Friday, November 18, 2005

"...stop itinerant cows or sheep..."


November 17, 2005

RE: President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to visit Mongolia November 21

Dear Friends,

President Bush's visit to Mongolia next week caps two years of unprecedented high-level visits by senior US officials and a year that has seen a record number of special conferences devoted to Mongolia in the US.

In January 2005, General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Ulaanbaatar, followed four weeks later by the visit of Richard Armitage, US Deputy Secretary of State. This past summer, US House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) led a high-ranking Congressional Delegation to Mongolia, followed by a smaller Congressional delegation headed by Congressman Jim Leach (R-IO), chairman of the Asia and Pacific Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee. [When Leach was in the US Foreign Service as a young man, he was one of the few officers assigned to Mongolian language training.]

Last month, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Ulaanbaatar (and received a horse that he named "Montana"), during which he committed $17 million for additional training of the Mongolian military for UN peace-keeping operations (PKO). We are grateful to US Ambassador Pam Slutz for her unrelenting advocacy and facilitation of these high-ranking visits.

Mongolian Ambassador to the US Ravdan Bold was the driving force and "invisible hand" behind three important and high-profile conferences devoted to Mongolia this year. The first was in Washington last February at the Heritage Foundation, co-sponsored by the Asia Foundation and Georgia Tech; the second last month, also in Washington, sponsored by the Asia Society, featured lectures by every former US ambassador to Mongolia plus Ambassador Pam Slutz; the third was held last week in Honolulu, on Northeast Asia and Mongolia, co-sponsored by the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, the School of Hawaiian, Asian and Pacific Studies, the East-West Center and the Mongolian Academy of Management. Ambassador Bold will be in UB for President Bush's visit.

Adding to this new visibility are the growth in the number of English-language websites devoted to coverage of Mongolia. One of the best is _www.mongolianartist.com_ (, which covers a lot more territory than its site name suggests.

PRESIDENT BUSH TO SPEND A CROWDED FIVE HOURS IN UB -- The President will spend only about five hours in Mongolia on November 21, arriving in the morning from Beijing on Air Force One (a specially configured Boeing 747 jet) and departing in the afternoon for a re-fueling stop at Elmsdorf Air Force Base in Alaska en route home to Crawford, TX, for Thanksgiving. Because of the length of the runways at UB, Air Force One can only land with gas tanks half full.

The President is traveling with an entourage of about 500 people, including Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and other officials, White House and NSC staff, Secret Service and the entire press corps that will have accompanied the President on his visits to Kyoto, Pusan and Beijing before arriving inUB.

[This is not unusually large for a Presidential party, especially since the trip includes the APEC Summit as well as working visits to Japan, Korea and China. When Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited UB in 1998, her party numbered around 250 people.]

The White House characterizes this trip as a "working visit," not a "State Visit." The Administration said that Bush was coming to Mongolia at the invitation of President N.Enkhbayer, who himself first met with President Bush in the fall of 2001 as Prime Minister, soon after Mongolia became the first Asian country to offer support to the US following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

President Bush will deliver an address in the newly-refurbished auditoriumin Government House, which will be broadcast live on Mongolian TV. He will hold separate meetings with President N.Enkhbayar and Prime Minister Ts.Elbegdorj and meet with Mongolian soldiers who served in Iraq and their families to thank them. Mongolia maintains a force of over 130 peacekeepers in Iraq, which distinguished itself by adroitly interdicting a terrorist assault on US troops. The White House said the President and First Lady Laura Bush will also visit a "traditional Ger village" and see a cultural performance that includes Mongolian throat singing and horse-head fiddle playing.

Despite Ambassador Pam Slutz's best efforts, it proved impossible to carve out time in the President's schedule to meet with the NAMBC -- or even just American ex-pats working in Mongolia.

Buyant-Ukhaa International Airport will be hard-pressed during the visit by the number of Boeing 747 planes carrying the President's party. Regular commercial air traffic will be delayed or grounded. One US plane will be carrying the President's specially made bullet-proof limousine, which the Secret Service requires on every trip. Security experts tell us US fighter jets will be circling UB to protect Air Force One.

An advance team of about 250 Secret Service officers and staff arrived in Ulaanbaatar 10 days ago. Among their requests was to immediately repair potholes on the road between the airport and the city so that the President's motorcade can race into the city at top speed. Mongolian police and security forces will closely patrol the shoulders -- primarily to stop itinerant cows or sheep from wandering into the roadway. For security reasons, when moving the President by car, the Secret Service prefers to travel at the maximum safe speed. Even in Washington, DC, when the President goes to Capitol Hill from the White House, streets are closed off to all other traffic briefly so that the motorcade can move at 60 MPH or faster. Security will be tight on November 21.

Bush is the first US President to visit Mongolia. US Vice President Henry Wallace, who served under President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his third term, visited Mongolia during World War II. Secretaries of State James Baker and Madeleine Albright visited during the Bush-41 and Clinton Administrations, respectively. In 1995, Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) visited Mongolia as First Lady. Twenty-eight years before he was elected President, Herbert Hoover visited Mongolia when he was working in China as a mining engineer and President Jimmy Carter visited Mongolia 24 years after the left the White House.

BUSH AGENDA IN UB --- The simple fact and symbolism of the Bush visit to Mongolia is probably more significant than any specific issues that might be discussed. One retired Chinese diplomat told us, "That your President detours to visit a country with a population smaller than metropolitan Washington, DC, says a lot to Moscow and Beijing all by itself. It is a message like thunder."

Although there is still some hope that President Bush might announce some progress towards signing a Millennium Challenge Account compact, the President's remarks in a seven-minute on-camera interview with UB's EagleTV on November 8 appeared to signal that an MCA compact was not imminent.

According to Agence France Presse, Bush "warned Mongolia that there 'should be no corruption in government,' if it wanted to receive American aid." As a matter of policy, countries eligible for MCA grants have experienced reductions in the level of normal USAID grants; Mongolia's annual USAID allocation has dropped to US$7 million from US$12 million.

Bush also told Eagle-TV: "I will say on your TV screens, there should be no corruption in government, that one of the foundations of any government is the ability for the people to trust the government, itself...A foundation of our foreign policy, and a foundation of our Millennium Challenge Account is that there be honest government." Bush described Mongolia as "a friend" but then went on to say, "On the other hand, we will insist that as a condition of the Millennium Challenge checks being written that there be honest government, that there be investment in health and education of the people, that there be a dedication to rule of law and to the marketplace." Bush concluded by commenting that "I think investments will help the people of Mongolia. In other words, there's a way for people in America --businesses, for example -- to invest in Mongolia, because that means jobs and stability and a good'll find Americans are very compassionate people that love freedom. And they want to help people be free. And by the way, your form of government is democracy, but it ought to reflect your traditions and your great history. And I know it is. Listen, I'm looking forward to going to your wonderful country. It's going to be a fantastic experience. I'm excited, I truly am excited to come."

The National Security Council Asia Director, Dr. Michael Greene, responded to an email question on the White House website recently about why the President was going to Mongolia: "In Mongolia the President will congratulate the Mongolian people on the progress they have made to become a mature and stable democracy and he will thank them for their role in Iraq. Per capita only two other countries have sent more of their soldiers to help the Iraqi people establish a democratic and stable nation. It is young democracies like Mongolia's that often understand freedom the most, and the President wants to say thank you. He also wants to demonstrate that even remote countries have a strong friend in the United States when they embark on the path of reform and good governance.

No comments: