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D.Bat-Erdene: The nation and government are grateful to the Armed Forces

By. B. BYAMBADORJ

The Honorable D.Bat-Erdene, MP and Minister of Defense, has accepted our invitation for an interview and spoke on a wide range of issues from defense reform to international peacekeeping commitments of the Mongolian Armed Forces.

-Mr. Minister, you recently returned from South Sudan, accompanying President Elbegdorj who visited the Mongolian troops serving under the UN mission there. What is the size of our contingent and what is your impression on their performance?

-Service members of the Mongolian Armed Forces have become an integral part of the extended family of United Nations peacekeepers. They are valiantly fulfilling their duties, currently serving in both Afghanistan and South Sudan with dignity and valor. On the fifth and sixth days of the Lunar New Year, immediately following the Tsagaan Sar holiday, President Elbegdorj visited our troops in South Sudan. Tsagaan Sar is of course the most auspicious holiday for Mongolians. The presence of their Commander-in-Chief left an unforgettable Tsagaan Sar memory for our troops. For that occasion, they had even prepared all the customary meals and were watching the national wrestling competition. It was obvious that each and every service member was very proud to be Mongolian.

For a country which declared its independence only about a year ago, life in South Sudan is very difficult. The duty of our troops there is to provide safety to the citizens of South Sudan as well as UN personnel present in the country. This is a kind of service that evokes more patriotism and instills greater pride in their country. The locals, as I witnessed, are very trustful and respectful of Mongolian troops. I was pleased to hear that the President and cabinet ministers of that country were all very satisfied and valued the efforts of our troops, who were proudly and diligently representing Mongolia.

-Our President was enjoying a table tennis match with the troops. It was a sight to see.

-President Elbegdorj is a very skilled tennis player. He played for two hours long, yet nobody could beat him.

Speaking of tennis, I noticed that our troops are skilled at various different activities as well. They can dance, sing, and play musical instruments. They even have a band. People from the UN and South Sudan actually asked us if we brought professionals from the Mongolian entertainment industry.

-What can you tell us about Africa’s hot weather?

-One special characteristic of Mongolians is that they have the ability to quickly adapt to the environment. This can be observed in many situations. For instance, they take other soldiers they are with as examples and improve themselves by observing American, British, French, Canadian, and Polish troops. Foreigners spoke to us about the fact that Mongolian soldiers get better at their responsibilities the longer they stay and serve alongside foreigners. The more they interact with foreign individuals, the more abilities and skills Mongolians discover in themselves because they are very proud to be Mongolian.

Mongolian soldiers have already adapted to South Sudan’s hot climate, as well as learned to cope with mosquitoes and other difficulties in this type of weather.

-Will we keep sending our troops to hotspots like South Sudan? The US and NATO have already planned to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in 2014.

-Since Mongolian troops are serving as part of this US-led coalition and NATO mission, we are planning for withdrawal as well. But for South Sudan, a sizeable contingent is serving under the UN mission. I want to note that with their involvement in peacekeeping operations, our troops have become more responsible, agile and proud, of their country. Mongolia’s name became better known in the world. For the first time, Mongolia was invited and became a part of the NATO Defense Ministerial Meeting held in October 2012. I met with defense ministers of many countries, and I realized that they know a lot about Mongolia’s history. They know about Chinggis Khaan and his famous generals just as much as us. The world has begun to respect and recognize Mongolia not just for its mineral resources, but also for its soldiers and peacekeepers.

I recall one particular example. General John R. Allen, then commander of US forces in Afghanistan, honestly asked if it is possible for us to maintain the Mongolian troops there for as long as we can. I felt a surge of pride when he said that with Mongolian soldiers in service, there was a better feeling of safety in the area and that they were strong role models for the rest of the international troops.

For representing Mongolia and keeping the greatness of our country high in foreign lands, we must love and cherish all of our troops.

-You also visited Russia and met your counterpart Sergei Shoygu right after your visit to South Sudan. What was the result of this visit?

-Since being appointed as the Minister of Defense, my first official visit was to Russia. I understand that this visit was important in strengthening the friendship and partnership between our two countries. The meeting was cheerful, friendly, and honest. I want to express my appreciation to Minister Shoygu and General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation for their kindness and warm welcome in Russia. During the visit, we have come to know each other better and discussed several important matters. We extended our military and military technical cooperation agreement by four years. In the past years, Mongolia received about 200 billion MNT worth of support through this agreement.

We also agreed to renew Mongolia’s air missile defense systems, infantry weapons and military technics service factory, as well as radio locator stations. We also discussed how to render harmless technology to already equipped shells.

Now over 400 Mongolian students are studying in Russian military academies and universities. We agreed that the social security of those students will be improved over the years. There are 18 young Mongolian cadets from the fifth to eleventh grades in the Suvorov Military School of Russia. We agreed to increase this number as well as start a partnership with Mongolia’s Temujin-Urlug Cadet School. We decided that the annual military exercise between Russian and Mongolian troops, “Selenge-2013,” be held in the eastern province of Dornod.

Among other things, we discussed in detail how to celebrate next year’s 75thvictory anniversary of the Battles of Khalkhyn Gol in 1939.

-We know that Mr. Shoygu has Mongolian roots because he is an ethnic Tuvan. Did he speak about his Mongolian ancestry?

- It takes plenty of professionalism and ability to be Russian Defense Minister, which proves that Mr. Shoygu is a competent leader, but he did not talk about his ancestry. He spoke about his visit to Mongolia and his meeting with President Elbegdorj. He said that a branch of military school would be built in his native Tuva and that Mongolian students can be enrolled there. He struck me as a very friendly and honest person. We also discussed how it is possible for Mongolia to cooperate with Russia on information and research on a satellite launch to outer space, and he asked me to bring this up with the Mongolian government.

- Russia’s defense sector is rapidly modernizing. People have this suspicion that Russia transports all of its old generation weapons to countries like Mongolia.

-Mr. Shoygu is spearheading impressive reforms. The rights to award soldiers were given to their respective officers in command. Their training at fire ranges and physical exercises have become very advanced and effective. New generations of weapons and equipment are being introduced. Wages and social benefits for officer corps, non-commissioned officers (NCOs), and all personnel are up, too.

We visited the fifth motor-rifle brigade at Tamansky and I realized that Mongolia is not actually left behind in terms of weapons. There should be no suspicion or thought that Mongolian soldiers are supplied with old generation weapons.  All of our weapons are up to the current standards. Mongolians who studied in Russian military academies and institutes are highly recognized and valued as well around the world.

-It’s been five months since you were appointed as the Minister of Defense. What are the policy reforms you are implementing at this time?

-Within the framework of the Innovation and Reform Government’s action plan and platform, we definitely must continue the transformation of our Armed Forces into a professional and capable modern force. I am also focusing on engaging our military in the national development agenda. We tend to criticize the foreign workforce, but we have to realize that Mongolia itself lacks decent workers. Soldiers can contribute their efforts in a wide range of projects from railway construction to mining site development. It can be understood that the army is a mobile and very flexible workforce with a high degree of discipline. If we add specialized vocational training centers in addition to this advantage, we will have a very powerful working sector that benefits the young soldiers as well.

From this basis, there is a need to establish another brigade. I believe that young men aged 18 to 25 will find it easier to obtain various technical specialties so they can contribute to our country’s development.

Examples of training include heavy machinery operation workshops in the Umnugobi (South Gobi) army brigade, and we can also train soldiers in the oil industry in Dornod Province. Our overall goal is to have conscripts learn the ability to work in various places after they complete military service.

Military service must become an educational experience with an impact lasting for a lifetime. The Defense University needs to train young professionals with multiple skills that can be adapted to various environments. The Temujin Urlug cadet school definitely needs policy support. Education of these young cadets should focus not just on Mongolia’s pride, but as much attention should also be paid to honing their skills and knowledge. Our objective is to give what is necessary to young Mongolians so they would understand the importance of being part of an independent Mongolia. We have the support and participation of veterans in this regard.

-Is it true that, for Mongolian soldiers, in addition to knowing three consecutive generations of their family, they would be required to know the full history of Chinggis Khaan?

-Yes, a soldier is the only person who must know the Secret History of the Mongols inside out. I think they should be able to know every part of the book, just like people memorize the Bible. Knowing one’s history is the guarantee of Mongolia’s independence. Psychological immunity is just as important as weapons and technological strength. I think Mongolian viewers remember the competition the Mongolian National Public Television held two years ago – it was on who knew the Secret History of Mongols the most. A student from Ikh Zasag won the TV show, but in the near future the whole of the Mongolian military will be winning this show. The reason that Chinggis Khaan was able to defeat forces 10 times bigger than his own is because every 10 troops became “a stone wall” of one soldier, and they were ready to give their lives for one another. We cannot have this dispersed, instead we should be able to stay together just like a stone wall; and not forget our ancestral military principles. We should respect anything that we call “national.” I think we weakened ourselves by criticizing views like these, calling them too old or too nationalistic.

-I think it is important for Mongolia to seek defense cooperation with not just with our two neighbors (Russia and China), but other countries as well. Please provide us with some insights on this.

-Our strategy is to foster defense relations with many nations around the globe. Our name is now highly praised and well-known among foreign countries, and we are greatly respected. I think we have achieved the highest level of international cooperation compared to other government agencies in Mongolia. All of my predecessors paid special attention to this and contributed their valuable personal efforts. The more friendly and cooperative our relationship is with other countries, the stronger our defense. One proof of this is the annual Khaan Quest multinational peace support operations exercise.

 

To ensure the security of Mongolia, we have the duty to engage in as much defense diplomacy as possible. I firmly believe that what Mongolia is doing is what is best for our country and that the intention for our global outreach is understood well and respected by every country.

Having that said, pursuant to the National Security Concept and the Foreign Policy Concept of Mongolia, our priority is to maintain and strengthen our partnership with our two neighbors. I will be making an official visit to China soon.

-What actions are being taken to improve the welfare of defense personnel?

-There are a number of necessary measures we need to take. We will deal with the housing issue first. We plan to give the opportunity for service members to be allowed to have homes with a soft loan, to purchase homes roughly at half the current market price, while also providing them with sufficient financial aid.

We will first be providing homes to our troops who have served in peacekeeping duties in foreign lands. Both the people and the government are thankful for their dedication and loyalty to our country. As for myself, I am serving in the most

 

honorable and prestigious position in the government, which I think is the part of my life that is filled with utmost pride.

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Posted by on Mar 19 2013. Filed under Онцлох мэдээлэл. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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