28th Feb 2024


Squeezed between China and Russia, Mongolia backs Ukraine

  • The Buryats, Kalmycks, Tuvans and other marginalised minorities have been used as cannon fodder (Photo: Wikimedia)
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As a democratically-elected president, I have a firm conviction in the cause of freedom, and in the power of the people, united as one, to defend it when under attack. This cause, and this faith, are now being tested on the blood-stained soil of Ukraine in a way we have not seen in many decades.

As the war in Ukraine grinds into its second year, the world's democracies must rally with even greater resolve to ensure that freedom is non-negotiable. The allied nations must give Ukraine the weapons it needs to win.

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  • Former PM and ex-president Elbegdorj Tsakhia: 'I know Putin does not tolerate freedom. I have sat with him on many occasions. He despises difference, and competition, he is a deep narcissist' (Photo: Wikimedia)

Tyrants are always obsessed with their own survival and longevity in power, not the prosperity of their people. Sooner or later, dictators become desperate, servicing their corrupted web of crooks.

I know Putin does not tolerate freedom. I have sat with him on many occasions. He despises difference, and competition. He fears a free Ukraine. As a deep narcissist, he could not allow a more successful and prosperous neighbour. A free, democratic Ukraine could represent a grave danger for his regime.

The Russian aggression against Ukraine did not happen out of the blue. It was the culmination of a decades-long battle between freedom and repression.

The frontline of this war runs well beyond Ukraine's devastated battlefields. It runs through Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. The conflict rages between humanity's best and worst instincts, between the free world and the suppressed. When Ukraine prevails, the forces of freedom will win everywhere, including in China and Russia.

Why neutral?

Many ask why, compared to Europe, most Asian countries tend to have a neutral position on Ukraine. The answer is simple. Sadly, the continent of Asia is also full of self-proclaimed rulers. In most cases, their governments lack legitimate representation. I know first-hand how important it is to stand firm on the principles and values you believe in engaging with more powerful, assertive neighbours.

Ukrainians are fighting for that very principle, which is why our support should be global and without condition.

The Kremlin propaganda machine is in full steam, blaming Ukraine even as Russian troops commit abominable war crimes against the Ukrainian people. In truth, no one is depriving Russia but the Kremlin. No one is depleting Russia's resources and potential but the Kremlin. No one started a war of aggression but the Kremlin. Finally, no one is calling for the inevitable demise of the Kremlin but — by its actions —the Kremlin.

In starting this war of aggression and then purposely brutalizing innocent civilians, the Kremlin leadership is guilty of serious international crimes. It has had no shame in bringing devastation and suffering to the most vulnerable. To the innocent children, elders, and families. And this horror is not solely present in war-torn territories. It is also present in Russia itself.

Ethnic-minority cannon fodder

Putin's so-called "partial" mobilisation has brought fear to Russia's most vulnerable, its ethnic minorities who have been disproportionately drafted and thrown to the frontline.

The Buryats, Kalmycks, Tuvans and other marginalised minorities have been used as cannon fodder. By local accounts, the Kremlin is committing textbook ethnic cleansing under the umbrella of a "special operation".

Under Putin's shadow, Russia's development has been set back a generation, and its politics have been frozen to the core.

The outspoken and brightest in Russia are mostly silenced. Many have fled, while the remaining brave people in Russia are still fighting against corruption and the deeply intimidating war while facing torture and jail. The world is not against the Russian people, but against the Kremlin's kleptocracy and atrocities.

Due to its geography, squeezed between China and Russia, the government of Mongolia is forced to perform a balancing act. However, public opinion in Mongolia resolutely condemns the brutal attack against this sovereign nation.

Mongolian history

When Adolf Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, the people of Mongolia united against this fascist invader. They showed solidarity with the Soviet people. If nomadic herders had over 100 horses, they sent more than half of their livestock to the Soviet Union. A quarter of all the horses on the Soviet frontline during World War II came from Mongolia. Mongolian gold and hard currency reserves were donated to the Soviet war effort, and meat to the front line.

When the Soviets launched a counter-offensive against German forces on the outskirts of Moscow during the bitter winter of 1941, most of the Red Army wore warm uniforms made from cattle stocks in Mongolia.

It is in this same spirit that today, the people of Mongolia stand against the Kremlin's war on Ukraine.

The West should do what the Mongols did, and act like the Mongols acted. President Zelensky is still begging for fighter jets and longer-range missiles to protect his innocent people. Ukrainians are paying the ultimate price for our freedom. They are sacrificing everything precious to them, not just to defend their sovereignty and democracy, but to restore the damaged world order.

Western leaders might have time to wait. But a wounded Ukraine has no time to wait. Those who snatched Ukrainian territories, cities, and villages are not waiting. The killers, rapists, and looters are not waiting. Putin is not waiting.

Ukraine needs wings and missiles to defeat Russia's death squads. The only path to peace is through Ukraine's victory.

Author bio

Elbegdorj Tsakhia is the former prime minister and president of Mongolia, and a member of The Elders, a group of former global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela. Tsakhia is currently the Bernard and Susan Liautaud visiting fellow at Stanford University.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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