By Narantsatsralt Enkhbat

It has been more than a decade since Mongolia joined the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the largest regional security organization that spans across three continents – North America, Europe and Asia. Mongolia is a landlocked country between two major powers, Russia and China – sharing a border of over 3,000 kilometers with Russia and a border of over 4,700 kilometers with China. Just the mere fact that it is geographically proximate to both Russia and China has often placed the country in the spotlight, especially in times of heightened great power competition. Throughout the last century, Mongolia has navigated numerous challenges to safeguard its freedom and independence, deftly managing relationships with Russia, China, and the emergent power of Japan, amidst the complex dynamics of East Asian power politics. In contemporary times, the country strives to leverage its geographically central and politically neutral position at the crossroads of major geopolitical influences, to promote dialogue and mutual understanding in the neighboring regions.

This blog post suggests establishing an OSCE Policy Center in Mongolia, a new platform which could serve as a crucial channel of communication between the OSCE and East Asia for exchanging information, experiences, and expertise on a wide range of security issues. There are several reasons to support the notion that Ulaanbaatar has potential to accommodate the OSCE Policy Center.

Mongolia’s geographically central position distinguishes it as one of only two OSCE member states – alongside Russia – that share OSCE’s borders with East Asia. As the country on the furthest eastern periphery of the OSCE, Mongolia can play a crucial role in bridging the gap between the OSCE and its Asian members and partners. Additionally, Mongolia has experience in providing a neutral platform for talks on a diversity of issues, namely, the Ulaanbaatar Dialogue (UBD) for Northeast Asian Security, the annual Khaan Quest multinational exercise, the Female Foreign Ministers Meeting, and the International Conference of Women Peacekeepers. This brief analysis discusses Mongolia’s potential for establishing an OSCE Policy Center and its importance for regional security.

Mongolia’s Participation in the OSCE

Mongolia actively engaged in the OSCE as an Asian Partner for Co-operation since 2004 and made contributions to promoting the organization’s commitments in the East Asian region. For example, in 2007, Mongolia organized the OSCE conference with the theme, “Strengthening the Co-operative Security Between the OSCE and Asian Partners for Co-operation,” bringing together the OSCE members, Asian Partners and, AEAN Regional Forum in Ulaanbaatar in 2007.

In 2012, Mongolia attained full-pledged membership, becoming the 57th country to join the OSCE and thereby extending the organization’s frontiers further to the east. In 2015, Mongolia chaired the organization’s Forum for Security Cooperation (FSC) during the Serbian chairmanship of the OSCE. During its FSC chairmanship, Mongolia promoted the exchange of ideas and dialogue on enhancing military security and stability in the OSCE area and beyond. Particularly, the country hosted the OSCE’s conference on the role of armed and security forces in democratic societies, inviting security practitioners from Central Asia and OSCE’s Asian Partners for Co-operation. The participants engaged in discussions concerning security sector reform, rights of armed forces’ personnel, and parliamentary oversight of security forces.

In the fall of 2015, Mongolia hosted the annual meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Historically, such annual meetings were often held in European countries. The significance of this event lies in not only the unique gathering of the OSCE parliamentarians in East Asia for the first time but also underscores Mongolia’s consistent efforts to deepen its cooperation with the OSCE.

Mongolia continued to participate in the OSCE, with a specific focus on initiatives to enhance its capacity in addressing emerging threats. As part of these efforts, Mongolia hosted a series of OSCE’s training workshops for local law enforcement agencies. In 2016, the team from the OSCE’s Secretariat’s Transnational Threats Department conducted training for Mongolian law enforcement officers on professional integrity and anti-corruption in Ulaanbaatar. In 2017, another training on trends in organized crime, with specific focus on human trafficking was held in Ulaanbaatar. In 2018, the OSCE trained Mongolian officers from the national police, border protection, and customs and immigration agencies on detecting forged-travel documents. In 2019, police officers in intelligence received management-level training. As a member of the OSCE, Mongolia has benefitted from the organization’s support in building its capacity to combat transnational security threats. Mongolia can access valuable information and expertise via OSCE-sponsored training and activities.

Despite its endeavors to promote its participation, Mongolia seems to be far from fully realizing its initial vision that prompted its membership in the OSCE. When Mongolia first sought to join the organization, questions arose from many countries regarding the rationale behind its membership, given the fact that the OSCE’s primary focus is on Eastern Europe. Various reasons could underpin Mongolia’s engagement in the OSCE. For small landlocked states like Mongolia, it is crucial to access networking opportunities where it can develop economic, political, and security partnerships with influential countries beyond its immediate neighbors. At the same time, Mongolia wants to increase its visibility on the global stage through active participation in international politics.

Why a Policy Center?

The OSCE’s cooperation strategy is organized geographically by sub-regional divisions and implemented through its field operations in South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. However, this approach inadvertently sidelines Mongolia, the youngest member, as it does not fall within any of these specified regions. Despite this, Mongolia, as a participant state, aspires to contribute to fulfilling OSCE’s vision of promoting peace, security, and stability through political dialogue. The establishment of the OSCE Policy Center for regional dialogue in Ulaanbaatar will help Mongolia fulfill this wish. One might want to ask why it should be in the form of a Policy Center when the OSCE has a well-established network of field operations such as missions and program offices?

Mongolia encounters limitations in establishing an OSCE Mission. When Mongolia joined the OSCE, Russia supported its membership with a single objection: the exclusion of extending the military and defense sphere of cooperation to Mongolia. This means that any commitments and obligations related to military and defense activities outlined in the Vienna Document will not extend to Mongolian territory. Moreover, alternative options such as academies and colleges were already built in Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan. The OSCE has the Border Management College in Dushanbe, and the OSCE Academy, an institute of higher education in Bishkek, to enhance international security through education and training. They are desirable but also costly for the OSCE to run additional academies or colleges.

The Policy Center, on the other hand, is small, and less expensive to run. It will primarily focus on promoting the capacity of law enforcement to combat transnational organized crime effectively. Mongolia, as a transit route between Russia and China, is susceptible to illicit trafficking flowing through its territory. Turkey’s connectivity through Mongolia to China and Southeast Asia adds another layer of complexity, especially concerning the risks of narcotics trafficking. Therefore, the Policy Center would help Mongolia in strengthening capabilities to address non-traditional security threats.

Another reason why Mongolia should establish a Policy Center lies in its potential role as a central hub, facilitating the connection between the OSCE to East Asia. Situated on the outskirts of the Eurasian landmass, Mongolia marks the furthest eastern frontier for the OSCE. Given its strategic location nestled between the East and West, Mongolia emerges as an ideal candidate to function as a pivotal hub. This is particularly relevant, when the OSCE’s key Asian Partners for Co-operation, such as Japan and South Korea, are not only geographically proximate to Mongolia but also maintain traditionally good relationships.

The significance of the OSCE Policy center in Mongolia becomes even more pronounced, considering the heightened risks in the East Asian region, including territorial disputes in South and East China Sea, and tensions in the Taiwan Strait. In the absence of a structured mechanism for security cooperation, the situation is worsened – leaving no room for political dialogue to address and mitigate tensions as they arise. Therefore, the Policy center would serve as an important platform for cooperation, sharing the OSCE’s experience in conflict prevention and resolution.

Mongolia is well-suited for such a role, exemplified by its successful hosting of the Ulaanbaatar Dialogue on Northeast Asian Security, bringing together North Korea, South Korea, Russia, and China for meaningful discussions since 2014. Mongolia also has demonstrated its commitment to regional peace and security through the annual hosting of the Khaan Quest, a multinational military exercise, designed to enhance peacekeeping operations for participating nations. In 2022, Mongolia organized a conference for women peacekeepers, followed by the Female Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in 2023, promoting increased involvement of women in matters of peace and security. The country’s track record in conducting such diplomatic and security initiatives highlights its proficiency in facilitating political dialogue and fostering cooperation — a testament to its readiness to launch an OSCE Policy Center in the region.


Ultimately, an OSCE Policy Center will function as a crucial channel of communication between OSCE and Asian members and partners to exchange information, experiences, and expertise. A Policy Center in Ulaanbaatar could also serve as a platform for mutual learning and promoting the OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security – especially its expertise in early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management, and post-conflict rehabilitation. As East Asia lacks a mechanism for security cooperation, the OSCE’s Policy Center will be significant in its efforts to help reduce risks of conflict. By initiating and accommodating an OSCE Policy Center, Mongolia not only enhances its capacity to counter emerging threats but also positions itself to play a crucial role in contributing to regional security and stability.

Acknowledgement: Author would like to thank Mr. Hesu Song, a Princeton in Asia fellow in Mongolia, for being a peer reader and the copy-editing.

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