The SCO's Rising Power

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One of most discussed aspects of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Dushanbe over the weekend was the third point of the summit declaration devoted to the situation in South Ossetia. Although member nations expressed "deep concern" over the tensions surrounding this issue, they also pledged to "support Russia's active role in facilitating peace and cooperation in the region."

Immediately following the signing of that declaration, the Western media began an intense and deliberate disinformation campaign to try to depict the position of SCO countries as not supporting Russia's policy toward Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

It is true that SCO countries did not sign on to Russia's initiative and recognize Abkhazia's and South Ossetia's independence. But Moscow had little hope of that happening, knowing that most of those countries are contending with their own domestic separatist movements. In any case, President Dmitry Medvedev did not call for such a step during his official remarks in Dushanbe.

The current disagreement between Russia and the United States over the Georgian conflict has strengthened interest in the SCO. Although the U.S.-European bloc remains the most influential in the world, the separate regional power centers in Russia, China and Iran are rivals to the West in their own rights. Moreover, an increasing number of Russia's neighbors, including SCO members, understand very well that a good relationship with Russia is the best guarantor of their security and territorial integrity.

The role of the SCO will increase in importance as Russia and China combine their common interests. Although China does not support Russia's decision to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it will look favorably upon Russia's attempts to stop further NATO expansion. The increasing confrontation between the East and West could drive the SCO to accept long-time Chinese ally Pakistan as a new member. This is something that Iran wants as well. With the ouster of President Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan might be able to pursue policies less dominated by the West.

In any case, SCO states will strive to provide security for Central Asia, and it might even propose their own solution for stabilizing Afghanistan after what appears to be the impending failure of Western efforts there. Although Afghan President Hamid Karzai is dependent upon the West, it was clear from his statements at the Dushanbe summit that he is disappointed with U.S. actions and is interested in receiving greater support from the SCO.

Another interesting idea is the creation of an alternative organization to the Group of Eight that would be composed of the current BRIC states --Brazil, Russia, India and China -- as well as a few additional major states such as Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa, Mexico and Nigeria. Within a few years, it would be able to compete for influence with the G8 -- especially if Russia is expelled from the organization.

In the new world configuration, the West must accept the hard truth that it will no longer achieve everything it wants and that it can no longer claim to speak on behalf of what it likes to call the "civilized world" or the "international community." The West's understanding of international law and justice does not always coincide with that of other countries, which cannot always be coerced into agreement.

An alternative to the current model of confrontation could become a world in which power centers reach agreement on shared interests. Russia, China and many European countries would be interested in such a cooperative world. Some prominent public figures in the United States, such as former Senator Sam Nunn and former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, have promoted this idea. But the current leadership in the United States and its allies are pushing the world toward increased confrontation.

Alexander Lukin is director of the Center for East Asian and SCO Studies at Moscow State University for International Relations.