Mongolia's foreign policy must be viewed in the context of the nation's landlocked position, sandwiched between the Soviet Union and China. The country's survival and growth have largely depended on its leaders' adroit management of this sensitive and strategic location. Too weak to act independently to hold encroachments from both China and the Soviet Union in check, Mongolia's leaders have interpreted their national interests as being best served by accepting the political direction and military support of Moscow. Thus, for more than sixty years, the Soviet Union has been the patron and the predominant force shaping Mongolian foreign affairs. In 1987 this Mongolian stance was expressed succinctly in Batmonh's statement that his country was "grateful Soviet units were still guarding socialism in Mongolia."
Motivation and Goals
In 1989 the principal motivations driving Mongolia's foreign policy were the preservation of territorial integrity, together with the projection of a substantial measure of political independence. Major goals included expanding and modernizing the economy through aid and trade arrangements, and extending diplomatic and economic contacts with the international community. During the 1970s and 1980s, the opportunities afforded by Soviet economic aid and assistance, along with those available through Comecon and the Soviet military guardianship, continued to hold Mongolia firmly within the Soviet orbit. Internationally, Mongolia often served as a Soviet proxy, representing the Soviet position when and where needed.
By mid-1989, some indications of changes in Mongolia's foreign policy direction were visible, very likely in response to initiatives taken by Soviet leader Gorbachev. Operating within the context of the distinct improvements being made in SinoSoviet relations, Mongolian leaders also began to demonstrate a more relaxed attitude toward China. Furthermore, they seemed willing to explore new relationships with other Asian countries and to accelerate contact and deepening relationships with Western and Third World countries.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Foreign policy goals are pursued through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, headed in 1989 by Tserenpiliin Gombosuren. The trade aspects of foreign relations are carried out by the Ministry of Foreign Trade. The power of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is limited to implementing foreign policies formulated by high-level party organizations. That Gombosuren was only a candidate member of the Central Committee underlines this fact.
The formulation of foreign policy is done in the name of the party Central Committee, and it is closely controlled by top party leaders, organizations, and departments. Foreign policy is formulated by senior leaders in the Political Bureau who are well attuned to Soviet foreign policy preferences. In mid-1989 Political Bureau member and party secretary Namsray appeared to have responsibility for supervising foreign affairs. In addition, the party Central Committee has a subordinate department responsible for foreign relations; the head of it in mid-1989 was concurrently a member of the Presidium of the People's Great Hural. He probably coordinated foreign policy matters with the chairman of the Standing Commission for Foreign Affairs of the People's Great Hural, who also happened to be a party secretary.
In 1989 the minister of foreign affairs was assisted in implementing foreign policy by a first deputy minister, two deputy ministers, and heads of specialized departments. Some key departments believed to have been responsible for specific geographic areas were: number one, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), and Poland; number two, remaining European countries; number three, East Asia and Southeast Asia; and number four, South Asia, West Asia, and Africa. Additional departments handled cultural affairs, treaties and archives, relations with international organizations, legal affairs, protocol, the administration of diplomatic agencies, the press, and other matters.
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