As they ponder ways to develop Mongolia’s abundant natural resources, political leaders in Ulaanbaatar are opting for more expensive infrastructure options in order to bolster the country’s sovereignty.
The leadership’s sovereignty concerns were evident in the recent announcement that a railroad spur leading from the country's largest coal mine would link into the country’s domestic railroad network, rather than go directly to China. If completed as currently planned, the spur would go against the advice of international financial institutions that say the Chinese route would be far cheaper. Mongolian officials have emphasized that the domestic route would better protect Ulaanbaatar from possible Chinese economic and political pressure.
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Joshua Kucera is a Washington, DC,-based freelance writer who specializes in security issues in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East.