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Group of Soviet Forces in Mongolia

The Sino-Soviet rift occurred in 1960, and China adopted an increasingly hostile policy toward the Soviet Union and Mongolia. As the new threat from China was perceived and then grew more ominous, the Soviet Union and Mongolia again became militarily close. Soviet troops once more entered Mongolia in strength. Military, and other, national celebrations provided opportunities for the exchange of top-level military delegations, for consultations on defense matters, and for public hymns of praise, loyalty, eternal friendship, and cooperation. Marshal Rodion Yakovlevich Malinovskiy and other top Soviet military leaders, together with senior Chinese generals, visited Ulaanbaatar on People's Army Day, March 18, 1961. The Soviets were honored with high Mongolian decorations, whereas the Chinese were snubbed, receiving none.

Chinese border incidents, though not serious, continued through the 1960s, and they were accompanied by a strengthening of the Mongolian troop presence in border areas. China, in turn, charged that reconnaissance flights from Mongolia and Siberia had violated its airspace. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union and Mongolia continued their public display of political and military affinity. In 1966 the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance was renewed for another twenty years; it was extendable for an additional ten. It included a clause permitting the stationing of Soviet troops in Mongolia. A parade in Ulaanbaatar in 1967 honored the fiftieth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and showed off new weapons, including Mongolian army-manned SA-2 surface-to-air and SNAPPER antitank guided missiles. In his address, Lhagbasuren gave high praise to Soviet military aid. In May 1968, at the forty-seventh anniversary of the founding of the Mongolian People's Army, Lhagbasuren spoke similarly of the "fraternal disinterested" aid of the Soviet Union. These panegyrics, while intended to instruct Mongolians in the current policy and to reassure the Soviets of Mongolian solidarity, nevertheless amply demonstrated the degree of Soviet influence and the subordinate Mongolian position in the Soviet mutual defense agreement.

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 Mongolia...to 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.

Mongolia's relations with China improved during the 1980s; 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.



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