On June 15th and 16th the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will hold its ninth annual heads of state summit in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. It will be attended by the presidents of its six full members – China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – and by representatives from its four observer states – India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan – and from several aspiring partner nations yet to be announced.
Its six full members account for 60% of the land mass of Eurasia and its population is a third of the world’s. With observer states included, its affiliates account for half of the human race. They also include four of the world’s seven official nuclear states.
As a Russian daily said in 2006, “The SCO is a momentous organisation which occupies territory from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean and from Kaliningrad to Shanghai. It may become the second political pole of the world.”
At the 2006 heads of state summit in Shanghai, the presidents of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan attended as observers. To see those three leaders meet under the auspices of a multinational security alliance headed by Russia and China, as all three of their nations were at war or could soon be, revealed the regional and global prospects for the SCO as a new model for conflict resolution and cooperation.
During the 2007 summit the SCO discussed establishing a “unified energy market” and then Russian President Vladimir Putin stated, “I am convinced that energy dialogue and the creation of an energy club will set out the priorities for further cooperation.” The following year the Kazakh Prime Minister affirmed that “the existing system of pipelines on the SCO space connecting Russia, Central Asian states and China is a serious basis for the establishment of an SCO unified energy space.”
By 2007 the SCO had initiated over twenty large-scale projects related to transportation, energy and telecommunications, and held regular meetings of security, military, defense, foreign affairs, economic, cultural and banking officials from its member states. No multinational organization with such comprehensive mutual interests and activities has ever existed on this scale before.
An Iranian analysis entitled, “Iraq Smoke Screen” by Hamid Golpira, had this to say on the topic:
“According to Brzezinski’s theory, control of the Eurasian landmass is the key to global domination and control of Central Asia is the key to control of the Eurasian land-mass. Russia and China have been paying attention to Brzezinski’s theory, since they formed the SCO in 2001, ostensibly to curb extremism in the region and enhance border security, but most probably with the real objective of counter-balancing the activities of the US and NATO in Central Asia.”
Less than three months after the formation of the SCO in June of 2001, the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. occurred and in October the US and its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan and began establishing military bases there, as well as in Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. By 2005, with no sign of the Pentagon and NATO ever preparing to remove their military forces from Afghanistan and four neighboring nations, patience had worn thin among SCO member states. The United States and its NATO allies had launched three unprovoked wars in four years – Yugoslavia in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 – as well as waging counter-insurgency and proxy conflicts and subversion campaigns in Colombia, Macedonia, Ivory Coast, Yemen, the Philippines, Liberia and elsewhere.
What alarmed SCO members as much as the preceding was the so-called Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan in March of 2005 and what was precieved as a similar attempt at regime change in Uzbekistan in May of that year, a month before the SCO summit.
The uprising in Kyrgyzstan and the overthrow of its President, Askar Akayev, was the fourth in a series of Western-backed “color revolutions” in the Balkans and the former Soviet Union following those in Yugoslavia in 2000, Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in December of 2004. The dominoes were falling with an increasing rapidity and now were occurring on the Chinese as well as Russian borders — in the heart of the SCO community.
In November of 2005 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated that the “SCO is working to establish a rational and just world order” and that “The SCO provides us with a unique opportunity of forming a fundamentally new model of geopolitical integration.”
It also recognized that no single, standardized model of political, economic, social, cultural and ethical development could be forced on the 88% of humanity that lives outside the Euro-Atlantic world, not a parliamentary system devised in the British Isles centuries ago nor a consumerist culture and pseudo-civilization designed on Madison Avenue and in Hollywood.
The West that presumes to dictate, often to the point of blackmail and bombs, that its increasingly impracticable model of governance must be enforced always and everywhere, even where the native soil rejects such transplantation, would be better advised to examine its own deficiencies.
Time For US And NATO To Leave Central Asia
The Declaration adopted at the 2005 SCO summit also stated:
“Considering the completion of the active military stage of anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan, the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation consider it necessary that respective members of the anti-terrorist coalition set a final timeline for their temporary use of the above-mentioned objects of infrastructure and stay of their military contingent on the territories of the SCO member states.”
Which is to say that the US and NATO had outlived whatever usefulness their presence in South and Central Asia had served and it was now time for them to leave.
On July 7 of 2006 Uzbekistan issued an eviction notice to the 800 US military personnel housed in its base at Karshi-Khanabad, stating that the use of the base had been allowed “for the sole purpose of ousting Taliban rulers from Afghanistan” which had been achieved almost four years earlier. On the 17th Kyrgyzstan’s newly elected President Kurmanbek Bakiyev “stressed …the appeasement of the situation in Afghanistan. It is time for the United States to schedule its pullout of forces from the base in his country,” where an estimated 1,500 US and NATO military personnel were stationed.
On July 20 Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov said “it is time for the United States and its allies to set a date to pull their conventional troops out of Central Asia as the situation in Afghanistan has stabilized,” with local reference to the use of the former Soviet Kulyab airbase and of Tajikistan’s airspace.
The US Secretary of State at the time, Condoleezza Rice, denounced the SCO Declaration’s call for the removal of US and NATO bases in Central Asia with the pat response that “there is still a lot of terrorist activity in Afghanistan and US troops were needed to train the Afghan army to counter it,” a state of affairs that from the Western perspective persists to this day, four years later, and into the indefinite future, with the war now fully extended into Pakistan.
So concerned was Washington that its plans for permanent military deployments in Central and South Asia under the guise of the so-called Global War on Terror were in jeopardy that it deployed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on a hastily scheduled tour to the region, visiting Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Washington had leverage with the governments of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in two respects: The ever-looming threat of another “color revolution” could be activated against any government that defied US diktat and America could offer economic incentives to the two Central Asian nations that had no substantial oil and natural gas resources, unlike Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
In August what were described as anti-terrorist exercises were conducted in the Caspian Sea with the participation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the post-Soviet Collective Security Treaty Organization (comprised of Russia, Armenia, Belarus and the four Central Asian nations in the SCO) and the Commonwealth of Independent States anti-aircraft defense allied command.
Days later Russia and China launched their first-ever joint military exercises, the eight-day Peace Mission 2005, in Eastern Russia and in China’s Shandong Province, consisting of land, sea and air components and 10,000 troops.
In December the Chief of the Russian General Staff at the time, Yuri Baluyevsky, announced: “Our goal is to organise such multi-country military exercises [with both India and China] within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.”
SCO Appeal Resonated Throughout Eurasia
The most significant aspect following the SCO June summit was the eagerness with which nations out-side the organization welcomed its new enhanced role and the underlying call for global multipolarity.
Indian External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh, who had represented his nation at the summit, announced a month afterward: “To deepen engagement with the region, India plans to apply for full membership of the SCO.” At the same time the Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz “stressed that the SCO… represents 3 billion population of the world” and said his country “wanted to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization,” adding, “This organization is of immense strategic importance” and “that if the SCO conducted military exercises like those performed by Russia, China, and India recently, Pakistan would consider participating.”
New observer state Iran also expressed its desire to become a full member and stated that it would offer the SCO access to the Middle East and, according to Iran’s First Vice-President Mohammad-Reza Aref, “Iran would play a key role in linking the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to Persian Gulf states and Europe.”
Malaysian Ambassador to Russia Mohamad Khalis, who had attended the Astana summit, said “Malaysia completely supports the goals set by the SCO and is ready to cooperate with the organisation and its members for common interests.” In the ensuing months similar interest was expressed by nations as diverse as Bangladesh, Belarus, Nepal, Turkey and Azerbaijan.
US Strikes Back: India
The US counter-offensive was not long in coming nor was it limited to attempts at maintaining air bases in Central Asia. It targeted the most populous new SCO observer state and that nation which can tilt not only the region but the world either toward Western dominance or a new multipolar international order: India. On July 18, 2005 President Bush and the Indian Prime Minister issued a joint statement on the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear agreement that would permit a waiver allowing India to commence a civilian nuclear trade.
This was the economic enticement to lure India away from the SCO and toward strategic military ties with Washington. An Indian analyst warned two years ago that “Washington is not interested in New Delhi’s official admission to the nuclear power club because that would enhance the latter’s influence in international affairs. An import-ant objective of the Americans in the region is to turn India into a major factor capable of counter-balancing a rapidly growing China.
“In order to reduce the SCO’s role and influence in the region and to promote realisation of the American concept of a ‘Greater Central Asia,’ Tokyo and Washington are trying to drag New Delhi into a so-called Quadrilateral of Democracies aimed at building an alliance-like relationship between the US, Japan, Australia and India.”
In May the SCO recommended establishing a dialogue partner status with Belarus and Sri Lanka, extend-ing the SCO into Europe and Africa. It is also possible that Iran will be joining the SCO. According to the head of Russia’s Center for Contemporary Studies on Iran:
“If Iran would become a SCO member, the SCO would become the third most influential, most powerful international body after the United Nations and the Euro-pean Union. “I even believe the SCO would rank second, next to the UN, in terms of competence, after Iran’s membership. The SCO would also get stronger following Iran’s membership, because its member states would be the owners of two thirds of the world’s energy sources which gives them a great financial power.”
Caucasus War As Turning Point
On August 1st of last year, war erupted within Georgia. Addressing this, the head of the Russian Center of Political Information stated: “If we are talking about SCO’s move from an economic organization to a military one, then this has already happened….All the member states were willing to respond to the strengthening of NATO.”
Russian political analyst Andrei Areshev noted that: “Changes in world politics that took place after ‘the awakening of the Russian bear’ could open the SCO’s doors for Tehran, which remains one of the key oil suppliers for China. If this should be the case, it may be possible to speak of an unprecedented consolidation of the countries of the Eurasian continent around Beijing and Moscow. “This will render the US’s attack on Iran impossible and put an end to Amer-ica’s plans of redrawing the lines in the Middle East and Central Asia. Such developments…change the entire world order formed after the collapse of the USSR.”
Prospects: World Crisis And Emerging International Alternative
In October of 2008 the SCO member states met against the backdrop of the worst world financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression. At the summit the Iranian Vice President addressed an initiative that was gaining the SCO’s attention when he said: “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a good venue for designing a new banking system which is independent from international banking systems.”
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin echoed these sentiments when he said that: “Amid the global financial turmoil, the SCO function acquires new meaning.
“We now clearly see the defectiveness of the monopoly in world finance and the policy of economic selfishness. To solve the current problem Russia will take part in changing the global financial structure so that it will be able to guarantee stability and prosperity in the world.
“We will take part in the transformation of the global and regional security and development architectures adapted to new realities of the 21st century, when stability and prosperity are becoming inseparable notions.”