Between the two great powers
The Mongol Empire once ruled half of Eurasia, although the area of present-day Mongolia is significant – more than 1.5 million square kilometers, making it the 18th largest country in the world – Its population is only 3.5 millionAnd its economic power is very low.
However, due to its location, it is of geopolitical importance to the two major powers because it borders Russia in the north and China in the south.
Mongolia does not have a sea, so geographically, its two dictatorial neighbors are increasingly close to each other, while the country has been a functioning democracy since 1992 with a genuine parliamentary transition economy.
After more than two centuries of Chinese rule, Mongolia declared its independence after the fall of the Chinese Empire in 1911, and after a tumultuous decade, it came under Soviet influence before being officially established in 1924. People’s Republic of Mongolia, The second longest socialist country in the world after the Soviet Union. Mongolia until the fall of the empire It was part of the Soviet interest. In 1949 Mao Zedong Under the leadership of the People’s Republic of China, but relations between Moscow and Beijing deteriorated over time, making Mongolia an important stumbling block for the Soviet Union against China. The Mongolian People’s Republic was not a member of the Warsaw Pact, but a member of the CMEA, Moscow’s federal economic body.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Republic of Mongolia was declared in 1992, after which Russian influence waned considerably. It is open to its southern neighbor China, Which over time became one of its most important economic partners. However, there was also the dependence on Russia: Mongolia has 98 percent of its fuel in its northern neighbors Kapja. But for Moscow, the worldview is paramount Earth is of strategic importance: This is indicated in 2020 Comprehensive strategic partnership Connected together. Mongolia still uses the Cyrillic script, which was official in socialist times, but since 2025, in addition to Cyrillic, the traditional Mongolian script has become mandatory in official documents.
The fact that Mongolian Buddhism is a branch of Tibetan Buddhism is a consistent source in relations with China. Dalai Lamat is also considered to be the spiritual leader of more than half the population of the country, the Mongol Buddhists. The Dalai Lama has visited Mongolia several times Provoked The anger of the Chinese Communist leadership against Ulan Bator has led Beijing to take temporary sanctions against it.
War in Ukraine
Although Mongolia is a functioning democracy, a multi-party system and a semi-presidential system with a real parliamentary transition economy, it is surrounded by two neighboring countries, where the scenario of pluralistic democracy exists or not. This ability alone does not endanger Mongolian democracy
Its geopolitical environment makes it impossible for Ulaanbaatar to maintain close relations with other democracies in the world.
Nevertheless, in recent decades, Mongolia has sought to open up to other countries: the so-called “Third Neighbor” Mainly approached Japan, South Korea and the United States. Although Russian culture had a decisive influence on Mongolian society during the socialist period, the younger generation was already more focused on Western culture. However, its geographical location significantly reduces the potential of the two countries caught in the fire, first witnessed by the corona virus epidemic and later by the Russian war in Ukraine. In connection with.
Ulan Bator took a cautious stance after the invasion of Ukraine:
He did not condemn the invasion, but the UN. Did not vote on the ballot, calling it war or aggression, but “military action” and “armed struggle” and did not impose sanctions on Russia.
Despite the small anti-war protests in the country since the outbreak of the invasion, the Mongols have a fundamentally positive attitude towards the Russians, so anti-war sentiment has not developed. The Mongolian People’s Party has good relations with the Mongolian Communist Party, which has been in power since 2016 with an absolute majority. Vladimir Putin With its party United Russia.
To Mongolia Is the question now, Could it be in a balance that clearly does not support Russia or openly supports Moscow’s geopolitical aspirations? Moscow’s close ties with Beijing and the coercion of the two major powers into a third member of the Western opposition coalition are a very dangerous scenario for Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia So far the military has continued to maintain neutralityWhile economically dependent on its two neighbors.
Russian gas pipeline through Mongolia
Mongolia seems to be maintaining its current neutral position, while at the same time serving the interests of its two largest neighbors to some extent, while at the same time benefiting itself.
Four days after the outbreak of the Ukrainian invasion Mongolia has signed a memorandum of understanding with the so-called Siberian Power 2 Gas pipe In connection with, Which carries natural gas from Russia to China via Mongolia. It was first signed in August 2020 in a letter in the pipeline Alexei Miller President of Gosprom and Deputy Prime Minister of Mongolia. Between Russia and China, the Siberia Power 1 gas pipeline east of Mongolia is already operational, carrying 61 billion cubic meters of gas a year, of which 50 billion cubic meters will be added to the gas pipeline passing through Mongolia.
True, construction of a new gas pipeline is only planned for 2030,
But in the long run it will be of great strategic importance, especially in the meantime, as Europe continues to say goodbye to Russian natural gas, and the revenue lost here from Russia will be partially replaced by China.
By allowing the gas pipeline to be set up, Mongolia will, of course, arbitrarily serve the interests of Russia and China and the president of Western Russia’s efforts to weaken Russia, but the country of 3.5 million people has no choice but to face its two biggest problems. Next door.
Mongolia is committed to the universal values of independence and democracy. But his economy was not self-sufficient
– A former government official summed up the ambitious situation in Mongolia.
Others Comment However, the pipeline is a very bad deal for Mongolia, which receives a substantial loan from Russia to finance a portion of its costs, which it will then repay from its gas transportation charges. In doing so the country would place a considerable burden, bringing trade to zero, and would only be good for the cryptocurrency-Mongol political elite that Moscow had successfully sided with, apart from the Russians.
However, the pipeline would signify a commitment to Russia and China, and would certainly reduce Mongolia’s already shrinking chamber of maneuvering between the two major powers.
Cover image: Genghis Khan statue in the Mongolian jungle. Taylor Wheatman / Bloomberg via Getty Images