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Mongolia: Russia’s Next Target

April 1st, 2014 No comments
Mongolia

Mongolia would represent an over 10% increase to Russia’s total land area.

Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea only weeks ago, many commentators and policymakers in the West have been wondering what Putin will do next. World leaders warned against any further incursions into Ukraine, Latvia and Estonia fretted about their future, and others wondered if Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria (still sporting a hammer and sickle-adorned flag) would be next.

Unfortunately, this Eurocentric point-of-view caught most of us flat-footed at the news that Russian troops began appearing across the Mongolian border today, following minor protests over irregularities in the country’s parliamentary election. Putin declared that the Russian soldiers have merely entered the country as “peacekeepers” in what is becoming an increasingly predictable charade.

Before jumping to any conclusions about these actions, it is important to understand that the recent history of Mongolia has been inseparably linked to that of Russia, much like Ukraine. In the 1920s, in an attempt to wrest control from China, Mongolian revolutionaries looked to the Soviet Union for help, and the Mongolian People’s Party was formed. This new political force took over control of Mongolia, and from 1924 through 1990, the country was a “People’s Republic,” introducing a Cyrillic script and taking marching orders from Moscow.

Milking Yak

Russia seeks to control Mongolia’s lucrative yak milk industry.

There are numerous reasons for Putin to take these actions now. First is historical: John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, has said this is just another example of Putin trying to “put Humpty Dumpty together again.” Second is the geostrategic perspective: Mongolia serves as a buffer between the nothing in northern China and the jack squat in southeastern Russia. Third, there are the resources to consider: according to Laura Puls, Keeper of Knowledge at the Council on Foreign Relations, Mongolia produces 98% of the world’s yak milk. This, along with Mongolia’s booming supply of yurts and grass, make it an enticing target for Russia’s outward expansion.

When pressed on the decision to invade Mongolia, Russian military leaders said they have a right to protect ethnic Russians, and pointed at Yuri, Mongolia’s ethnic Russian. Yuri could not be reached for comment.

Mongolia’s new parliament has drafted a referendum to take place later in April, under the guidance of Russian officials, which will give Mongolians two choices: they can either agree to be annexed by Russia or agree to return to the 1960 Mongolian constitution, which affirms the importance of the “fraternal socialist assistance of the Soviet Union” to growth and development in Mongolia.

Happy April Fools’ Day everybody 😀