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By ELBEGDORJ Tsakhia. 

February 24, 2023. 

As a former president who was democratically elected, I have a firm conviction in the cause of freedom, and in the power of the people, united as one, to defend it when under attack. This cause, and this faith, are now being tested on the blood-stained soil of Ukraine in a way we have not seen in many decades. I am just back from the Munich Security Conference and want to convey that every person in Ukraine is a warrior. I had the privilege to meet several. They touched my heart.

The voice of the people and their resolve are far more powerful than any gunfire. Freedom is non-negotiable when it faces extermination. As the war in Ukraine grinds into its second year, the world’s democracies must rally with even greater resolve.

Freedom is an opportunity for all; despots offer solutions and opportunities that only comfort themselves. They claim they bring justice, but their justice is selective. They dictate their chosen way of life to others. Tyrants are always obsessed with their own survival and longevity in power, not the prosperity of their people. Sooner or later, dictators become desperate, servicing their corrupted web of crooks.

I know Putin does not tolerate freedom. I have sat with him on many occasions. He despises differences and competition. He fears a free Ukraine. As a deep narcissist, he could not allow a more successful and prosperous neighbor. A free, democratic Ukraine could represent a grave danger for his regime. 

The Russian aggression against Ukraine did not happen out of the blue. It was a pinnacle of long-fought rivalries between ideas of freedom and fists of repression. 

The frontline of this war runs well beyond Ukraine’s devastated battlefields. It runs through Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. The conflict rages between humanity’s best and worst instincts, between the free world and the suppressed. When Ukraine prevails, the forces of freedom will win everywhere, including in China and Russia.

Many ask why, compared to Europe, most Asian countries tend to have a neutral position on Ukraine. The answer is simple. All they can do is watch with a heavy heart. They closely follow each breaking news bulletin to learn who has the upper hand at that moment. Sadly, the continent of Asia is also full of self-proclaimed rulers. In most cases, their governments lack legitimate representation. 

Ukrainians are fighting for that very principle—not only for their country, but for our right to be free. Their fight is global. As a result, our support should be global and completely unconditional. Ukraine’s victory will give encouragement to all freedom-loving people on this planet. Autocrats everywhere will be knocked on the defensive. If Russia prevails, dictators will march in full swing. 

The Kremlin propaganda machine is in full steam, blaming the other side as the ones committed to eliminating Russians. But, to my knowledge, no one wants to see Russians killed. No one is depriving Russia but the Kremlin. No one is depleting Russia’s resources and potential but the Kremlin. No one is crippling the Russian armed forces but the Kremlin. No one started a full-out invasion of Ukraine but the Kremlin. No one forced the free world to take drastic actions but the Kremlin. Finally, no one is calling for the inevitable demise of the Kremlin but—by its actions—the Kremlin. 

The evils of this war have no limit. It has had no shame in bringing devastation and suffering to the most vulnerable. To the innocent children, elders, and families. And this horror is not solely present in war-torn territories. It is also present in Russia itself. 

Putin's so-called "partial" mobilization has brought fear and tears to Russia’s most vulnerable, its ethnic minorities who have been disproportionately drafted and thrown to the frontline. The Buryats, Kalmycks, Tuvans, and other marginalized minorities have been used as cannon fodder. In the remote some regions, communities have almost run out of military-age men. By local accounts, the Kremlin is committing textbook ethnic cleansing under the umbrella of a “special operation.” 

Under Putin's long-lasting shadow, Russia’s development has been hurled back a generation, and its politics has been frozen to the core. Yet, even in this deep freeze, there are some palpable cracks. The war in Ukraine is no longer just one man's conflict. It is inflicting pain to the countless lives his dark shadow touches. Everyone’s heart breaks when innocent families dig graves for their loved ones. 

The outspoken and brightest in Russia are mostly silenced. In any nation, free-minded people are fundamental to offering different views and better solutions. But, unfortunately, this very part of society in Russia has fled in large numbers. The remaining brave people in Russia are still fighting against corruption and the deeply intimidating war while facing torture and jail. Therefore, the world is not against the Russian people but against the Kremlin's kleptocracy and atrocities. 

For many, it is no surprise that the regime in Kremlin has long since relied on brainwashing and the use of criminal agents. Even their incarcerated recruits lack simple screening. The more ruthless and vicious against Ukrainians they are, the more they are welcomed. They are escapees of long-term sentences. They have been mostly rejected by their loved ones. Their mission is to kill. Justice-seeking communities worldwide scream for accountability for what they have done and continue doing against Ukrainians. 

Some observers are disappointed with Asian countries’, including Mongolia’s, stance on the war against Ukraine. Due to its geography, tightly squeezed between Russia and China, the government of Mongolia is forced to perform a balancing act. However, public opinion in Mongolia is resolutely against the brutal attack against the sovereign nation of Ukraine.

In this regard, I would like to bring a historical record to your attention. When Adolf Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, the people of Mongolia united against this fascist invader. They showed solidarity with the Soviet people and spared nothing. Nomadic herders sent more than half of their livestock to the Soviet Union. A quarter of all the horses on the Soviet frontline during World War II came from Mongolia. 

In the days following the war's end, it was not rare to see a skinny but sturdy Mongol horse standing together with victorious allied forces in the ruins of Berlin. Horses were logistical lifelines, moving heavy equipment and weaponry through mud and rough terrain, including mined ground. In challenging circumstances, Mongolian horses were the only means of a ride and sometimes a much-needed source of nourishment. The number of horse supplies from Mongolian herders to the Soviets reached more than half a million. 

Also, in late 1941, the Soviets began a counter-offensive against German forces on the outskirts of Moscow. During those unusually harsh winter months, most of the Red Army soldiers and officers wore warm winter uniforms made from cattle stocks in Mongolia. In addition, with financial support from Mongolia, the Soviets produced columns of tanks and fleets of fighter aircraft. The Government of Mongolia donated its gold and hard currency reserves to the Soviet Union for four years in a row. And Mongolian lamb and meat donations to the front line outperformed those provided by the Lend-Lease Act. 

When Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union, Mongols stood with their northern neighbor as best as we could. When Putin's Russia attacked Ukraine, from day one, the people of Mongolia stood against the brutal invasion. My point here is: The West should do what the Mongols did, and act like the Mongols acted. In support of Ukraine’s right to exist, the democracies should show solidarity and spare no form of assistance. 

Sadly, most of the decisions by the West are always one step behind Russian aggression in terms of supporting Ukraine. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, from the first days of the war, asked not for an escape plane but for more weapons. War-torn Ukraine is still begging for fighter jets and longer-range missiles.

Ukrainians are paying the ultimate price for our freedom. They are suffering, shedding blood, and sacrificing everything precious to them, not just to defend their sovereignty and democracy but to restore the damaged world order. 

Western leaders might have time to wait. But a wounded Ukraine has no time to wait. Those who snatched Ukrainian territories, cities, and villages are not waiting. The killers, rapists, and looters are not waiting. Putin is not waiting.

No country facing aggression and destruction on this scale can be asked to wait. Ukraine needs WINGS and missiles to delete, deplete, and defeat Russia’s death squads. Putin will only stop fighting when he exhausts all his murderous arsenals. The only path to peace is through Ukraine's victory. The whole of humanity will pass the test of time and the test of dignity.

No one in this day and age should ever attempt what Putin is doing in Ukraine. As a result, Ukraine’s victory is a non-negotiable for the global community. To prove that war is obsolete.

Victory means more than expelling Russian aggression, more even than liberating all occupied Ukrainian territory. Victory requires the rebuilding of Ukraine after conflict, and total recovery from Putin's war. If Ukraine fails to achieve that, freedom and the free world will face continuous intimidation and aggression from dictatorships. The free world has no right to lose.

Heroyam Slava!

Elbegdorj is currently the Bernard and Susan Liautaud Visiting Fellow at Stanford University. He is the former Prime Minister and President of Mongolia and a member of The Elders, the group of former global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela.