SCO Summit Confirms Military Function and Strategic Objective of Removing US, EU Influence from Central Asia
Analysis. By Gregory R. Copley, Editor, GIS.
Reports on August 3 and August 7, 2007, by GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs to the effect that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was moving rapidly toward becoming a new power bloc, specifically aimed at removing US and European Union (EU) influence from Central Asia took on new meaning with the 2007 Summit of the SCO in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, on August 16, 2007.
That the Summit’s hostile tone toward the US should come from the Bishkek Summit also highlighted the reality that the US State Department and the EU had very specifically failed in Central Asia in their support for “color revolutions” against Central Asian former Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) members.
See Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, August 3, 2007: The Growing Strategic Significance of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, August 7, 2007: Iran Scrambles for SCO Participation to Invoke Mutual Defense Clause.
The US State Department was, with the US financier George Soros and his “Open Society” initiative, and supported by the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), instrumental in ousting Kyrgyz President Dr Askar Akaev in March 2005, putting in place Kurmanbek Bakiyev, covertly paying Bakiyev some quarter-billion dollars in incentives.
Bakiyev, however, proved to be a mistake for the US, while Akaev had been extremely pro-US. Bakiyev, who had also been backed by narco-traffickers, immediately began moving the Kyrgyz Republic away from the US and toward a more comfortable position between Russian and Chinese (PRC) pressures.
[See Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, July 13, 2005: As Forecast by GIS, Newly-Elected Kyrgyz President Bakiyev Starts Process of Removing US Military from Manas Air Base.
As well, see Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, March 29, 2005: Myths and Reality of the Kyrgyz “Democratic Revolution”: How OSCE and US Officials Influenced Situation, and March 5, 2007: Kyrgyz Republic: Pres. Bakiyev Faces a Splintering Nation in Run-Up to Parliamentary Elections.]
The US, in its “colour revolution” approach toward gaining dominance in Central Asia by installing its own governments, flirted with, and either failed or gave up, attempts to change the governments of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. [See Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, May 24, 2005: Uzbek “Protests” Organized and Paid-For by Narco-Traffickers Who Arranged Kyrgyz Coup, and Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, August 22, 2005: US Taking Steps to Bring Down Kazakhstan’s Nazarbeyev Government.]
The SCO began its two-stage 2007 military exercises, codenamed Peace Mission 2007, on August 9, 2007, in the Xinjiang region of the PRC. Peace Mission 2007 ended in Chelyabinsk, Russia, on August 17, 2007, and more than 6,500 military personnel participated, mainly from the PRC and Russia. Uzbekistan sent observers; Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan sent small numbers of troops to participate.
Several of the presidents attending the SCO Bishkek Summit, including Chinese Pres. Hu Jintao, went to Chelyabinsk to watch the final day of large-scale SCO military exercises before going on to Bishkek. Russian Federation Pres. Vladimir Putin used the occasion to announce that Russian strategic bombers would resume regular long-range patrols for the first time since the end of the Cold War. He noted: “Starting today, such tours of duty will be conducted regularly and on the strategic scale. ...
Our pilots have been grounded for too long. They are happy to start a new life.”
Some Western, and particularly US State Department, analysts have attempted to obscure the reality that the West has now forced Russia back into a firm strategic alliance with the PRC, and that this now forms the basis of the “New Cold War”, which GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs identified as becoming crystallized earlier in 2007.
[See Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, June 14, 2007: The Friction of a New Cold War; and Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, May 21, 2007: Toward Victory in the New Cold War.]
An August 20, 2007, report in the Global Intelligence Brief, entitled The Looming Central Asian Battleground, highlighted the Western misperception that Russia and the PRC were once again moving into confrontation in Central Asia, rather than into cooperation. That report noted:
After 16 years of relative quiescence, Central Asia is about to become a major field of competition between the Russians and the Chinese.
Over the weekend [of August 18-19, 2007], the Chinese Government sealed a series of energy deals with the governments of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Airy promises of cooperation on the windswept Asian steppe are about as common as cold winters, but these deals are different. China's offers are monumental in scope, strategic in nature and backed up by cold, hard cash.
The two most critical projects involve the final phase of an oil pipeline to link China to Kazakhstan's sector of the Caspian Sea. Once the line is completed, China will be able to tap multiple oil-producing regions throughout Kazakhstan, and ultimately ship 1.0 million barrels per day into western China. The 2,000-mile project is already two-thirds complete -- and over the weekend, Beijing bellied up to finance the final leg.
The second project would link Turkmenistan to China via a natural gas line. This project has been under discussion for some time, but the Chinese have always been coy in public about the deal’s prospects. Now their interest is public and firm. Beijing also has explicitly said it wants the line to transit Uzbekistan, which would link Tashkent's energy and political desires into China's policy.
Taken together, the two projects mark a sea change in the geopolitics of the region. For the past several years, Central Asia has witnessed incessant maneuvering between Russia -- the region’s most recent colonial power — and the United States, which seeks to harness the region’s energy potential to Western purposes — in addition to staking out strategic outposts between Russia, China and the Middle East.
This is a fight that the Russians have more or less won. The region’s autocratic governments’ one-time friendliness to Washington disintegrated after the United States backed the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. (They feared they were next — and one, Kyrgyzstan, actually was.) Add in that distance prevented the United States from coming to anyone’s aid and that all meaningful pre-existing infrastructure from the Soviet period led north to Russia, and Central Asia quickly fell into lockdown.
That is, it would have if not for China. Moscow considers the presence of Central Asia in Russia’s tight geopolitical orbit as the one bright spot on its list of ongoing geopolitical realities. As such, Moscow has focused the bulk of its military and economic efforts elsewhere. In contrast, China knows full well that it is working from an institutional, linguistic and infrastructure deficit — and so has been spending billions to improve its chances.
The report went on to imply that Chinese acquisition of Central Asian energy would detract from Russia’s energy interests. But this, in reality, is a small price for Russia to pay for participating in a unified Eurasian marketplace complex which includes the New Silk Route infrastructure. Certainly, Russia lost ground with the break-up of the USSR in 1990-91, but, with the help of the SCO, it has begun to rapidly regain influence over the territory it once controlled, and, in this new iteration, has become part of a much more viable economic framework.
The SCO Summit, not surprisingly, included Iranian Pres. Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad, given that Iran is a candidate member of the SCO. And Pres. Ahmadi-Nejad supported the line of Russian Pres. Putin opposing the US bid to place anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems close to SCO countries, and to Iran. He attacked the “threats of one of the powers [ie: the US] to deploy elements of antimissile systems in several areas of the world.”
Turkmenistan Pres. Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov and Afghanistan Pres. Hamid Karzai also attended the Summit as observers, and the US Embassy in Bishkek closed for two days during the Summit.
The “Bishkek Declaration” issued at the conclusion of the Summit included an SCO commitment to increase cooperation with Afghanistan, and to create an “anti-drug zone” around the country, despite the fact that the man now in power in Bishkek, Pres. Kurmanbek Bakiyev, was already committed to supporting the narco-trafficking criminal groups bringing Afghanistani-grown narcotics in through the South (Ferghana Valley) of the Kyrgyz Republic even when the US, Soros, and the OSCE stepped in to help him mount his coup against Dr Akaev in 2005.