Eurasian security cooperation: counterbalancing NATO?
The CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization have signed a cooperation memorandum Experts are predicting the formation of a major military-political bloc in which Eurasia would have a Minsk-Moscow-Beijing geopolitical axis.
The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Euro-Asian Economic Community (EAEC), and the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) all held summits in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, late last week. Following President Vladimir Putin’s lead, commentators are describing the triple summit’s results as sensational. They include a CIS development concept, a declaration on coordinated migration policy, 17 documents within the framework of the EAEC, which is clearly pushing the CIS to the sidelines, and a realignment of pieces on the post-Soviet chessboard: Tair Mansurov has replaced Grigory Rapota as head of the EAEC, Rapota will be the new presidential envoy for the Southern federal district, and Sergei Lebedev has replaced Vladimir Rushailo as CIS executive secretary. All the same, few have noticed the truly sensational news: the CSTO and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization have signed a cooperation memorandum. The global consequences of this move will be far more significant than the feeble pulses of the CIS.
The memorandum was signed in Dushanbe on October 5 by SCO Secretary-General Bolat Nurgaliyev and CSTO Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha. After the signing, Bordyuzha said: “This document doesn’t mean that our organizations are striving to compete with NATO in this region of the world, as some analysts have suggested. We don’t regard NATO as a rival or an enemy – on the contrary, we aim to cooperate with it.”
The CSTO and SCO structures are very similar, with considerable overlap among their members. The CSTO includes Armenia, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The SCO includes Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. China has insisted since 2003 that the SCO and CSTO should sign a memorandum on cooperation, but Moscow was apprehensive about a negative reaction from Washington.
Experts are predicting the formation of a major military-political bloc in which China would become the partner of Armenia and Belarus, and Eurasia would have a Minsk-Moscow-Beijing geopolitical axis to counterbalance NATO and GUAM.
Political analyst Rustam Samiyev (Tajikistan) maintains that Russia and China are attempting to form some sort of counterweight to NATO. In his view, this will be a new unified structure that might be known as the Eurasian Security and Cooperation Organization – with India and Iran possibly joining it in future (they hold observer status in the SCO). The Avesta news agency (Tajikistan) quotes Samiyev as saying: “Such a formation could be established as soon as 2010.”
Of course, there is no official confirmation of any intention to become a counterweight to NATO. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: “It’s wrong to seek sensational news in what is a routine working matter.” Lavrov noted that the SCO has proposed to develop cooperation with all international organizations in the Asia-Pacific region, and it has already signed similar memorandums with the EAEC and the United Nations. But in contrast to the CSTO, neither the EAEC nor the UN are defense organizations. In the final communique for its Dushanbe summit, the CSTO spoke out in favor of a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear problem, and warned against attempting to resolve frozen conflicts by means of armed force.
The intended audience for such statements is obvious. Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the CIS Countries Institute: “The West needs to understand that the further NATO moves to the East, the faster an alternative military-political alliance will form.”