Wednesday, October 26, 2005

SCO: The New Warsaw Pact

Recent Chinese - Russian military training maneuvers appear to be far more than just window dressing. The two nations will today discuss the formation of a new counter-NATO alliance comprised of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan and may even be extended to include India, Pakistan and Iran. Should the latter three be included, the organization would contain four members of the nuclear club. (Christian Science Monitor: Russia, China looking to form 'NATO of the East'?).

The alliance was formed initially to counter the growing US influence in the region. Buoyed by post-9/11 support among former Soviet powers, the US established military bases in several former Soviet republics including Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. That expansion was troubling to a Russia that is still unwilling to accept that the Soviet Union has dissolved. The SCO has recently demanded the US removal of bases from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, although Secretary of State Rice did succeed in winning a long-term lease from the former.

Equally troubling would be the inclusion of Iran and Pakistan into this alliance. China and Russia already openly oppose US policy and have veto power in the UN. Iran may soon find themselves at war with the US and EU over nuclear proliferation, and Pakistan is only one political coup away from becoming a state governed by terrorists. China and Russia appear to be aligning themselves to directly compete with the US over power influence in the Middle East. Given China's insatiable thirst for oil to fuel their 9.5% growth rate, it's not surprising that they would seek to limit US influence in that oil-rich region.

The blocks are all falling into place for another cold-war era triumvirate of opposing powers. This time, it would appear that the three major factions will be the US, the EU, and now SCO. Whether or not this iteration is as openly hostile as the former US - Soviet struggle remains to be seen, however conditions are ripe for it to degenerate to that level. The battleground would appear to be the Middle East, although there are plenty of other minor theaters in play as well. The SCO alliance puts an interesting twist on the conflict with North Korea - something that seems to have taken a back seat in recent weeks - and also in the situation between China and Taiwan.

Dismissing this alliance out of hand four years ago was a huge blunder; one of many our foreign policy experts have made since the fall of the Soviet Union. This alliance bears watching. The struggle for control of the Middle East has already begun. Don't be surprised to see SCO members taking a more openly aggressive posture as we continue to debate UN sanctions and subsequent action against Iran and Syria. This struggle is only beginning.

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1 comment :

contratimes said...

Also an excellent piece. Thanks.

BG