Mongolian Minister Says Keeping Russia-China Balance Opportunity, Not Challenge

Mongolian Minister Says Keeping Russia-China Balance Opportunity, Not Challenge

Mongolia, which has traditionally enjoyed close cooperation with Russia, hardly sees any challenge associated with China's increased influence over the country and the region as a whole, and is taking advantage of working with both Moscow and Beijing, especially in the economic sector, Mongolian Foreign Minister Damdin Tsogtbaatar told Sputnik in an interview.

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 12th September, 2018) Mongolia, which has traditionally enjoyed close cooperation with Russia, hardly sees any challenge associated with China's increased influence over the country and the region as a whole, and is taking advantage of working with both Moscow and Beijing, especially in the economic sector, Mongolian Foreign Minister Damdin Tsogtbaatar told Sputnik in an interview.

Tsogtbaatar, a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, took office as the Mongolian foreign minister in 2017, prior to which he held various civil service posts both in Mongolia and abroad. Previously, he served as state secretary of the Mongolian Foreign Affairs Ministry, the environment and tourism minister, as well as the construction and urban development minister.

A warming of ties between Russia and China on Mongolia has recently been observed in international relations, with the three countries even sealing their commitments to one another by holding the Vostok-2018 large-scale international military exercises in Russia's Zabaikalsky Territory. This, coupled with economic ties, is just more proof of the comprehensive cooperation between the states.

In his interview with Sputnik, Tsogtbaatar spoke about how Mongolia was managing the balance between the region's if not the world's two major powers against the backdrop of China's rising influence over the country.

"These are global changes. It would not be wise to go up against this global change. It's happening. Whether you're a big country or small country, global processes that are going with its objective drive, no one can change. What you can do is shape it in the form that benefits you," the minister stated.

He added that China's growth contributed to the growth of the entire Asian region, something which was especially apparent during the crisis of the late 2000s.

"For example, in 2009, the global crisis really hit Mongolia, but only for a year. Then it started to grow back again because Asia was still buying, China was still buying. China was keeping the balance. It was still on the path of growth. It was really balancing this negative impact globally, not only on Mongolia," Tsogtbaatar explained.

He stressed that Mongolia was trying to benefit from China's growth, adding that Russia considered also Beijing's concept of win-win growth appealing and forward-looking.

"We're listening to [China's proposals for shared destiny]. And Russia is also listening to it. Therefore, this expanded cooperation is unfolding ... Therefore, this is not a challenge, but an opportunity that we should be embracing," the minister stressed.

Tsogtbaatar emphasized that Mongolia enjoyed a trust-based strategic partnership with both Russia and China.

"This [strategic partnership] is not just a word that describes the state of the relationship. That's because if we see it that way at top levels, there should be a lot of trust between our countries, for three countries to agree on this nature of relationship. When we're talking about this trust-based relationship, it's very expanded cooperation in all walks of fields: economy, politics, diplomacy, culture, etc. It's very comprehensive," the minister stressed.

According to Tsogtbaatar, while the two neighbors had the same influence over Mongolia's economy, the character of these two economic partnerships was qualitatively different.

"We enjoy a trade surplus with China.

Whereas with Russia, we have very traditional long-standing cooperation. In terms of trade, it's also our biggest trading partner. But our trade with Russia has consistently been negative. Therefore, in order to decrease that trade surplus [of Russia], we want to export more to Russia, of course," the foreign minister indicated.

He revealed that Mongolia was working closely with Russia in order to reduce trade barriers between the two countries on a mutual and bilateral basis.

The Mongolian foreign minister also pointed to the expanded ties with China and Russia in the fields of education and culture to substantiate the multilateral nature of its partnerships with these two states.

"In terms of our culture cooperation, and our cooperation in the fields of science and education it's pretty expanded. Especially with Russia, we have traditional and long-standing cooperation. We have a lot of students that are studying here. It's the impact of the scholarship [given out] by the Russian government that is doing a great job of expanding our cooperation in the field of education," Tsogtbaatar stated.

The Mongolian foreign minister then went on to speak about projects that were appealing to all three countries, in particular, the Trans-Siberia transportation corridor to Mongolia.

"If China and Russia are expanding their trade, investments, and commercial cooperation, it creates a lot of drive for active cooperation. Therefore, we should tap into that potential. One of the things that would facilitate this enormous increase in investment and commerce would be logistics and service businesses. Mongolia is located right in between these two giant markets. We can provide logistic services and benefit from it," Tsogtbaatar suggested.

Another potentially beneficial area of trilateral cooperation mentioned by the minister was energy.

"In terms of power transmission lines, China is a growing economy. Its need for energy is growing day by day. It has to be met. Mongolia and Russia are good sources of energy. There's a good market and opportunity for cooperation," Tsogtbaatar stated.

He also indicated that the interests of the three states lay in developing highway systems, which could potentially cover not only the three countries but go beyond them to the Northeast Asian region.

"The third part is the highway systems. It's part of a much bigger infrastructure network and road. It's been envisioned multilaterally for Northeast Asia. It's not only of trilateral significance. All three of our countries are working on implementing this idea," Tsogtbaatar said.

Asked about why Mongolia had decided to take part in Vostok-2018, Tsogtbaatar explained that when two such major powers extended invitations to join them in military exercises, one would hardly hesitate.

"Both countries are our strategic partners. When both countries are conducting military exercises and they're inviting us. As a strategic partner located in between two of them, I will ask a question to you. If these two big countries are doing military exercises and they're inviting to be part of it openly, would you rather choose to be out or in? The answer is quite obvious," Tsogtbaatar argued.

He recalled that Mongolia had been developing defense ties with China quite successfully in recent years, while with Russia it had a long-term history of fruitful defense cooperation.

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