08.08.2007
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: What Next?
№3 2007 July/September
Alexander V. Lukin

National Research Institute–Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia
Head of the International Affairs Department,
Head of International Laboratory on World Order Studies and New Regionalism

Аffiliation

SPIN RSCI: 6899-4298
ORCID: 0000-0002-1962-2892
ResearcherID: L-4986-2015
Scopus AuthorID: 7102949872

Contacts

E-mail: [email protected]
Address: Office 404, Bldg. 1, 17 Malaya Ordynka, Moscow 119017, Russia

RUSSIA AND THE SCO

Russia is still the largest nation in
the world, yet its power and influence on the international stage
has markedly decreased compared with that of the former Soviet
Union. At the same time, unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is not
seeking to win the geopolitical struggle and to achieve the
ideological goal of reshaping the world in its own way. Like any
large country, it has national interests of its own, which may or
may not coincide with the interests of other countries and blocs.
As a large state with its own interests, Russia is not interested
in a world where one force dominates; therefore it is seeking a
multipolar world. At the same time, as a state that is not powerful
enough to counter negative trends in global development on its own,
it needs support from allies and sympathizers.

The establishment of the Shanghai
Cooperation Organization (SCO) was prompted by the desire of some
states, sharing Russia’s views on trends in global development, to
pool their efforts in the search for common approaches to find
solutions to international and regional problems, and to develop
regional economic and cultural cooperation. The SCO, which is not
anyone’s enemy, has become an association aimed at finding positive
solutions to specific problems in the interests of its member
states. This is the essence of the so-called “Shanghai spirit”
which permeates the principles of international relations proposed
by the organization for the international community. The
declaration of the anniversary SCO summit (the SCO celebrated its
fifth anniversary in June 2006) said: “The SCO owes its smooth
growth to its consistent adherence to the ‘Shanghai spirit’ based
on mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultations, respect
for the diversity of cultures and aspiration toward common
development. This spirit is the underlying philosophy and the most
important code of conduct of the SCO. It enriches the theory and
practice of contemporary international relations and embodies the
shared aspiration of the international community for implementing
democracy in international relations. The ‘Shanghai spirit’ is
therefore of critical importance to the international community’s
pursuit of a new and non-confrontational model of international
relations, a model that calls for discarding the Cold War mentality
and transcending ideological differences.”

Attempts to transform the SCO into an
anti-Western or anti-American bloc are doomed to failure as that
would run counter to the vital interests of member states
interested in cooperation with the West in many areas. At the same
time, while actively working to ensure the interests of its own
members in the first place, the SCO may meet – and already does –
with misunderstanding and even hostility on the part of those who
see the world as unipolar, while presenting their own interests as
universal.

Nevertheless, the SCO’s activities do
not rule out or belittle cooperation mechanisms already built by
its member states with other organizations or states beyond the
SCO. The SCO wants to create additional spheres for cooperation,
which did not exist earlier or are impossible outside its
framework. The SCO’s future will depend on how broad these spheres
are and whether it succeeds in making its additional cooperation
mechanisms attractive to the peoples of its member states, so that
they become interested in the SCO’s strengthening and development.
Today we can speak of three elements of such additional
cooperation.

1. Security and
Counterterrorism

Cooperation in the security field,
above all in the struggle against international terrorism, has been
the main area of the SCO’s activities since its establishment. Two
years before the terrorist attacks in New York, the original
Shanghai Five group began work on the Shanghai Convention on
Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism. The Convention,
signed at the group’s summit in Shanghai in June 2001, contains
definitions of the terms “terrorism,” “separatism” and “extremism,”
which is very important, considering that problems in agreeing on
definitions often prevent international cooperation in combating
these phenomena.

The SCO’s approach to problems of
international security, first of all, the struggle against
terrorism, is much broader than that of the United States and its
allies. While Washington puts emphasis on military strikes against
international terrorist centers and attacks against states
supporting terrorism (these may be any states unwelcome to
Washington), the SCO nations see direct links between international
terrorism, on the one hand, and separatism and religious extremism,
on the other. So, while coordinating their actions with the U.S. in
combating international terrorism, the SCO countries can act
according to their own programs and in their own interests, closely
linking this struggle with counteraction to separatism and Islamic
extremism. Thus the SCO members seek to ensure their territorial
integrity and the preservation of secular regimes in power in
Central Asian countries.

Another area where the SCO member
states have an approach of their own is the struggle against drug
production and trafficking. These states have a strong view that
the situation with drug production in Afghanistan has markedly
deteriorated since the troops of the antiterrorist coalition
entered the country, and that the new authorities of Afghanistan
and the foreign troops supporting them do not wish or are unable to
improve the situation. The inflow of Afghan drugs into neighboring
countries has increased and now poses a serious threat to their
security. This is why the SCO nations signed the Agreement on
Cooperation in Combating Illicit Trafficking of Narcotic Drugs,
Psychotropic Substances and Their Precursors in June 2004 in
Tashkent.

2. Economy

Issues considered by the SCO have
recently been overshadowed by economic cooperation issues. This is
not accidental, as the organization’s future depends on its member
states’ ability to establish economic interaction. The SCO nations,
so different politically, can be united into a constant and
effective cooperation mechanism only by common economic
interests.

SCO officials have very high opinions
on the prospects for economic cooperation within the SCO
frameworks. At a meeting of SCO heads of state with members of the
SCO Business Council on June 14, 2006, Russian President Vladimir
Putin said: “I am convinced that partnerships between business
communities will become one more factor that will strengthen the
Shanghai Cooperation Organization.”

In November 2005, the SCO Secretariat,
jointly with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for
Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Chinese National Bank of
Development, organized the first Eurasian Economic Forum in China’s
Xian. Addressing the forum, Wu Banguo, chairman of the Chinese
National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said that Eurasian
countries have the advantages of geographic proximity and economic
complementarity, as well as broad spheres and good prospects for
cooperation. He called on Eurasian countries to highlight the role
of the SCO and other regional organizations on the basis of mutual
respect, equality, mutual benefit and openness in the interests of
more dynamic and stable growth of regional economies. An article
published on the official website of the Uzbek Foreign Ministry
said: “Participation in the SCO has opened new opportunities for
the economic integration of Uzbekistan with the member countries of
this organization.” Indeed, the territory of SCO member states
stretches across the European and Asian continents; the region is
rich in resources and has a huge market; therefore the potential
for developing trade and economic cooperation within the
organization’s framework is very high. But whether this potential
will be realized and how soon is still an open-ended
question.

Formally, work in the sphere of
economic cooperation is underway. Numerous documents have been
adopted, each supplementing and following up on others: the 2001
Memorandum on the Main Goals and Areas of Regional Economic
Cooperation, the 2003 Program for Multilateral Trade and Economic
Cooperation until 2020, the 2004 plan of actions for implementing
this program, and the 2005 Mechanism for Implementing the Plan of
Actions. The SCO Council of the Heads of State, economic ministers
and other high-placed officials meet annually to consider economic
cooperation plans. The member states harmonize their legislation
and hold economic forums. They have also established the SCO
Business Council and the SCO Interbank Association, and put forward
an idea to set up an Energy Club (the idea has never gone any
further than an idea, however).

At the same time, one must admit that
not a single project has reached the stage of implementation yet.
All reports by ministries in charge of economic cooperation only
enlist bilateral or (much less often) multilateral projects, which
in fact are related to the SCO only because its members participate
in them. Meanwhile, none of these projects is being implemented by
the SCO proper; they are only included by SCO bureaucrats in the
organization’s reports and would be implemented even if the SCO did
not exist at all. Even the two so-called “first-priority pilot
projects,” approved by SCO foreign economic and foreign trade
ministers in August 2006 in Tashkent, began to be implemented
before the SCO joined in them. These projects are the
Volgograd-Astrakhan-Atyrau-Beineu-Kungrad highway, including an
Aktau-Beineu-Kungrad leg as part of the E-40 international
transport corridor. It also includes the construction of a bridge
over the Kigach river (coordinator – Uzbekistan), and the
development of an Osh-Sarytash-Irkeshtam-Kashgar transport route,
including the construction of a transshipment terminal in Kashgar
for organizing multimodal shipments (coordinator –
China).

What is the reason for the slow start
of mechanisms for real cooperation? Government officials usually
explain it by the complexity of making decisions in the
international organization where each member state has interests of
its own, so it takes much longer to harmonize these interests. This
is certainly right, but I think there are also other reasons;
furthermore, more than enough time has passed since the SCO’s
establishment. Of the many factors slowing down economic
cooperation within the SCO framework, I would single out the
following ones.

The first one is the aggressive and
selfish manner of China to uphold its trade interests, not always
taking its partners’ interests into account. China views itself as
the leader of economic cooperation in the SCO and therefore has
taken an aggressive line in this issue. In China, the government
agency in charge of economic cooperation within the SCO framework
is the Commerce Ministry, which wants to stimulate Chinese exports,
ensure growth in trade, etc. The ministry has set up a department
for SCO affairs, which operates actively, sometimes not
coordinating its efforts with those of China’s Foreign Ministry and
does not always foresee the possible reaction from foreign
partners. As a result, many initiatives coming from the Commerce
Ministry fail to be implemented.

The Commerce Ministry does not display
much interest in foreign investments or in aid and development
programs abroad. Therefore it views cooperation within the SCO
framework as a way to increase Chinese exports. Certainly, a growth
in exports meets Beijing’s interests, but it should not be the only
interest for such a large and influential country as China. China
seeks full development of the SCO economic space through the
establishment of a free trade zone. However, these plans cause
apprehensions in other SCO member states that their own markets and
industries that are less effective than in China may collapse. A
$900 million financial contribution to the SCO’s activities
proposed by China is intended for tied loans for the purchase of
Chinese goods. Some SCO members, including Russia, consider the
terms of this contribution disadvantageous for
themselves.

Real cooperation would be achieved if
Beijing displayed a more balanced approach and a better
understanding that, apart from direct economic benefits, there are
also long-term benefits based not only on economic, but also on
political, civilizational and other interests. This is
well-understood in the U.S. and Europe where there are numerous
government programs for development, grants for non-governmental
organizations, state educational funds, etc.

The second factor is the position of
some Russian government agencies, first of all, the Finance
Ministry, which reject the very idea of state funding for SCO
economic programs. Because of this position, Russia has actually
rejected an idea to establish a SCO Development Fund which would
finance multilateral development programs, like, for example, the
United Nations Development Program does. The SCO is seeking
non-state funding through structures of the recently established
SCO Business Council and SCO Interbank Association. However, it is
already clear that private funds alone would not be enough to
launch major multilateral projects: private structures of the SCO
member states are either not powerful enough, or do not have enough
interest to finance such projects in full.

Russia’s position looks strange and at
odds with its own interests. China is ready to allocate money for
joint programs, but Russia is afraid of it as it thinks that China
will control the Development Fund if its contribution is larger
than Russia’s. At the same time, Russia has declined making a
contribution to the Fund, although it has enough money and its
government refrains from investing it at home because of inflation
fears. If so, why not use part of the money for SCO projects, which
would increase Russia’s economic and political influence in Central
Asia? Especially since Russia spends millions of dollars on the
activities of various kinds of European organizations and
contributes much less to the SCO’s small $4 million budget which is
entirely used for the work of SCO structures.

Statements that the funding of economic
projects is allegedly prohibited by the SCO Charter are groundless.
The Charter says that the SCO budget is “drawn up and executed in
accordance with a special agreement between member states,” which
also determines the amount of contributions paid by each member
state to the SCO budget. The Charter says further that “budgetary
resources shall be used to finance standing SCO agencies in
accordance with the above agreement” (Article 12). This does not
mean, however, that funds from the SCO budget cannot be used for
other purposes, as well.

Officials from Russia’s Economic
Development and Trade Ministry have recently promoted an idea that
economic cooperation within the SCO framework must be limited as it
is dominated by China. They propose that Russia should conduct
economic cooperation with Central Asia via other organizations,
such as the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC), while the SCO
should focus on security issues. Ideas like that were voiced, for
example, at a session of the Interdepartmental Commission for
Russia’s Participation in the SCO Activities, held in early
November 2006. Whatever is behind this approach, it fully
contradicts declarations of the heads of state and government of
the SCO member states (including Russia) and Russia’s national
interests. True, Russia’s relative influence in the SCO is less
than in the EurAsEC, for example. However, the SCO can play a
unique role for Russia in having China and, later, other large
regional actors join in the dialog on Central Asia. For Central
Asian states, where the unilateral influence of Russia (as the
successor to the Soviet Union) and China (as a powerful emerging
force) is still often perceived with apprehension, their joint
presence in an organization where they are equal members among the
others and where all issues are decided by a consensus, is much
more attractive. At the same time, it is obvious that without a
serious economic basis the SCO cannot become an influential and
effective regional force.

3. Science and
Culture

There are good prospects for
cooperation in the fields of science, education, culture and public
health. The SCO Forum, established in May 2006 in Moscow, can play
a major role in scientific research. This is a multilateral public
consultative and expert mechanism intended to promote interaction
between research and political analytical centers of SCO member
countries. As regards education, it is generally known that the
Soviet educational system served as the basis for the educational
systems of all SCO member states; therefore they still have many
common features. Now Russia has joined in the so-called Bologna
process and is seeking to unify its educational standards with
those in Europe. However, the old educational system had many
advantages. This is why it is a common task for all SCO members to
harmonize their educational standards with international ones,
while preserving the advantages of the old system.

The same refers to culture. Central
Asian countries, China and Russia have ancient and unique
civilizations. As these countries become increasingly open and as
they make the best achievements of world culture an integral part
of their own culture, they are being faced with a problem of
preserving their national traditions in the face of an inflow of
low-standard mass culture from abroad. However, little has been
done in this sector yet.

DOES RUSSIA BENEFIT FROM SCO
MEMBERSHIP?

Some experts in Russia are apprehensive
that there is a dominating force in the SCO, namely China, which is
allegedly seeking to solve its own strategic tasks in the
organization at the expense of its partners, first of all Russia.
Such views are absolutely groundless. Procedures for occupying
leading posts in the SCO provide for a regular rotation between
representatives of the member countries. Russia’s contribution to
the SCO budget equals that of China. The SCO members have agreed
that the SCO Secretariat is based in Beijing as China has offered
better conditions for that. At the same time, another major body of
the SCO – the Executive Committee of the Regional Antiterrorism
Structure (RATS) – is based in Tashkent. And in general, the
location of a headquarters does not matter much. After all, one
cannot say that the United States dominates the United Nations
because the majority of UN agencies are located in New York. On the
contrary, the U.S. views the UN as an inevitable evil, while the
New York-based UN Security Council and especially the UN General
Assembly often take positions that differ from that of the U.S. Of
course, the economic and political weight in the SCO of such a
powerful state as China (just as the weight of the U.S. in the
United Nations) is great. But this is why membership in the SCO,
which proclaims equality for all its members, is advantageous to
the weaker members because it gives them equal rights with the
stronger ones. In the same way, membership on the UN Security
Council makes the political weight of Russia (and its other
members) equal with that of the U.S., which often annoys
Washington.

THE U.S. AND THE SCO

During the first few years of the
Shanghai process and the SCO’s existence, the United States did not
take the organization seriously. Some American analysts did not
believe that the SCO would develop into anything more than a
discussion club. Others regarded the SCO as a hopeless attempt by
Russia and China to increase their influence in Central Asia, as
both countries did not have sufficient resources and had to face
numerous domestic problems. However, after the SCO had become
consolidated enough and many states in the region had expressed a
desire to join it, this attitude changed. The SCO first attracted
serious attention from Washington in 2005 when its close partners
India and Pakistan and one of America’s major adversaries, Iran,
were given observer status in this organization (Mongolia, another
state closely cooperating with the U.S., received this status in
2006, and even U.S. allies South Korea and Turkey have expressed
their interest in it). However, a declaration adopted by the SCO
Council of the Heads of State in Astana in June 2005 caused serious
concern in the U.S. as it urged members of the antiterrorist
coalition to “set a final timeline for their temporary use of …
objects of infrastructure and stay of their military contingents on
the territories of the SCO member states,” “considering the
completion of the active military stage of the antiterrorist
operation in Afghanistan.”

This provision was included in the
declaration at the request of Uzbekistan, whose leadership was
disappointed with a U.S. proposal to launch an independent
investigation into the unrest in the Uzbek city of Andizhan in May
2005. However, concern over the American presence in Central Asia
is shared by all the SCO members. They view the introduction of
foreign troops on the territory of Central Asian countries
pragmatically, as a measure required for fighting terrorism. Yet,
they are apprehensive that the U.S. may use its unlimited military
presence in Central Asia not only for this struggle, but also in
its own interests at the expense of the states of the region.
Tashkent even decided to change its policy of cooperation with the
U.S. and the West and to reorient it toward Moscow, Beijing and the
SCO, which show less concern over human rights. The Uzbek
government demanded that the U.S. withdraw its military base from
Khanabad, which had been deployed there at the peak of
American-Uzbek rapprochement following September 11, 2001 for
supporting actions by the antiterrorist coalition in Afghanistan.
As a result, there was an impression that SCO decisions were
effective.

Washington’s reaction was prompt. On
July 19, 2005, the House of Representatives adopted a resolution
expressing concern over the SCO declaration. U.S. Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice, worried about a possible marginalization of
the United States in Central Asia, visited Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan
and Tajikistan in October 2005. During her visit to Bishkek, she
convinced the Kyrgyz leadership to keep the military base of
international forces in Manas and even to allow the transfer of
U.S. troops, to be withdrawn from Khanabad, to Kyrgyzstan (for
additional payment, which was much needed by the new Kyrgyzstan
leadership).

Yet, that visit had, perhaps, an even
more important result – the idea of a Greater Central Asia. The
origins of this concept are believed to be rooted in an article by
the Chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns
Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in
Washington, Frederick Starr, published in the influential Foreign
Affairs journal in July/August 2005. Its main idea was “the
establishment of a Greater Central Asia Partnership for Cooperation
and Development (GCAP), a regionwide forum for the planning,
coordination, and implementation of an array of U.S. programs.”
According to Starr, such a partnership, which would promote trade,
cooperation and democratization in the region, is becoming possible
as “recent progress in Afghanistan has created a remarkable
opportunity – not only for Afghanistan but for the rest of Central
Asia as well. The United States now has the chance to help
transform Afghanistan and the entire region into a zone of secure
sovereignties sharing viable market economies, enjoying secular and
open systems of government, and maintaining positive relations with
the United States.”

Russia and China would have an
insignificant role in such a partnership (although Starr wrote that
they could join it “if they are donors”); Iran’s participation was
completely ruled out; Pakistan would be a member, while India and
Turkey “would, along with the United States, become the unofficial
guarantor of sovereignty and stability in the region.” In this way,
Central Asian states would establish close ties with India and
Pakistan via Afghanistan, which would help diversify their
international cooperation and (although this was not said openly)
weaken their unilateral orientation toward Moscow and
Beijing.

As if she were carrying out Starr’s
recommendations, Rice reorganized the Department of State’s Bureau
of South Asian Affairs into the Bureau of South and Central Asian
Affairs in October 2005. In April 2006, the House Committee on
Foreign Affairs’ subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia
held hearings on U.S. policy in Central Asia. Speaking at the
hearings, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian
Affairs Richard Boucher, the main executor of the new Greater
Central Asia policy, obviously was guided by Starr’s ideas, but
went much further, making these ideas into an undisguised
ideological cover for the promotion of American influence in the
region. In his report, he made no mention of the SCO (which could
be a result of his lack of knowledge, though, because when asked by
a subcommittee member, the U.S. diplomat failed to even correctly
name the SCO’s members). While formally recognizing the historical
ties between the Central Asian states and Russia and their growing
cooperation with China, Boucher made it clear that he did not
consider Russia and China to be leading actors in the new American
plan for the establishment of close ties between Central and South
Asia via Afghanistan.

On June 13, 2006, just a few days
before a SCO summit meeting in Shanghai, the United States Trade
and Development Agency held an Electricity Beyond Borders Forum in
Istanbul. At the forum, participants from Central and South Asia
presented new large infrastructure projects in the field of power
engineering planned for Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Representatives of Russia
and China were not invited to the forum. Obviously, the forum was
intended to demonstrate the new role of the U.S. and Turkey in the
development of cooperation between the states of Central and South
Asia.

The Greater Central Asia idea caused a
mixed reaction in Central Asia, indifference in Moscow, and anxiety
in China. Kazakh Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev took a
favorable view of its possible role as an incentive for scientific
discussions, yet he emphasized that his country gave priority to
cooperation within the SCO frameworks. Kyrgyz expert Muratbek
Imanaliyev concluded that Central Asia viewed the project as
American and capable of causing worry in Moscow and in Beijing.
Yet, the sharpest reaction came from Beijing. A commentary by the
official paper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of
China, Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily), said that the reason why the
U.S. had brought up this plan was that “it is determined to use
energy, transportation and infrastructure construction as bait to
separate Central Asia from the post-Soviet Union dominance. By
doing so, it can change the external strategic focus of Central
Asia from the current Russia-China oriented partnership to
cooperative relations with South Asian countries. It can break the
long-term Russian dominance in Central Asia, it can split and
disintegrate the cohesion of the SCO and gradually establish U.S.
dominance on the new plate of Central and South Asia. However, in
the long term, the United States may make a strategic misjudgment
of other large countries by ‘setting up another cooking stove’. It
may also disrupt the existing cooperative mechanisms and put
Central Asian countries into a choice dilemma.”

The situation in Afghanistan has
recently become aggravated, which has required more coalition
troops in the country. These developments have complicated the
implementation of the Greater Central Asia concept in its pure
form. At the same time, the invigoration of U.S. policy in Central
Asia and the active participation of Central Asian representatives,
including high-ranking officials, in activities obviously conducted
in the vein of this policy, show that a new situation is taking
shape in the region. Paying insufficient attention to the new
situation may result in the marginalization of the SCO and a
reduced interest in cooperation within its framework among some SCO
member states, which may choose other partners in the hope of
receiving more economic assistance. Such developments would
complicate Russia’s general foreign policy aimed at building a
multipolar world and stepping up cooperation with Asian
states.

Of course, the situation should not be
dramatized. The United States’ political image in Central Asia,
especially after the problems with Uzbekistan, has been
considerably undermined. The majority of Central Asian countries
understand that political orientation toward Washington may bring
about many problems at home. At the same time, the image of the
U.S. and other Western countries is still strong that they are
successful and rich states capable of allocating significant
financial and economic aid. Thus, they are more effective than
Russia and China, even though politically these two countries are
closer to Central Asia. Some public quarters in Central Asia also
have a favorable view of economically effective, politically
secular, and heavy-handed regimes in such culturally similar
countries as Turkey and Pakistan, as well as of the emerging Indian
economic powerhouse, capable of becoming an alternative to a
rapidly growing China. The SCO’s insufficiently active economic
policy, its sluggishness in making decisions, and its tough stance
regarding the admission of new members complicate the
situation.

REQUIRED MEASURES

The following measures should be taken
for the achievement of Russia’s foreign-policy goals and to
invigorate the SCO.

1. Make India, Pakistan,
Mongolia and Turkey more interested in cooperation with the
SCO.
This interest has recently diminished due to the
SCO’s unclear prospects. India, Mongolia and, possibly, Pakistan
must be admitted into the SCO as full members, while Turkey must be
given observer status. India’s admission is particularly in
Russia’s interests. Giving membership to such a large and
authoritative state as India would make the SCO into a very
influential international organization; it would boost economic
cooperation within its framework due to India’s potential, and
would increase New Delhi’s interest in political cooperation with
its eastern and northern neighbors. Besides, such a move would also
be geopolitically advantageous to Beijing, which has recently
solved many of its problems with New Delhi.

There is an opinion that it would be
difficult to admit India without Pakistan. Of course, the admission
of Pakistan as a full member would bring some problems into the
SCO. However, considering the secular nature of the Pakistani
regime and its active struggle against terrorism and religious
extremism, that is, the actual coincidence of Islamabad’s interests
with the SCO’s political goals, such a move should not be feared
(this move may have to be made if, for example, Beijing conditions
India’s admission to the SCO on a simultaneous admission of
Pakistan). Benefits from involving Islamabad in the
counterterrorism struggle within the SCO framework and from making
Pakistan interested in cooperation with Central Asia, together with
Russia and China, would outweigh possible negative
effects.

The admission of Mongolia, apart from
filling the territorial “gap” in the SCO and stimulating economic
cooperation owing to this country’s resource potential, would have
a great demonstrative effect. Economically, Ulan Bator is now
largely oriented toward the West. In addition, Washington views
Mongolia as a model of post-Communist democracy in Asia, whose
foreign policy must also be oriented exclusively toward the U.S. At
least the partial reorientation of Ulan Bator toward cooperation
with SCO member states would be very useful not only to Russia and
China, but also to other members.

Granting observer status to Turkey,
which is a NATO member, would also have a significant demonstrative
effect, without any negative consequences for the SCO. It would
show that even a close ally of the United States may be interested
in projects outside Washington’s control, and would involve Ankara
into strategic and economic cooperation within the SCO
framework.

Afghanistan could be given observer
status to make it interested in cooperation with the SCO. On its
part, the SCO should step up its role in the struggle against
drug-trafficking in that country and in the efforts to stabilize
the situation there.

The SCO should probably enter into
exploratory talks with the new leadership of Turkmenistan about its
admission to the SCO as an observer. Turkmenistan pursues a policy
of neutrality; however, neutrality may be interpreted in different
ways: from non-entry into any organization, including the United
Nations, to non-entry into military alliances only (the SCO is not
a military alliance).

2. Display more caution toward
Iran’s desire to step up its cooperation with the SCO and even
downplay some of its aspects (for example, inviting top leaders to
meetings of the SCO Council of the Heads of State).
This
would allay fears in the West about the SCO’s possible
transformation into an anti-Western bloc and would promote the
SCO’s interaction with the West in combating international
terrorism and drug-trafficking, and their economic cooperation.
Second, this would show Teheran that the SCO is seeking real
cooperation and does not approve of its attempts to use the
organization as a means of pressure on the West for achieving its
own goals. Finally, it would help Teheran take a more constructive
position concerning its nuclear program. That would meet the
interests of Russia and China, as these countries support the
nuclear non-proliferation regime and have economic interests in
Iran, which may suffer from sanctions caused by Iran’s
unconstructive position.

3. Step up economic cooperation
within the SCO framework by means of state funds allocated for
multilateral projects.
The best options would be the
creation of a SCO development program or fund, similar to the UNDP
or programs of other international organizations, which would be
financed from the national budgets of SCO member states. Naturally,
this fund would not directly finance projects carried out by
states, but it would provide loans on easy terms or tender-based
funding to companies or consortiums of companies that would carry
out the more significant projects. This would make it possible to
start implementing the Program for Multilateral Trade and Economic
Cooperation. The implementation of several large infrastructure
projects under the SCO aegis would show to the world and, first of
all, to the population of the SCO member states, that the SCO is
not a discussion club, but an organization of real use.

4. Channel China’s economic
activity in the SCO into a more constructive vein
,
explaining the necessity of a broader and a more comprehensive
approach to economic cooperation, which would better meet the
interests of all SCO members, including China.

5. Establish an SCO university
for training specialists in a wide variety of professions.

Part of the money for this could be allocated from the SCO budget
(SCO Business Council experts are already working on a project to
build an SCO educational center).

6. Establish an SCO
International Institute on the basis of the SCO Forum
, set
up in 2006, for studying problems and prospects of the SCO region’s
political and economic development.

7. Hold SCO sporting events and
art festivals annually in each member state in
turn.

The above measures would help the SCO
enter a new stage in its development and would make this
organization one of the more influential international
organizations. These measures would also help Russia further its
interests in Asia. Naturally, these proposals will meet with
resistance from the bureaucracy and forces that would least of all
like to see Russian influence in Asia grow. But that is a
completely natural reaction that can be overcome by the political
will of the leaders of SCO countries pursuing a policy that ensures
the national interests of their states.