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Threat Perception

Mongolian People's Army honor guard. Courtesy Steve Mann.

In the early 1980s, despite improved Sino-Soviet relations, Mongolia maintained its traditional distrust of Beijing and was unwilling to reduce its own armed forces or the level of Soviet forces stationed in Mongolia. By 1985 Soviet troops in Mongolia still numbered 75,000; they included two tank and three motorized infantry divisions. China insisted that Soviet forces in Mongolia be withdrawn as a condition for improved Sino-Soviet relations. Soviet communist party general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev responded to that demand in a July 1986 Vladivostok speech in which he offered to withdraw Soviet troops from Mongolia. Two weeks later, the Mongolian government gave its support for "the withdrawal of a considerable part of the Soviet troops from promote the establishment of the overall Asian and Pacific security and serve the cause of strengthening trust and good neighborliness in Asia." Between April and June 1987, the Soviet Union announced the withdrawal of one full-strength motorized rifle division and several separate units, which reduced Soviet forces in Mongolia to approximately 55,000 (see Foreign Relations).

Mongolia's relations with China also improved during this period; the exchange of government, trade, and friendship delegations culminated in the November 1988 signing of a Mongolian-Chinese border treaty. In December 1988, Mongolia's first deputy minister of foreign affairs, Daramyn Yondon, commenting on a Soviet offer to withdraw the majority of its troops stationed in Mongolia within two years, stated that "if relations with China continue to improve, all Soviet troops will be withdrawn." In February 1989, official Mongolian news sources quoted Mongolian military leaders as calling for a reduction in the size of the Mongolian armed forces. Mongolia's concern over the Chinese threat, although by no means eliminated, was at its lowest level in nearly thirty years.

Last Update: 2010-12-07