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April 30, 2023


I have had an extensive involvement in Mongolia dating back to the country’s first elected government following the dissolution of the former Soviet Union.  In fact, I just received my renewal U.S. State Department card recognizing my role as an Honorary Consul of Mongolia to the U.S. that goes back to that era.  Accordingly, I have had the vantage point of witnessing the country’s continuous evolution into a democracy.  Joey and I have a condominium there as the hotels were not quite Aman standard back in the old days.  Therefore, the Mongolian people are very special to me following lots of time in the formerly drab capital of Ulaanbaatar as well as travel all over the steppe by helicopter and the occasional horse.  Horses take much longer but air travel can be tricky as I survived one Mongolian helicopter crash in the steppe and a one wing/one wheel landing approach on an Air China aircraft into Ulaanbaatar.  Neither aircraft burned which is always a blessing. 


Mongolia has emerged from the historical dominance of the Russians while constantly being under the eyes of the Chinese.  A well-known Mongolian adage in the past was “As far as bad neighbors are concerned; Mongolia is very fortunate.” I also have spent many years on the ground in those two neighboring countries to echo that saying.  In fact, I have fished both Lake Hovsgol on the Russia border and Lake Buyr to the east on the Chinese border while producing oil south of Lake Buyr and moving it by truck into China to the south.  We were also a pioneer in oil privatizations in central Russia though I have never chosen to visit either neighbor unless it was necessary. 

Mongolia Map

Recently, The Diplomat published an interview with Elbegdorj Tsakhia of Mongolia. He was prime minister of Mongolia from 2004 to 2006 and president from 2009 to 2017.  Elbegdorj was a leader of the movement to overthrow the communist government of Mongolia in 1990 and draft their new constitution.  He clearly stated that “If Ukraine stops fighting, the free world will face continuous intimidation and extermination.” Elbegdorj is passionate in his views on freedom and candidly reflects his experiences with Vladimir Putin that Putin does not tolerate freedom.  I have known Elbegdorj for many years and greatly respect his firsthand comparisons of a free democracy relative to the totalitarian regimes of his neighbors.  We are shown below in 2009 when he presented me the Polar Star medal of Mongolia for my efforts to develop his country.

The Diplomat also published an article by Tuvshinzaya Gantulga entitled The War in Ukraine Could Formally End in Mongolia.  The thesis is Mongolia is in a unique position to facilitate talks between Ukraine and Russia.  The nature of high-stake negotiations to end a war are such that they should take place in a location where both sides feel comfortable.  Mongolia is the only true democracy in the continental Eurasian expanse ranging from South Korea to Ukraine.  Moreover, the Mongolian people were subjugated by the Russians for most of the twentieth century.  There are also close personal ties among Mongolia’s leaders who studied abroad in both Russia and Ukraine – two were trained in Russia and the other two were educated in Ukraine.  Ukrainian President Zelensky spent three years of his childhood in Mongolia as his father was instrumental in the development of the major Erdenet copper mine.


In modern times, President Zelensky, shown below, is stressing the importance of holding the eastern city of Bakhmut, saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin will smell weakness if the city falls.

At the end of the day, if by some chance the Russians were to succeed in the capture of Bakhmut, the image below clearly shows that it is a pyrrhic victory as the city has been leveled by continued Russian bombardment coupled with a great loss of Russian lives.  Totalitarian regimes can never grasp the passion and resistance of true democracies to abandon their individual freedoms to a dictator.  Democracies may not be perfect, but they are the best alternative. 

It is also clear that Putin is keeping a close eye on the failure of the stalemate at Bakhmut given the inability of the Russian military to effectively close out what Putin believed over a year ago would be a cakewalk for the Russians through Ukraine.  Clearly, he did not even comprehend the sacrifices the people of Ukraine would make to keep their freedoms following the creation of their democracy. The irony of the entire situation is that Russia assumed the presidency of the UN Security Council on April 1 for a one-month period which is about the most absurd April Fool’s joke in history. 

There is a further farcical side to this drama in that Putin is also keeping a close eye on the failure of his generals to overcome the resistance of Ukraine.  The current cross hairs in the scope are focused on the chief of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, shown below. Gerasimov became the overall commander of Putin’s war this year on January 11 and it is obvious to most viewers that he has failed miserably.  Look in his eyes and you can see the strain the man is facing. 

Okay Vladimir, how about you head over to Ulaanbaatar, meet with Zelensky and wrap up these troubles?  The best advice to you is simply declare victory and retreat in the dark of night – kind of like your experience in Afghanistan.  If you would be fearful of returning to Moscow, we can offer you a penthouse condominium free of charge overlooking the Gandan Monastery.  In fact, you might give the practice of Buddhism a spin to cleanse the bad memories of all the pain, suffering and deaths encountered by your fellow Russians following your orders to invade Ukraine. 

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