A Country Key to Balance of Power in Eurasia: Mongolia

Nuri YILDIRIM, Turkish Ambassador to Mongolia (Retired) Dursun YILDIZ Water Policy Expert Mongolia, lying in the north of Central Asia between China and Russia, is an underpopulated country which possesses a wide range of territories. It is surrounded by plains and range of mountains with its people leading a nomadic life until recently in tents called Yurt, however transitioned to settled life on a large scale in recent years. Harsh continental climate characterized by extremely low rainfall prevails in Mongolia along with frequent and widespread fluctuations in temperature. Having lived intertwined with the Turks in the history, this people differentiate from the Turkic race both by the language they speak and the physical features. Having long lived under Chinese domination, Mongols took an important step towards independence by a plebiscite conducted in 1945, and got in on the act in the United Nations in 1961, then by removing the locution of “people’s” from the name of the country “People’s Republic of Mongolia” making significant strides in the path of development. In foreign policy of Mongolia, landlocked and surrounded by the world's two great powers, China and Russia play a decisive role. Mongolia's biggest problem was how to cope with these two neighbors in the early 1990’s after the democratic revolution. Critical Balance Policy between Russia and China Mongolia has embraced a principle to stand at an equal distance from the two neighbors and establish a balance between the two countries, because it believes will lose if it remains closer to either one of the parties. Although Mongolia's political relations with Russia and China is at a very good level, its dependence on a large scale on these two countries challenges its foreign policy. Importing oil from Russia with a dependence of 90 percent, Mongolia exports coal solely to China. It can be said that China has a more influence on Mongolia than that of Russia. Mongolia, having realized investments before 1990 in Russia, the investment rate of which has declined after the 1990s. Correspondingly having weak relations with China before the 1990s, Mongolia's investments have increased in China. In addition to establishing a balance between the two neighboring countries, Mongolia has given priority creatingtertiaryneighboring countries in its foreign policy. In 2011, Mongolia set the European Union, the United States, Japan, South Korea and Turkey to be its tertiaryneighboring countries. Mongolia takes Turkey's parliamentary system and its democracy as an example to itself. Assuming Turkey's relations with NATO and its proximity to the European Union as a model, Mongolia is in close cooperation with Western international organizations within the framework of its new strategy. Mongolia, becoming NATO's global partner in 2012, was admitted as a member of the OSCE in November 2012. Mongolian troops serving under ISAF umbrella with NATO and assigning a military adviser in UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan), the UN's largest political mission, in Afghanistan, Mongolia has sent troops to African countries, Kosovo and Iraq as part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force. In an area five times bigger the size of Germany with an only 2.7 million population, Mongolia is a rich country in mining, copper and coal. Economy demonstrated a growth of 17 % in the last two years. Mongolia turns towards not only its own internal problems but regional issues as well. It has been trying to be more active in Northeast Asia. Water Resources adsız Selenga (Selenge) River, which is the largest river in Mongolia accumulates the waters of an area of about 282,000 km² in the North Central part.  Many tributaries primarily Delger, Ider and Orkhon feed Selenge, which is a transboundry water that disembogues Lake Baikal in Russia. Onon and Kerulin rivers passing in the east of the country merge with rivers outside the borders of Mongolia which disembogue Pacific Ocean. Hovd River, which takes its source from glaciers in the Altai Mountains disembogue Lake Har Us. Particularly, there are many small streams that feed the lakes in the northern part, and seasonal surface waters in the south, well, where predominantly groundwater is present wither in the desert. Hovsgol, the deepest lake (238 m) in the Central Asia, is, well, the country's largest fresh water lake. Water Supply and Environmental Health Mongolia has very significant water supply, environmental sanitation and waste water problems. 70% of the population living in the country supply their water from the wells they drill or from the state's water supply centers. adsız Water Supply Centers in Mongolia Only 31% of the country's population has piped water supply networks, while 25% of the population receives water from the water tanks, 36% gets water from distribution centers, and 9% uses the waters of the springs. Water Use Mongolia uses approximately 540 million m3 of water annually. Out of 80% of this is used in industry and agriculture, while 20% is used as drinking water. A large portion of water being used is groundwater. Waters of 28 rivers are contaminated as a result of mine production of gold in the upper basin in Mongolia. Mongolia's Transboundary Waters From Mongolia emerges about 210 large and small streams which flow into China and Russia. The primary objective of Mongolia on transboundary waters is that these waters be used with its neighbors in a fair and rational manner with one accord. Considering the riparian countries being Russia and China, power asymmetry on this issue can be said to be effective in this calculation. Selenge River between Mongolia and Russia being a transboundary water is of great importance for both countries. Mongolia struck its first agreement on transboundary waters​​ with Russia in 1974 for the waters of this river. Then, these two countries further signed an agreement for the protection of the waters of 100 small streams in the west of Mongolia in 1995. 32% of the total river basins in Mongolia consists of basins of transboundary waters with Russia. In 1994, China and Mongolia signed an agreement to protect transboundaryKherl, Bulgan and Khalkh rivers as well as waters of 87 small lakes near the border. adsız Border intersection site of Mongolia, China and Russia Water Resources in the Turkey-Mongolia Relations In Turkey Mongolia relations, the field of water resources development plays a very big role as well as other areas. In this context, Forestry and Water Affairs Minister VeyselEroglu had made a visit to Mongolia with a delegation to negotiate for cooperation on projects to bring water from long distances, environment, afforestation and forestry in 2009. Then at the end of 2010, Minister VeyselEroğlu held a talk with Minister of Environment of Mongolia LuimedGanskhuk about “Orkhun Gobi Multi-Purpose Water Distribution Project” which was planned to be implemented in Mongolia. Mongolia, through a dam on Orkhun River with Orkhun Gobi Project, wants to generate hydroelectric power, as well as to bring the collected water to mine production areas in the south of Mongolia. Cost of the project which also aims at irrigation and drinking water supply, has been set at $ 600 million. In this regard, Mongolia demands technical support and assistance from Turkey. Turkey supports Mongolia in the feasibility study of this project. TIKA is also involved in the project which has a great importance for the development of Mongolia. Feasibility studies of the project which was planned to be constructed on Build Operate Transfer Model have already started with signing a protocol between the Ministries of Environment of the two countries. adsız The Geopolitics, Economy and Foreign Policy Strategy of Mongolia Having declared its independence from China in 1921, Mongolia entered the sphere of influence of Soviet Union with the government it created after the support from the Bolsheviks. It was recognized by China in 1946 and admitted to the United Nations in 1960. Mongolia have shown an existence as a satellite of Moscow in the international system during the Cold War and served as a buffer zone between Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. Mongolia entered a period of economic stagnation as a result of the discontinuation of financial support from the Soviets when the Cold War ended. During this period, it tried to switch to a market economy and began to recover from Russian influence. The liberal economic reforms in 1996 facilitated the establishment of a free market economy in Mongolia where adaptation problems were experienced in the early stages. adsız Having been increasingly gotten under the economic influence of China in the post-Cold War era due to its geographical proximity, Mongolia realized that it would be able to protect its political and economic independence through developing strong relationships with tertiarycountries other than Russia and China. Mongolia have begun to develop bilateral relations primarily with the U.S., Canada, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands in line with "tertiaryneighbors" strategy, and invited and encouraged these countries to make investments in Mongolia. adsız The Geopolitics of Mongolia Mongolia, with an area of 1,564,000 km2 and about a population of 2.8 million, is a country which has the largest soil on earth compared to its population. In Mongolia where 30% of the population is still nomadic and semi-nomadic, 90% of the population is composed of Mongols. Close to 70% of the Mongols are Kalka and the rest are Zakhchin Mongols. Kazakhs constitute 6% of Mongolia's population and 4% accounts for Russian, Chinese, Korean and other ethnic elements. Sphere of influence of Mongols in the process of history comprises the areas outside the territory of Mongolia today which are located within the boundaries of Russia and China. In the Autonomous Republic of Tuva in Russia, Buryatia region in the south of Siberia and in the Inner Mongolia in China have been living Mongols. Modern Mongolia is only a part of the world of Mongols. The world of Mongols in the Eurasian geography corresponds to a belt extending from the Korean peninsula in the east to the Caspian Sea in the west. Although the idea of regaining the old Mongolian territory began to prevail in the wake of the independence in Mongolia, Pan-Mongolism was suppressed on the Soviet-era political ground. However, it has been seen that the discourse of Mongol nationalism after 1990 has intensified. adsız Located in central eastern Asia, Mongolia has borders only with the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China. Transports and visits to be conducted to Mongolia from tertiarycountries through air and ground are dependent on Russia or China keeps open their airspace and groundway. Likewise, Mongolia is located in a position that it can only open up to the world over Russia and/or China. The balance of power in the region is an important element which makes Mongolia dependent on Moscow and Beijing. Mongolia is located between Russia and China which have substantial force multipliers and strategic depth compared with itself. Mongolia is under Russia's influence in the field of energy and defense, while is under China’s sphere of influence in the field of economy. China's enormous population has been deepening asymmetry of power between Ulaanbaatar-Beijing. Implementing its foreign policy applications taking into account the responses of Russia and China, Mongolia refrains from policies that retain potential to provoke exclusively these two countries. However, Ulaanbaatar does not wish to remain completely dependent on both or either one of these two countries, and is working to expand relations with tertiarycountries. On the other hand, buffer zone role between two powerful countries like Russia and China brings a critical position to Mongolia in the geopolitics of Eurasia. To be a bordering country with Russia and China, influential on the current balance in the world,which give direction to the Eurasian geopolitics makes Mongolia a precious actor both before these two countries and the United States and other Western countries. Mongolia which totally comes under the influence of China might disturb Moscow, just as Mongolia behaving under the control of Russia as it did during the Cold War period can evoke anxiety on Beijing. Mongolia, developing high-level relations with the Western countries, particularly with the United States might as well cause concern in both Russia and China. Mongolia's Economy The United States, Japan, Germany and Canada provided financial support to Mongolia falling into great economic difficulties after the collapse of the USSR. After an unstable period in the first half of the 1990s, Mongolian economy materialized reforms during 1996-2000 which enabled transition to free market economy and began to recover. Becoming a country which had the biggest growing economy in the world with a ratio of 17.5% in 2011, Mongolia recorded double-digit growth rate at a level of 12%.  Based on World Bank’s expectations from the increase in the proceeds from the export of underground resources, the growth rate in Mongolia in 2013 exceeded 20%. Mongolia has agriculture, livestock and mining based economy. In the country where arable land is quite limited and the nomadic way of life still continues, stock farming is quite extensive. Mongolia has copper, gold and underground mineral resources such as coal, and is the 8th biggest country in the world to have uranium. China is Mongolia's largest trade partner. 92% of Mongolia's total exports are made to China. Chinese products account for 40% of total imports. In Mongolia's total imports, Russia takes its place followed by China the largest share. Having a very low energy production, Mongolia imports more than 90% of oil from Russia. Therefore, Mongolia can be said that is entirely dependent on Russian oil. It is seen that the U.S. and Japan perform the most of the import subsequent to China and Russia. Relations with China 4,700 km long border between Mongolia and China leads to an interdependence between the two countries and gives strategic importance to the bilateral relations. Mongolia aims to develop trade relations with the north and Southeastern Asian countries, and needs China's airspace and ground to reach out these countries. China having borders both with Kazakhstan and Russia, Mongolia’s geographical location is not as vital at the same level before Beijing. However, Beijing government is watchfully engrossed in Mongolia for the reason that the developments in Mongolia which is close to the center of mainland China may have consequences that could affect China. Power asymmetry between the two countries and growing dependence of Mongolia to China in the aftermath of the Cold War continue to pose concerns about the independence of Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia's relations with the U.S. it will develop in line with tertiaryneighbor strategy may trigger the psychology of containment in China. Therefore, the balance of a neutral foreign policy is vital for Mongolia. China's interests on Mongolia is founded on the impartiality of Ulaanbaatar. Overturn of its policy of neutrality even in favor of Beijing may result in the U.S. and Russia to put pressure on China, and threat perception from Beijing. People's Republic of China is currently at position of being Mongolia's largest trade partner. China is also the largest foreign investor in Mongolia. Chinese entrepreneurs' investments in Mongolia constitute about 50% of foreign investments. China turned privatization projects Ulaanbaatar materialized during the period of transition to a free market economy into an opportunity and launched numerous investments in Mongolia. However, China's economic influence on Mongolia and activities on mineral resources cause discontent in Mongolian society, and push Mongolian decision-makers to adopt measures to rein China. Whilst the of Mongolia's concept of foreign policy and security strategy in the 1990s were based on decreasing dependence on Russia, the concept currently being implemented is China based and the National Security Strategy is handled in this context. According to the new National Security Strategy carried out since 2010, no country will exceed 1/3 of foreign investments out of those coming to Mongolia. It is assessed that this strategy was instigated towards China which held 50% of the foreign investments in Mongolia. Relations with Russia Having ensured independence from China under the influence of Soviet Russia, Mongolia escaped unharmed from the Japanese threat under the auspices of the USSR during the Second World War. It became dependent on Soviet system while making China recognize its independence. Mongolia-Russia relations paused during the collapse of the USSR, but has been revived. Moscow is still the closest and most trusted friend of Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia serves as a hallway in Russia's trade with China. Defense industry and energy are at the forefront in the bilateral trade. It has been observed that the former allies have been getting closer to each other with bilateral relations revived with the Putin's era, and Mongolia sees relations with Russia more positively rather than Chinese influence. Moscow does not want the United States to have an influence on Mongolia within its framework of initiative of expansion of the Euro-Atlantic security system to the eastward. Ulaanbaatar, as well, does not want to totally come under the influence of China, and strives to reach out to global markets over the territories of Russia. It is seen that military cooperation between Mongolia-Russia has developed and combined military exercises have been conducted with the advent of Putin's era. Weapons systems and military equipment such as aircraft and tanks in the inventory of Mongolian Armed Forces are largely Russian origin. It was decided with an agreement signed in 2008, maintenance and repair of Mongolian military equipment would be done by Russia. Mongol military students are studying in Russian military academy. Trade relations between Mongolia and Russia is of great importance for the two countries. Russian products constitute 32% of Mongolia's total imports. Mongolia procures 90% of its fuel need from the Russian Rostneft company. Russia is interested in mineral deposits in Mongolia, particularly the uranium resources. 49% of Erdenet, the largest copper-producing region of Mongolians, is operated by Russians. Russian investments constitute 2% of the total foreign investments in overall Mongolia. While railways linking Mongolia and Russia allow strengthening the trade relations between the two countries, they serve Russia to reach out the Chinese market, and Mongolia to access the world markets as well. Tertiary Neighbors Considering geopolitical realities in the post-Cold War period, Mongolia came to a decision where its national independence would be able to be secured only by holding its dependence on China and Russia at a manageable level and by contacting with countries other than these two. In this context, it has directed to establish relations with countries other than China and Russia at a level and in a content not to provoke these two countries. Mongolia, in line with this strategy, has been paying attention to develop commercial-diplomatic-military relations with countries such as primarily USA, Canada, Japan, the EU, South Korea and Australia, with international organizations such as NATO and the EU. Japan, Canada, USA and South Korea were the countries providing support to Mongolia in the process it had leaved socialist regime. It is observed that the U.S. stands out in relationships Mongolia established among tertiaryneighbors. Mongolia is trying to involve the United States which it sees as a security partner in regional competition. Small-scale military exercises which was started in 1994 has now gained an international dimension with the name "Khan Quest". All the exercises Mongolia has conducted have been performed on the consent of China and Russia. Being aware of the limits arising from its geographical location, Mongolia is careful not to draw reactions from its two powerful neighbors in partnerships developed with tertiarycountries. Russia and China are uncomfortable with the interests, investments and combined military exercises of the United States in Mongolia. Undeniably, however it was contradictory to its policy of neutrality, Mongolia sent military force of 1000 in the process of the invasion of Iraq by the United States, and showed it sided with it. Furthermore, the Mongol forces have shown presence in Afghanistan since 2003. Washington vowed military aid and sent grants to Mongolia in exchange for this military contributions. Mongolia has an important position in the strategies the US developed for the Eastern Asia-Pacific Region. This importance is increasing together with China's impact on the global level is crystallizing. Mongolia has developed strong business relations with Canada in North America. Canadian companies operate 2,500 hectares of uranium area in Northeastern Mongolia (OyuTolgoy). Mongolia-India bilateral relations are improved. Ulaanbaatar government applied to many organizations in order to advance its relations with the international organizations. Regarding membership to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN +6) which is world's largest open market, as an opportunity to develop relations with wealthy Southeast Asian states, Mongolia  has been taking steps in this direction and has strived to develop relations with South Asian countries in all fields. On the other hand, the Mongol Government applying for participation to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) continues its position as the potential candidate. In addition to this, Ulaanbaatar closely monitoring Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which Turkey is in the dialogue has an observer status in this organization. Assuming an active role in regional organizations such as Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Asian Union, and East Asia Community, Mongolia sees its national interests in the continuation of peace and stability in the region. In the process of reaching out to the world through Ulaanbaatar’s tertiaryneighborhood strategy in the post-Cold War period, many non-governmental organizations operating on the international scale has begun to show presence in Mongolia. A great deal of assistance was provided to Mongolia, which evolved into reformation in many fields after the socialist regime, particularly in education through civil society. However, Mongolian society in general reflects that Western origin civil society institutions are doing missionary work, trying to establish influence on young people, and is skeptical particularly of organizations with religious affiliations. New Asia, New Russia, New World and Mongolia Mongolia is located in a very unique geography. This geography entails Mongolia to be dependent on China and Russia. This circumstance has led Mongolia to a foreign policy strategy which envisages cooperation with tertiarycountries other than these two countries. Mongolia, with tertiaryneighbor strategy it developed and began to implement in the aftermath of the Cold War strives to establish strong relations with tertiarycountries other than China and Russia and draw down particularly the China's influence to a manageable level. It is observed that, in line with the tertiaryneighbor strategy, Mongolia join forces particularly with the United States, Canada, South Korea, India, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands, and encourages these countries to make investments. Mongolia aims to reduce dependence on China by contributions to its developing mineral resources based economy from investors other than Russia and China, and to maintain its independence between the two global powers. Mongolia, a key country in the Eurasian balance of power, needs to improve its water resources in the process of maintaining its independence. Mongolia, where water resources are being contaminated by mines, has been establishing relations with Turkey in this context. Geopolitical importance of Eurasia has been increasing rapidly due to Russia's aggressions recently. Mongolia will play a very critical and a key role in the new balance of power here. Therefore, Mongolia should be very prepared for accelerated developments in the region in terms of economic stability of Mongolia and tertiaryneighboring countries strategy. Mongolia's geopolitics will stand out significantly and will play a key role for the balance of power in the region and stability of Asia in the equation of New Russia, New Asia, and New World. References (1) ÖmerFaruk TÜRK, 2013" The Geopolitics, Economy and Foreign Policy Strategy of Mongolia" April 24, 2013 (2) Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mongolian's Foreign Policy in the Political Field, 24/02/2011 (3) The World Bank, Mongolia Data, http://data.worldbank.org/country/mongoli (Access 05/26/2014) (4) Mongolian Faces Critical Water shortfall UNEP Report Warns Urgent Action Needed to Protect Country's Water Supply
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