Mongolia’s Democratic Gains
The fourth and final post in the series summarizing key sections of my M.A. thesis, looks at what Mongolia has to gain from its democratic credentials. I have argued this point in previous posts, but present it here in relations to part 3 of the series.
The expression “not all that glitters is gold” is perhaps best rephrased for our purposes as “not all that democratizes will become a democracy”. When Mongolia became an official democracy, no one was sure how a small state with less than 3 million people would manage to produce a real democracy in-between the authoritarian PRC and the uncertain democratization of the newly established Russian Federation. However, all available indicators support that it accomplished just that.
Mongolia’s democratic transition was largely based on domestic political will. Real democratization ultimately is an “exercise in national political self-determination. True democratization has to be domestically driven otherwise it will lack legitimacy. Mongolia was ranked at 6.23 by Democracy Index 2011, 6.36 in 2010 , 6.6 in 2008 , and 6.6 and 2006 , on a 10 point scale, meaning that it has been consistently ranked as a “flawed democracy”, which while admitting its problems, firmly ranks Mongolia as a democracy above hybrid and authoritarian regimes. Freedom House has ranked Mongolia as “free” for all available years (2002-2012). Although Mongolia is still a developing democracy, it is hard to argue that it is not a functioning one. Signs of increased civil society engagement and contested election results are actually a sign of a thriving democratic system, where the ability to change the status quo is recognized and a number of political parties are competing against each other.
U.S. and E.U. support to Mongolian Democracy
High profile visits are an important indication of bilateral ties and entail some level of prestige and significance to relationships between nations. Between the U.S. and Mongolia, several high-profile visits have highlighted the slowly deepening relationship between these two distant countries, often making explicit mention to Mongolia’s democratic status (see Table 2 for a list of the most prominent visits).
2005: Rep. Dennis Hastert2005: President George Bush
2011: Vice-President Joe Biden
2012: Secretary of State Hilary Clinton
To the United States of America
1991: President Ochirbat
2001: Prime Minister Enkhbayar
2004: President Bagabandi
2011: President Elbegdorj
Outside of high-profile diplomacy, the U.S. has also signaled its support for Mongolia and the value it places on Mongolian democracy in a number of other statements and institutional mechanisms. The U.S.-Mongolia Friendship Caucus seeks to educate and inform U.S. politicians on Mongolia, focusing on Mongolia’s political system and the reform process. The International Republican Institute (IRI) began working in Mongolia in 1992, working explicitly to support democratic governance and institutional development. In 2010, the U.S. Embassy hosted events celebrating the 20th anniversary of Mongolia’s “decision for democracy”, during which then-Ambassador Addleton identified democracy as one of five pillars of U.S.-Mongolian relations. In July 2011, Mongolia was granted Presidency of the Community of Democracies, and will host a meeting of the organization in 2013. The organization makes clear reference to Mongolia as an example of successful democratization and simultaneous political and economic transitions.
The United States recognizes that Mongolia is an important partner as it continues to shift its diplomatic focus to the Asia-Pacific. Mongolia is a U.S./international successful story for democratization and has been held up as a model of Asian democratization, in particular. The U.S. has stated that its goals in Mongolia are not geostrategic in nature, and that the U.S. is, instead, focused on helping develop “a base of democracy” in Mongolia. Mongolian democracy contributes to the country’s stability in an area defined by such authoritarian powers as Russia and China. The United States sees its own security as dependent on the domestic political stability of other states, and sees Mongolia’s democratic system as a potential balancing force against authoritarianism in the region.
Mongolia’s proven commitment to democracy is also in line with E.U. global goals, particularly as they concern Central Asia. Mongolia’s accession to the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) in Europe on November 22, 2012 is a clear indication that Europe and Mongolia are coming closer together on a number of issues. As the official announcement was being made, the OSCE Secretary General noted that Mongolia’s participation would allow the organization to better tackle transnational issues, while Mongolia stood to benefit from the OSCE’s expertise in democratic transitions. These shared values are defined as respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. The Partnership and Cooperation Agreements also explicitly support democratic development. The U.S. responded to this announcement in a similar fashion, citing the accession as an indicator of Mongolia’s importance to the democratic community as an example of a successful transition from communism to democracy. A number of European development projects in Mongolia are handled directly by the European Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, which aims to encourage democratic institutional reform and support for human rights, specifically regarding the rights of inmates and sexual minorities. Furthermore, Germany’s Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) political foundation has taken an active role in supporting Mongolia’s democratization through seminar trainings and programs to strengthen decentralization efforts. Europe began developing relations with democratic Mongolia at a slower pace than the United States, but the proximity of Eastern Europe to Eurasia and a shared history between Mongolia and many Eastern European nations under the Soviet Union sets the groundwork for more multifaceted relations in the future.
Mongolian democracy stands out in stark contrast to it neighbors, Russia and China, as well as across the larger post-communist world, such as the Central Asian authoritarian states Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Despite all its “robustness/rowdiness”, the Mongolian political system is clearly democratic. A perfect democracy where all citizens have an equal say and where the government is equally responsive to all its citizens’ demands does not exist. From Hilary Clinton’s statement in Ulaanbaatar in support of democratization, it can be observed that Mongolia is becoming one of the poster countries for democracy and the rewards, stability, and development benefits that are associated with this political system. Mongolia can be held against claims that democracy is not for Asia. This is by no means meant to suggest that Mongolia’s own motivation in democratizing was to attract “Western” favor; rather, the point is that once democratized, the benefits to the Mongolian state and population were international as well domestic.
At the same time, Mongolia has been able to actively leverage its democratic credentials as part of its efforts to adapt to the post-communist international system and fulfill its “third neighbor policy.” Mongolia’s Concept of Foreign Policy states that the country’s foreign policy is guided by international norms such as respect for human rights and freedoms. The Concept of National Security of Mongolia identifies the country’s democratic government as key to the state’s continued security in the sectors of civil rights and information security. Furthermore, Mongolia’s democratic government distinguishes it a region defined by Russia, China, and the Central Asian states.
Does democracy matter? It seems that democracy is a potential tool that Mongolia can and has used to increase its attractiveness as a partner for U.S., E.U., and potentially other leading democracies. Attracting this interest is a key factor in Mongolia’s foreign policy, since it allows Mongolia to command a larger number of “third neighbors” as a counterbalance to Russian and especially Chinese influence. It is crucial that Mongolia implements a strong policy of diversification. Indeed, as a small state between giants, it knows only too well that over dependence on any one power will not afford it the sovereignty and autonomous decision-making power that it needs to survive as an independent state. If Mongolia’s democratization was not a factor and the country’s natural resources, growing economy, and/or strategic location were the only factors influencing relations with the U.S. and E.U., we might still expect some diplomatic gestures (Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are also OSCE participating states). However, we would not see the level of high profile visits, the institutional support, or rhetorical references to Mongolia as a responsible stakeholder. We would also see more emphasis on economic ties and perhaps stronger military relations.
 Fish, M.Steven. “The Inner Asian Anomaly: Mongolia’s Democratization in Comparative Perspective.” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 34, no. 3 (September 2001). P. 323
 Burnell, From Assistance to Appraising, p. 414
 Ibid., p. 421
 Democracy Index 2011
 Democracy Index 2010
 Democracy Index 2008
 Democracy Index 2006
 Freedom House, 2002-2012
 As reported by the Embassy of Mongolia in the United States of American: http://www.mongolianembassy.us/mongolia_and_usa/us_mongolia_friendship_caucus.php. (Accessed on December 4, 2012).
 As reported on IRI’s official website: http://www.iri.org/countries-and-programs/asia/mongolia (Accessed on December 4, 2012).
 “Ambassador Addelton’s Remarks at the Asia Society Breakfast: Warm Relations in a Cold Place: The United States and Mongolia,” Embassy of the United States in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, June 14, 2011. http://mongolia.usembassy.gov/speeches_061411.html (Accessed on December 4, 2012).
 The White House, U.S.-Mongolia Joint Statement
 See the Community of Democracies official website: http://community-democracies.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2&Itemid=3
 Noerper, Ten Things We Get from Mongolia. p. 1
 Narangoa, Preventative Diplomacy, p. 373
 Wachman, NBR, p. 5
 “Secretary General welomes Mongolia to OSCE, stresses added value to security community,” OSCE News (November 22, 2012). (Accessed on December 4, 2012).
 Statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton Following the Legislative Elections in Mongolia on 28 June 2012, 2012.
 European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights
 “U.S. Envoy on Mongolia as OSCE Participating State,” IIP Digital (November 22, 2012). http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/texttrans/2012/11/20121123139050.html#axzz2E82SDh1V (Accessed on December 4, 2012).
 “EU supports Mongolia’s Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector with 7 mln euro project,” Delegation of European Union to Mongolia, May 31, 2012. http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/mongolia/press_corner/all_news/news/2012/20120531_01_en.htm (Accessed on December 4, 2012).
 For more information on KAS, please see: http://www.kas.de/mongolei/en/ (Accessed on December 4, 2012).
 As rated by Democracy Index
 Epstein, Democracy Promotion, p. 11
 Concept of Foreign Policy, Section II, Article 8
 The Concept of National Security of Mongolia, Section IV
This is the first of a number of posts pulling off my M.A. thesis. In a previous post, I provided a link to the full document. In these posts, I want to give a basic introduction to the main sections of the thesis, essentially attempting to condense a 70-page document into 3-4, 2-page posts, for my more casual readers.
One key contribution of my thesis is a new way to distinguish small states in today’s international system. I argue that “smallness” must be approached from a relative perspective, and divide my criteria into two sections: asymmetry and small behaviors.
All four of the following factors are required for a relationship to be defined as asymmetrical and to begin classify a state as comparatively small. (Some of you might recognize that the factors are vaguely similar to the first draft of figures I posted here- note,however, that I updated the images since making that posting!). This section is based largely on the following: Womack, Brantly, China Among Unequals: Asymmetric Foreign Relationships in Asia (World Scientific Publishing: New Jersey, 2010).
1. Difference in Perspectives: Two states in an asymmetrical relationship will have differing perspectives on both their own goals and the goals of the other side. The smaller state will perceive a direct threat from the larger power, and the larger state will see the smaller as irrelevant. Conversely, the small state will see itself as a victim, while the larger power will view its own policies as fair and justified.
2. Difference of Attention: The smaller country will give priority to its relationship with the larger power. For the small country in an asymmetrical, bilateral relationship, the larger country is the largest potential threat, and the relationship must be carefully managed. The larger country often has more important relationships with other large powers, and the relationship with the smaller state will not appear as pressing a concern.
3. Difference of Options: The smaller state in an asymmetrical relationship will be limited in what, how, where, and when it can resist actions taken against it by a larger state. That is not to say that it will have no options, but the options available will be limited by the overwhelming disparity between itself and the larger power.
4. Excludes Differing Symmetries: The relationship is not asymmetrical if State A>B for one variable and State B>A for another indicator.
With the addition of specific small state behaviors we can achieve a working definition of “smallness” in the contemporary international system that will better lend itself to analyzing small state foreign policy decision-making. I identify the following four behavioral characteristics as indicative of what I call an “engaged” small state, meaning a state that seeks to adapt to the international system without simply bandwagoning with a protector power (ex. Laos) or seeking isolation (ex. North Korea).
1. Perception of Vulnerability- The perception that the state is vulnerable to loosing its sovereignty and autonomy. Example: The state perceives that a neighbor could eventually control their economy, government, etc. (As explained in the following: Katzenstein, Peter J. “Small States and Small States Revisited.” New Political Economy 8, no. 1 (March 2003). p. 11)
2. Lack of Military Options: Asymmetrical military strength means the state cannot rely on military solutions for defense. Example: The state’s military capacity is so small, that the other side could win easily.
3. Adaptability- Changing course and policies in reaction to changing balances of power. Example: The rise of a neighboring state necessitates resetting relations with that country.
4. Specialized Balancing: Neither balancing nor bandwagoning with any state, but keep as many partners as possible. Example: The state seeks to improve relations with two other states that are widely acknowledged as rivals.
For the purposes of this blog post, I do not feel it is necessary to explain each behavioral factor, but I do want to point to the fourth factor in a little more detail. “Specialized balancing” refers to the fact that small states will seek to develop mutually beneficial relations with various partners in such a way as to most effectively safeguard their own sovereignty. While not necessarily a soft balancing measure since it is unlikely to escalate and the “balancing” partners will often include both the rising power as well as the established powers, small state balancing behavior does include many key elements of soft balancing. Through specialized balancing behavior, small states can more effectively balance the influence of large neighbors with the influence of extra-regional powers. In my thesis, I compare this balancing as akin to Evelyn Goh’s concept of hedging and omni-entrenchment in Southeast Asia, especially as in this publication: Goh, Evelyn. "Great Powers and Hierarchical Order in Southeast Asia: Analyzing Regional Security Strategies." International Security 32.3 (2008). p. 119.
By defining “smallness” as both a relational concept based on asymmetry and a series of behaviors, I have sought to establish a model for identifying small states beyond cut-offs in population, geographical size, economic or military power, and strategic importance. I have also differentiated between “engaged” and “non-engaged” small states, allowing future analysis to focus on those small states that seek to actively engage with, adapt to, and change their external security environment.
“There are parrots and cockatoos walking the streets as if they were common pigeons!” I exclaimed after only a couple hours in Canberra, Australia. Seriously, wild parrots! I am here for a 4-day conference and lecture series at Australian National University called Asia-Pacific Week. With events and sessions planed from 8am-8pm, it will be hard to blog about it in depth, but I would like to briefly explore some takeaways from the first two sessions and discussions and point to some points that I feel are particularly relevant to the theme of small states that I am trying to address with this blog. For the first time so far, this post will NOT focus on Mongolia; however, there are parallels to be made.
1. The Asian Century:
Our first panel addressed the “Asia Pacific Century”. While the goal of the panel was to begin a discussion on the changes taking place in Asia and probably to set the tone for the rest of the week, the heavily Sinocentric narrative of the panel left me thinking about what happened to rest of the Asia Pacific. China has managed in the past 20 years to conduct its economic policy in a hugely successful fashion; it is by far the largest indigenous military power in the region; has a population of 1.3 billion; and, has become a major contributor to international development through FDI. This is, of course, just a quick look at what China has become and why it matters. Luckily for me, we are far past the stage of having to convince anyone that China is important. Rather, I am left with the impression that it may be necessary to prove that China is not the only country that matters.
As the name of this blog suggests, I am arguing that small countries do matter in international affairs more generally, and international security affairs on a slightly more specific level. This panel presentation seemed to take China’s continued rise as a given, and posed Asian security as a singularly US-China issue. They further assumed a fixed-pie of influence and power in the Asia Pacific, whereby China’s rise meant a lessening of US power in the region. However, I think that this perspective is confounded by the case of Asia’s other players. When one turns to Southeast Asia, one can quickly identify a number of players that are responding to China’s rise by inviting the US to take a stronger role. Singapore seems to welcome the US with open arms as a source of stability; the Philippines benefits from a strong security relationship with the United States; Thailand has been a military ally of the US for many years; and, Vietnam and the US recently signed military medical agreements that point to increased cooperation- just to point to a few examples. In fact, it looks like China’s rise might actually be an opportunity for the US to further entrench itself in Asia as many states will be looking to hedge against a possible Chinese threat. The small states of Southeast Asia, the developed states like South Korea and Japan, and to some extent Mongolia might actually help keep the scale tipped in the US’s favor. Small matters have Big Results.
China has made many astounding accomplishments in the past 20 years, but it is far from being able to command the kind of soft power that the US has managed for many decades. “Peace Rise” notwithstanding, China’s history of aggression and domination are not going to be soon forgotten. While few are hesitant to take advantage of the Chinese market to foster their own domestic development, at the same time even fewer would assume that no counter measures are necessary. States are willing to trade with China and maybe make some diplomatic/political concessions to maintain good relations; however, policies will continue to be taken to protect state sovereignty. Simply put, no state wants to bow down to every Chinese demand, and in an effort to prevent overwhelming Chinese economic and political domination, many smaller states in the region will attempt to ensure that they also maintain deep relationships with other major regional powers, including (and perhaps most importantly) the United States. Whether we call this balance of power, balance of threat, hedging, omni-entrenchment, or even a “Third Neighbor Policy” (as Mongolia has done), the fact remains that China’s rise will be embraced on one end, and balanced on the other. To end with an example that I have brought up many times today, let me point to Mongolia (again, eh?). When the Dalai Lama visited Mongolia in 2002, China responded by cutting railway services to Mongolia for the duration of the visit. With the vast majority of Mongolian exports going to China, this was a clear effort to remind Mongolia of its proper place. This is exactly the type of situation that every country in Asia will want to avoid. (Mongolia’s planned rail-line from Oyuu Tolgoi up to Russia seems to be partly in response to this 2002 event, as well).
2. “The Arc of Instability”
I have to admit that I have never encountered this term before, but apparently it is readily identifiable to Australians. It refers to directly the island nations of the Pacific Ocean that arc around Australia, including such states as the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Fiji. Who knew? This is one of those black places on the map for me, and I have to admit that I have almost no knowledge about these small states. What is clear, however, is that they have taken measures in their foreign policies and security initiatives that are seem common to my developing understanding of small states. Firstly, they all seem very close to Australia as a potential guarantor of their sovereignty and stability, which, as the arc suggests, is a far from certain thing. Secondly, they have all become well versed in how to play with giants. One excellent example that was brought up in this second session was that many of them have continued to recognize Taiwan was an independent state in return for Taiwanese development aid, while simultaneously entertaining and courting the PRC for more development assistance. Needless to say, in my future comparative work on small state foreign policy, I will explore several of these states in more detail. More information to come.
For more information on ANU Asia Pacific Week, visit:
Here you will find a detailed program, the other delegates profiles, and information on the application process. I highly encourage people to apply for next year’s event. It has just started and I am loving it. Not to mention, that food and lodging are provided for 5 days, AND travel funding was also available.
Analysis, Thoughts, Ideas
This blog will be an online publishing site for smaller analytical projects, news stories that I find relevant to small state foreign policy and indigenous autonomy, as well as a testing ground for new ideas and new projects that I may pursue.