Friday, August 31, 2007
Last Word: Significance of Bishkek
Ian Bremmer had this to say, in a piece tellingly entitled, "There's no need to worry about a Sino-Russian axis":
Russia and China will continue to find tactical advantage in working together on specific foreign-policy issues. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is, in part, a tool designed for that purpose. Some of that coordination is bound to come at the West's expense. But the two countries' foreign policies will continue to diverge, limiting the likelihood of any anti-Western alliance.
Ambassador M. K. Bhadrakumar has a somewhat different take, one that points to possible trends. He notes:
Clearly, if the SCO is developing into a "NATO of the East", that can only happen in the fullness of time, quite a long while from now. But in the meantime, security cooperation within the SCO is assuming new dimensions and has intensified. To be sure, the possibility of the organization evolving into a fully fledged security grouping cannot be ruled out.
In the short term, we may even expect an expanded framework of military cooperation, which would include different formats for forward basing and equipment propositioning. The turning point to be watched would be if and when the SCO assumed mutual security obligations among its members. ...
Again, the Bishkek summit marks one more step toward the SCO's evolution into a "supra-regional" organization. It has gained observer status at the UN; it is forging links with sister organizations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. That is to say, the SCO is incrementally placing itself on the same political pedestal as, say, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and with a military profile somewhat resembling NATO's.
Indications are that China has finally concurred with the Russian proposal for establishing a partnership between the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the SCO.
I think that where both are right is that China will be the determining factor in how this breaks, and that how the U.S.-China relationship evolves will be a critical factor.