russia wasn’t going to like that any more than it would like the Chinese moving into Mongolia — or, frankly, any more than we would like China moving into Mexico.

    In conclusion, it doesn’t look plausible for us to take credit for keeping the Chinese out of Mongolia. Even the sources that you cite admit this. So I don’t think that we should be patting ourselves on the back, and the future strategy that looks plausible is not the one that your sources recommend.

    Russia is in no real position to fight and win a land war in Mongolia. China believes recovery of Mongolia into the borders of China removes the national humiliation imposed by the Russians in the 19th Century. 

    There is a huge difference between two Chinese cities that had been controlled by European colonial powers and a historic and ethnically distinct nation. Mongolians clearly disagree with your view of the value of elevating Mongolia’s visibility and affirmation by many major nations around the world as a legitimate state, not an extension of China. 

    You leave entirely unaddressed the first pillar, Mongolia taking away a major source of irritation to China by policing their border against cross-border crime and terrorism.

    • #5
  6. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Did this work in Hong Kong or Macao?  Obviously not.  Why, then, would one expect it to work in Mongolia? 

    Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  Diplomatic means cover a huge range of possibilities. One steel plant had a mess and blew up. That doesn’t mean others don’t work. (I’m drawing an example from a book I’m reading now.) We perhaps need to get over the idea that there is a method that works, or that there is an inevitability about anything, and learn to live with the fact that international conflict is always going to be a near-run thing. 

    • #6
  7. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    In many cases, it’s best to limit the military assistance to advisors.

    As Afghanistan illustrated (and as I recall from my time in Nam), local corruption is the bane of military assistance; particularly material assistance.  

    • #7
  8. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    In many cases, it’s best to limit the military assistance to advisors.

    As Afghanistan illustrated (and as I recall from my time in Nam), local corruption is the bane of military assistance; particularly material assistance.

    Yes, both cash and stuff, including weapons and vehicles, went missing throughout the past 20 years, with weapons and vehicles known to have shown up in Taliban hands. Funny how our super concerned members of Congress were not all up in arms over the past 20 years. I’m not buying anyone’s pose, including Crenshaw and Cotton.

    • #8
  9. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    And why are we at odds with Putin? Well, because we foolishly tried to advance NATO and the EU into Ukraine, an important buffer state on Russia’s western border. Russia wasn’t going to like that any more than it would like the Chinese moving into Mongolia — or, frankly, any more than we would like China moving into Mexico.

    So Jerry what happens when we run out of Ukrainians to feed Putin? As far as I know the Ukrainians don’t have any plans to take Moscow. Although Ukraine would like to be a member of NATO no promises have been made to Ukraine for NATO membership.

    Perhaps we can make Putin happy by letting him take the Baltic States, with a side of Poland, Finland, Norway, as well a slice of Sweden for dessert.

    China ships the precursors necessary to produce Fentanyl to Mexican drug cartels. I suppose as long as we can enjoy Nike’s, and I-Phones produced by Chinese political slave labor the world is a wonderful place.

    Doug, I don’t think that any of this is likely (about Russia).  Putin hasn’t even taken Ukraine, except Crimea, though he obviously could do so if he wished.

    Your claim that “no promises have been made to Ukraine for NATO membership” is incorrect.  Here is the NATO report on the Bucharest summit in 2008, which states:

    At the Bucharest Summit, NATO Allies welcomed Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership and agreed that these countries will become members of NATO.

    It was not actual membership, but this was a promise, and the next portions of the statement detailed the “Membership Action Plan” to carry it into fruition.

    It is dated April 3, 2008.  It emboldened Georgia and Ukraine with respect to Russia, and unsurprisingly, there was a war between Georgia and Russia a few months later, in August 2008.

    The Ukrainians seemed to get the message for a while, and they were sensible enough to elect a somewhat pro-Russian President in 2010.  You don’t want to antagonize the Bear, when he’s at your door.  But with Western encouragement, the Ukrainians overthrew their elected President in a coup in February 2014.  Russia responded by, in effect, seizing and annexing Crimea and supporting a separatist movement in east Ukraine.  It’s hard to find reliable numbers, but the Russians can make a pretty strong case that this was in accord with the desires of the majority of the people in Crimea and east Ukraine.

    But notice that Putin hasn’t taken the rest of Ukraine.  He probably doesn’t want to take it, because it would be a tar pit (like Afghanistan, though not as bad as Afghanistan).  It looks like Putin is signaling that the West can’t have Ukraine, and if they don’t back off, he’ll wreck the place.

    • #9
  10. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    . . .

    Russia is in no real position to fight and win a land war in Mongolia. China believes recovery of Mongolia into the borders of China removes the national humiliation imposed by the Russians in the 19th Century.

    There is a huge difference between two Chinese cities that had been controlled by European colonial powers and a historic and ethnically distinct nation. Mongolians clearly disagree with your view of the value of elevating Mongolia’s visibility and affirmation by many major nations around the world as a legitimate state, not an extension of China.

    You leave entirely unaddressed the first pillar, Mongolia taking away a major source of irritation to China by policing their border against cross-border crime and terrorism.

    You’re probably right about Russian prospects in a land war, but they have a lot of nukes, so it seems unlikely that the Chinese would take their chances over a place like Mongolia, which isn’t worth very much.

    As to your last point, what you call the “first pillar,” it doesn’t seem like a very coherent argument to me.  Are you saying that the Mongols need aid from us to prevent Mongols from engaging in terrorism and cross-border crime against China?  If so, that would probably annoy China, but so what?  Are you saying that, absent such minor annoyances, China will leave Mongolia alone?  

    But the very quote of what you call the “first pillar” says, in its second point, that Mongolia has “large, rapacious neighbors.”  I think that this is quite true.  But it makes the “first pillar” largely irrelevant, doesn’t it?

    There is one other strange thing about that “first pillar.”  Let’s think about it for a moment.  Someone wants us to spend money to protect China from Uighur terrorism?  Saying that “Uighur extremists represent the future of terrorism in Central Asia.”

    I really, really hope that these aren’t the same people telling me that I should feel sorry for all those poor Uighurs in concentration camps.  It sounds like they belong in concentration camps.

    • #10
  11. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Doug, I want to address another part of your comment.  You wrote:

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    . . .

    Perhaps we can make Putin happy by letting him take the Baltic States, with a side of Poland, Finland, Norway, as well a slice of Sweden for dessert.

    There’s a strange tendency to think that every foreign leader that we don’t like is Adolf Hitler.  This doesn’t generally turn out to be true.  It does seem to be used as an argument for some excessive US commitments overseas, and some bad foreign policy moves.

    Let’s think about this for a minute.

    A side of Finland, eh?  Finland was never in NATO.  Finland is not in NATO today.  Yet even Stalin never bothered to take Finland.  And you think Putin, with his anemic economy, demographic nightmare, and other social problems is going to want Finland?

    A slice of Sweden?  Well, Sweden was never in NATO either, not to this day.  Yet even ol’ Uncle Joe never moved on Sweden, either.

    Norway, of course, was a long-time NATO member, and Poland is a member now, and they are moderately defensible.  But if even Stalin and that scary-looking Brezhnev fellow never rolled into Finland or Sweden, I see no reason to expect that Putin would do so.

    Here’s the thing.  It was provocative, but probably sustainable, to add Poland and even Romania to NATO.  There are still buffer states between them and Russia (except that tiny section around Kaliningrad).

    It was quite stupid to add the Baltic states.  They are completely indefensible.  Yet we’re committed to coming to their aid, if Russia is sufficiently antagonized, and what then?  In all likelihood, that’s when our NATO promise to the Baltic states is revealed to be written on a piece of damp tissue paper.

    So leave them a darned buffer.

    My general impression is that I’m happy that Putin isn’t as stupid as our leadership has been.  He knows his limitations, and his country’s interests, at least based on his actions.  Trump probably realized this, as it would explain his actions toward Putin.

    • #11
  12. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    As to your last point, what you call the “first pillar,” it doesn’t seem like a very coherent argument to me.  Are you saying that the Mongols need aid from us to prevent Mongols from engaging in terrorism and cross-border crime against China?  If so, that would probably annoy China, but so what?  Are you saying that, absent such minor annoyances, China will leave Mongolia alone?  

    No. Go back and read the quote, perhaps go and read the article. The Mongolian military, post Cold War, and our foreign policy agencies (broadly State and Defense), had no clear focus on the real security threats and viable ways to address/mitigate threats. What a U.S. colonel and ambassador provided was good analysis and recommendations, helping the Mongolian government and the U.S. government get focused and moving along two lines of effort designed to make Mongolian a less tempting/appetizing target for its very large and ascendant neighbor. What you style minor annoyances are the sort of things serious people on the ground understood to be pretexts for China to demand more and more control over a neighbor state.

    • #12
  13. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    A side of Finland, eh?  Finland was never in NATO.  Finland is not in NATO today.  Yet even Stalin never bothered to take Finland.  And you think Putin, with his anemic economy, demographic nightmare, and other social problems is going to want Finland?

    It was not for lack of trying. The Finns fought a skillful and desperate campaign to stalemate Stalin’s army. 

    • #13
  14. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Doug, I want to address another part of your comment. You wrote:

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    . . .

    Perhaps we can make Putin happy by letting him take the Baltic States, with a side of Poland, Finland, Norway, as well a slice of Sweden for dessert.

    There’s a strange tendency to think that every foreign leader that we don’t like is Adolf Hitler. This doesn’t generally turn out to be true. It does seem to be used as an argument for some excessive US commitments overseas, and some bad foreign policy moves.

    Let’s think about this for a minute.

    A side of Finland, eh? Finland was never in NATO. Finland is not in NATO today. Yet even Stalin never bothered to take Finland. And you think Putin, with his anemic economy, demographic nightmare, and other social problems is going to want Finland?

    A slice of Sweden? Well, Sweden was never in NATO either, not to this day. Yet even ol’ Uncle Joe never moved on Sweden, either.

    Norway, of course, was a long-time NATO member, and Poland is a member now, and they are moderately defensible. But if even Stalin and that scary-looking Brezhnev fellow never rolled into Finland or Sweden, I see no reason to expect that Putin would do so.

    Here’s the thing. It was provocative, but probably sustainable, to add Poland and even Romania to NATO. There are still buffer states between them and Russia (except that tiny section around Kaliningrad).

    It was quite stupid to add the Baltic states. They are completely indefensible. Yet we’re committed to coming to their aid, if Russia is sufficiently antagonized, and what then? In all likelihood, that’s when our NATO promise to the Baltic states is revealed to be written on a piece of damp tissue paper.

    So leave them a darned buffer.

    My general impression is that I’m happy that Putin isn’t as stupid as our leadership has been. He knows his limitations, and his country’s interests, at least based on his actions. Trump probably realized this, as it would explain his actions toward Putin.

    Jerry it is very apparent that you have no understanding of the Russian mind, or the Russian threat. US forces train with Finnish forces in winter warfare. Norway has asked that US Marines be rotated into Norway on a regular basis. Sweden has signed a mutual military assistance pact with the United States. What do they know that you don’t know?

    Once again my question is how many Ukrainians are you willing to offer Putin to maintain your comfortable lifestyle? I suppose they, like the filthy Slavs in Poland should be sacrificed on the altar of ignorance.

    • #14
  15. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    I just hope the Mongolians don’t have to depend on us if things get tough.

    • #15
  16. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Yet even Stalin never bothered to take Finland.  And you think Putin, with his anemic economy, demographic nightmare, and other social problems is going to want Finland?

    Well, Stalin did attack Finland in the run-up to WWII. Maybe he was just there as a tourist?

    And there are different ways to have Finland. Do you remember the term, “Finlandization?”  

    • #16
  17. Chris Gregerson Member
    Chris Gregerson
    @ChrisGregerson

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Clifford, this argument doesn’t look very plausible to me.

    I do agree with the goal of containing China, and keeping China out of Mongolia is part of such a strategy. But what makes us think that we have accomplished this?

    Your sources appear to admit that we have not, and cannot, provide sufficient military assistance to Mongolia to forcibly resist a Chinese conquest. The military part of the strategy, as you describe it, is to equip the Mongols to assist with international peacekeeping efforts which will, according to the source that you quote, “provide Mongolia with diplomatic protection from its large, rapacious neighbors.”

    Did this work in Hong Kong or Macao? Obviously not. Why, then, would one expect it to work in Mongolia?

    Moreover, the sources that you cite seem to describe this “diplomatic protection” strategy as a future plan, not something that has been accomplished. It looks like a bad plan to me, but even if it’s a good plan, it doesn’t look like it explains the reason that China hasn’t already taken Mongolia.

    So why haven’t the rapacious Chinese conquered the Mongols? Well, I don’t know. Maybe they’re not interested, in which case we don’t have a problem, and in this case, we’re wasting money in Mongolia. But there is an alternative hypothesis.

    The alternative hypothesis is that Mongolia is a buffer state between China and Russia, useful to both of them, though that usefulness to China diminishes as Chinese power eclipses Russian power. It does seem very likely, to me, that the Russians don’t want China to take over Mongolia.

    So how to protect Mongolia, if we want to do so? Well, it seems to me that we can’t do so in present circumstances. So it would be a waste of time, effort, and money to try. Unless you think that the soft-power “diplomatic protection” posited in the source that you cite will be effective, which I doubt. Again, why didn’t this work in Hong Kong?

    It seems to me that the potentially successful strategy is to work with the Russians. They probably don’t want China in Mongolia any more than we do. Less, actually. This would mean that we need to stop alienating Putin.

    And why are we at odds with Putin? Well, because we foolishly tried to advance NATO and the EU into Ukraine, an important buffer state on Russia’s western border. Russia wasn’t going to like that any more than it would like the Chinese moving into Mongolia — or, frankly, any more than we would like China moving into Mexico.

    In conclusion, it doesn’t look plausible for us to take credit for keeping the Chinese out of Mongolia. Even the sources that you cite admit this. So I don’t think that we should be patting ourselves on the back, and the future strategy that looks plausible is not the one that your sources recommend.

    Think Finland and it’s relationship with the USSR.

    • #17
  18. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Yet even Stalin never bothered to take Finland. And you think Putin, with his anemic economy, demographic nightmare, and other social problems is going to want Finland?

    Well, Stalin did attack Finland in the run-up to WWII. Maybe he was just there as a tourist?

    And there are different ways to have Finland. Do you remember the term, “Finlandization?”

    Finland doesn’t even exist. :)

    • #18
  19. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Clifford A. Brown: The second pillar, international peacekeeping, should not draw sneers. Whatever your impressions of “peacekeeping” and the UN, this strategy actually matters beyond American shores. Mongolia has become a center for peace operations training, playing off the American Army concept of maneuver training centers, most famously the National Training Center.

    Indeed.  There’s an interesting paper by a Mongolian Armed Forces Colonel, here, which details the many cooperative programs set up in the early 2000s by the US military and others, in cooperation with the MAF.  While “peacekeeping” may have been at the core, clearly other initiatives, as well as intelligence operations, were spun from it as the Mongolians joined coalition forces deployed for other reasons in other parts of the world (Iraq, Afghanistan, Liberia, Kosovo, etc.)

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