The signing of the declaration on the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization last week by the Presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan opened a new phase of interstate contacts in Eurasia. President Putin characterized this fact saying, “A potentially very promising mechanism of multi-profile cooperation is beginning to function in the very heartland of Eurasia, that is, in a key region from a geopolitical standpoint. In a broader, international sense, our organization can be considered as the embodiment of the concept of “security through cooperation.” This is an example for many countries and regions.” Putin also noted that “threats to international stability and security are not confined to the Central Asian region.”
It is interesting that the strengthening of mutual confidence and friendship, good neighborly relations of member states, incentives for efficient collaboration in the most diverse fields, and joint efforts for the maintenance of peace, security, and stability in the region are the goals of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. At first glance, these goals are not purely military, but the spirit of the organization and its preliminary history manifest the opposite. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization was formed on the basis of agreements to strengthen confidence in the military field, and on the mutual reduction of armed forces in the border areas, signed in Shanghai and Moscow in 1996 and 1997. The present declaration notes that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization considers regional security a priority, and does its best to provide it. The organization will develop multilateral documents on collaboration aimed at preventing drug and weapon trafficking, illegal migration, and other crimes. The stringent stance of the Defense Ministers of the organization’s member states concerning the ABM problems reflected in the joint communique is interesting.
The Defense Ministers of the member states have declared that the ABM Treaty is the cornerstone of global strategic stability, and, correspondingly, that any breach of the treaty will mean huge damage for the international community. Thus, while it is impossible to say at this point that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is becoming a military-political bloc, the principles stated in the declaration show that the member states are, first and foremost, concerned about their security, secondly, are averse to attempts at dismantling the system of ABM limitations established during the past several decades, and thirdly, pursue their interests through the establishment of an Anti-terrorist Center in Bishkek.
Russia and China set the tone of the new organization. It is interesting that Uzbekistan also joined the organization, although it had previously announced about its abstention from participation in military political blocs and unions.
Meanwhile, the establishment of the Organization demonstrates attempts by, first of all, Moscow and Beijing to protect themselves from the active NATO superpowers, primarily the US. It was no accident that global security issues were touched upon in China, and international opinions about activities of Washington and NATO voiced. However, Moscow and Beijing did not state their official position.
Putin’s meeting with US President George W. Bush after the Shanghai summit shows that the new US Administration is concerned about the unification steps taken by Russia, including the preparation of the “treaty of the century” between Russia and China. Russia President Putin and Chinese Chairman Jiang Zemin will sign the good neighborly relations treaty in July. During a meeting with journalists in Shanghai, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry emphasized that the treaty would create a legislative basis for the development of Russian-Chinese relations in the new century, including relations concerned with improving the defense capabilities of both countries.
However, it is no secret that deployment of the NMD (national missile defense) in the US will be targeted against China, a current ally of Russia. Hence, Russian-American relations appear inactive, although many observers saw the meeting of Bush and Putin in Slovenia as successful. Meanwhile, this meeting did not lead to any radical changes in the positions and approaches of the US and Russia to international security. At any rate, Russian patriots are glad that Putin behaved independently during the meeting with Bush. Putin spoke against the termination of the ABM treaty and criticized NATO’s eastward expansion. Along with this, the countries agreed on joint discussion of disputable issues, which was very important for Russia. In the near future, Foreign and Defense Ministers from both countries will discuss a new security structure, including the ABM problems.
Thus, the international policy of the Kremlin has an active edge. Putin is attempting to strengthen Russia’s position in the world, and thus far he seems to be succeeding.