Mongolia's New President Is a Huge Putin Fan

He likes Putin so much he went to the trouble of photoshopping images of himself with the Russian president to use in the campaign

MORE: Politics

Eurasia doesn't lack for pro-Russian politicians but Mongolia's new president takes it to another level. He was so eager to present himself as the pro-Russian candidate that his campaign released photographs of him and Vladimir Putin—even though the two have actually never met: 

During his election campaign, Battulga made concerted efforts to associate himself not only with Russia, but personally with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The case was made with campaign materials depicting Battulga and Putin together, despite no known history of any connection between the two.

More curiously, a Mongolian Democratic Party newsletter published photos of Putin and Battulga shaking hands at center stage during a formal event in the Kremlin. Experts and independent observers have questioned the authenticity of the photos, with the photographer who worked the event for the Russian news agency RIA Novosti claiming he had no record of such a meeting taking place. Just days before the election, it was reported that representatives from United Russia, Russia’s ruling party, met with Battulga.

The new president's platform was a populist one playing up suspicions of China and promising more Russia ties for security and balance—which plays well in the country:

Battulga has matched his pro-Russian platform with hostility toward China, repeatedly referring to “threats” emanating from the east. In 2014 he openly questioned Mongolia’s economic dependence on the country: “The resources will finish in 40 to 50 years and there will definitely be conflict between the Mongolians and the Chinese.”


Despite China’s critical importance to Mongolia’s economy, Russian influence is, for historical reasons, more welcomed. Historical memory of Mongolia’s time as a Chinese province from 1691 to 1911 runs deep. In 2004, in a widely-cited national poll, Mongolians were asked to choose two countries they considered the best potential partners for Mongolia. Russia came in first place, receiving twice as many votes as the second place United States. China came in a distant fourth, following Japan.

Moscow will welcome the rise of such a pro-Russian politician, but won't be interested in getting into any anti-Chinese squabbles.

MORE: Politics