The third round of consultations of military experts of the armed forces of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states ended in Chelyabinsk last week. The consultations were dedicated to the organization and working out of the plan of joint antiterrorist exercise Peaceful Mission-2007. Yury Baluevsky, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, arrived to Chelyabinsk. Heads of the delegations of Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan signed a protocol of intent. They also decided that the exercises would be held between August 9 and 17 in the Chelyabinsk Region on the basis of the 34th mechanized infantry division in Chebarkul.
These are not the first exercises of the SCO conducted on the Asian continent. The first antiterrorist exercises were organized on the territories of Kazakhstan and China in 2003. More than 1,000 servicemen from Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan (Uzbekistan did not take part in the exercises) took part in the exercises in a desert locality of the Xingjian-Uygur Autonomous Area. The area and the plan of those exercises were not chosen accidentally. Separatist trends are strong in this area of China and gangs of the so-called Islamic Movement of Turkestan operate there, pursuing a goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate on the territory of Central Asia. Of course, Beijing would be interested in the participation of SCO member states in the destruction of terrorist organizations. Chinese authorities were also interested in the military exercises of the SCO conducted on the Shandong Peninsula in 2005. Russian-Chinese military exercises Peaceful Mission-2005 conducted under the SCO aegis were organized on the ground, at sea and in the air and were aimed at liberating territories taken by separatists. Of course, these exercises were not as much antiterrorist ones as demonstrative, showing the combat power of Russia and China in the struggle for conquering Taiwan, a Chinese territory that does not obey Beijing.
The present exercises organized in the Urals is not oriented at struggling against any real hostile group yet. There is no separatism and there are no terrorist groups in the Urals. However, Colonel General Vladimir Moltenskoy, senior officer of the operational group of Peaceful Mission-2007, states that the place of the exercises is chosen deliberately. It has all the necessary conditions for operations of various branches of the armed forces. It is also convenient to deliver troops of the member states to this area.
Moltenskoy reports that the “the main goal of the exercises is achievement of mutual understanding and compatibility of the bodies commanding the exercises and the troops are attracted to confirm operational and tactical plans.” During the exercises, military units of the member countries will fulfill tasks of joint counteraction to terrorist groups, taking into account the experience of antiterrorist operations in Russia and abroad. Moltenskoy stresses: “Special attention will be paid to the elimination of conventional terrorists by the troops without damage to the environment, including civil infrastructure objects.”
Thus, in the Urals area, servicemen of the SCO member states will have a hypothetical enemy. However, this does not mean that the conduction of exercises can be considered unproductive from the standpoint of geopolitical and military interests of the SCO member states. First, this will be a kind of demonstration of the power of the SCO. Second, the exercises will be dedicated to fulfillment of tasks of real interaction of military units.