Monday, August 20, 2007

Final Thoughts on Bishkek

So the SCO exercises and the Bishkek summit is over. Charles Ganske over at the Russia Blog did a round-up of reactions.

I've always maintained that we should not be looking for grand, great gestures at these events--what is most important to focus on is how the foundation is being laid for an alternate global order that gives powers options to hedge. To reiterate some points I made on Friday ...

Even before the Bishkek summit—and before Barma, Ratner and Weber unveiled their thesis—it is clear that a number of Chinese foreign policy thinkers and analysts were exploring the ramifications of a parallel world order. Last year, Wang Yizhou, deputy director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, had declared that " … the steady growth of the four BRIC countries that are non-Western, non-European and non-members of the developed world, has made quite an impact" while Liu Baolai, vice president of the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, had observed that "the growing Shanghai Cooperation Organization has provided an important platform for China to expand its influence."

And while the recent Peace Mission 2007 exercises were small in scale and did not involve large numbers of forces, Zhen Shouhua of the Chinese Academy of Military Science noted that the drill had "historic significance as a milestone in military cooperation among the six SCO member countries."

What it means is that Moscow, Beijing and other states are increasing their ability to hedge against the United States and to have other options. A Xinhua report concluded that one of the goals is "to push for a fairer and more reasonable international order."

But there is also an interesting "ideological" component as well. Not only a post-Soviet Russia but also the People’s Republic of China have abandoned the notion of spreading a particular social-political-economic ideology to all corners of the globe as well as the idea that for states to cooperate, they must share similar systems of governance. Mei Zhaorong, former Chinese ambassador to Germany, wrote last year in an article for China’s Foreign Affairs Journal that a key proposition of China’s foreign policy was that "People of all countries enjoy the inalienable right of choosing their road of development according to their own national conditions."

And what is striking is that the SCO’s members and observers run the gamut—from liberal democracies to semi-authoritarian states to those considered to be "unfree"—but all of the countries represented share a commitment to preserving state sovereignty. Not surprisingly, then, one point President Hu stressed in his remarks in Bishkek was that "The most serious challenge we face is that whether all member states can effectively maintain their sovereignty, security and development."

Last week in the Washington Post, Paul Saunders raised the point: "Trying to create a ‘Concert of Democracies’ inevitably invites a ‘Concert of Non-Democracies’", which could be very damaging to American interests and values." The Bishkek summit did not formally do this—but foundations are being laid.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

India no longer sees Russia as ideal ally - expert

The news that India and the United States finally reached a nuclear cooperation agreement was not unexpected.
Russia became friends with democratic India back in Soviet times when the Communist regime was in power. Today, however, this friendship is visibly cooling down. The two nations are getting further away for a number of reasons. They do not show much interest in each other's economy, and their military cooperation has most likely reached its zenith.
India has already taken from Russia whatever was left of the defunct Soviet Union's technological heritage, and Russia has not developed anything distinctly innovative over its past fifteen years of independence. That is why Delhi's interest in Russia's defense programs is fading - India is highly developed and ambitious, what it wants is real state-of-the-art technologies.
In addition, Russia is probably heading for a scandal over the contract to upgrade an aircraft carrier commissioned by the Indian Navy. The shipyard is way behind schedule to deliver both the vessel and the aircraft for it.
True, India had been quite willing to be friends with Russia as opposed to China and a number of Islamic nations. Unfortunately, Russia created the non-existent "triangle" Moscow-Delhi-Beijing, and then began rapprochement with the very Islamic nations that India would never regard as friendly.
Beijing and Delhi are unlikely to become friends today. But if they decide otherwise, what would they need Russia for? What could Russia offer those two major powers?
India would maintain friendly relations with Russia based on real shared interests, but would never do it to indulge the psychological complexes of the Kremlin officials. It is Russia's irrational policy of allying itself with its natural opponents in order to annoy the U.S. that eventually prodded India to seek the latter's friendship.
All this may result in an absurd situation: Russia will end up China's ally despite its historic distrust of Beijing, and an opponent to India, its best potential ally.
(Alexander Khramchikhin heads the analytical department at the Institute of Political and Military Analysis)
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