Mongolia conveys little to the average European, yet a tense struggle is being silently waged between soviet Russia and Japan for the soul of that remote land—a struggle which is watched, moreover, with keen interest by the diplomats of the world, for Mongolia is regarded as the key to China.
For some years now Outer Mongolia has been an independent republic, anchored more or less firmly to soviet Russia. It is not in the strict sense of the word communist, but inclines to Communism in many respects and has provided an invaluable basis for the infiltration of soviet influence into China.
Undoubtedly — and justifiably — soviet Russia fears Japan, but Japan equally undoubtedly fears soviet Russia even more, and Manchukuo, now consolidated into what is to all intents and purposes a Japanese puppet state, is the first bulwark set up in the Far East against Russia by Japan. But as long as Outer Mongolia remains an independent republic and strongly pro-soviet in policy the value of this bulwark is greatly decreased, and_it is therefore by no means surprising to see an ever-increasing tension develop in the region of the Manchukuo-Mongolian frontier.
Already it is reported that the railway from Kalgan to Suiyuan, in China, has been occupied by Manehukuan troops, with the object of preventing this railwayline, a vital link in the transport chain between China and Urge, the capital of Outer Mongolia, being used to further soviet or Mongolian influence in China.
It is no secret that for some time past Japan has been fostering the idea of a war with Russia and in the event of such a war it is vital that the scene of battle should not be in Manchuria, which is unpleasantly close to Japan for purposes of air-raids. But if Outer Mongolia is first tackled the actual fighting would take place in Siberia. perhaps in the neighbourhood of Lake Baikal, and that is why Outer Mongolia is of such immense strategical importance to Japan.
The Mongolians are well aware of that and only this month various of their leaders returned from an official visit to Moscow, where they were received with honours and consolidated the Russian alliance, which caused no little anger in Japan. Since then the Mongolian government has had to protest against repeated alleged violations of Mongolian territory by Manchukuan forces and the reply to this protest contained an unpleasant hint as regards the future.
War may yet be averted, but a war between Japan and Mongolia will at the same time also be a dress rehearsal for a Japanese attack on Russia.