Everyone should recognize these pieces of the puzzle from the past years' headlines. Separately they're often viewed as novel, but relatively unimportant events that have tangential effects on our foreign policy. Put together above, though, they should jump off the page and signal alarm bells for even the least astute observers.
There is an organization called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization(SCO). Its membership includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Iran, Pakistan, India and Mongolia have been accorded "observer status" recently, but Mongolia and especially Iran are eager to make the jump to full membership as soon as possible. Afghanistan (yes, that's our Afghanistan) has also been warming to the group, but has not been accorded any formal status with in its structure - yet.
Not counting those countries with "observer status," the SCO covers 3/5 of the Eurasian continent and has a population of 1.5Billion people. The agreements they have already made with each other cover trade, transportation, anti-terror operations, customs cooperation, environmental protection, cultural exchange, military cooperation, economic development, political coordination, and joint defense. They are also working on establishing a free trade area, including free movement of capital and labour, within 20 years. If I may be so bold: they're kind of a big deal.
This organization might sound a lot like the European Union - and in fact it is. It's a lot like a large, powerful, authoritarian, anti-democratic European Union - that also plans on rivalling the United States and its allies for control of the world (and space - no, I'm not kidding) in the 21st century.
There are a lot of documents, agreements, news stories, and speeches that we could pore over in order to analyze this organization, but I think the joint statement they released following a major meeting last summer is our best opportunity for seeing what the SCO is all about, and what it means to us:
While emphasizing a great and constructive job, which was done by the Council of ministers of foreign affairs, the heads of the member states underline the importance of a practical functioning of the already launched mechanism of consultations on international issues. They also consider the task of providing a well planned and targeted development of SCO external contacts an urgent one. Such issues should basically be handled by the Council of ministers of foreign affairs, and current coordination of external ties, being established by the SCO permanent bodies, should be done through the Council of national coordinators and in interaction with the Council of RATS(Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure).
As you can see, SCO members are eager to increase their cooperation in key areas, and to do so at the highest levels of government. This ought to demonstrate how serious they are about integration, and show how far they've come already. For the sake of comparison, they're not far behind the EU in what they've already set up and have operating.
The heads of the member states are convinced that a rational and just world order must be based upon consolidation of mutual trust and good-neighborly relations, upon the establishment of true partnership with no pretence to monopoly and domination in international affairs. Such order will become more stable and secure, if it comes to consider the supremacy of principles and standards of international law, before all, the UN Charter.
This is their first subtle dig at the United States. No pretence to monopoly and domination? You're damn right they're talking about us! This is their quiet declaration, which echoes what the heads of both Russia and China have previously stated, that they intend to rival the United States and seek a bi-polar, if not multi-polar, balance of power in the world.
What's interesting is that they are so committed to the United Nations. One can only assume that they're eager to continue participating because both Russia and China have vetoes on the Security Council, and even if they use them to block progress, the very act of working through that body legitimates (for the world outside of Redstate America) their actions.
In the area of human rights it is necessary to respect strictly and consecutively historical traditions and national features of every people, sovereign equality of all states.
What this tells us is that they have no intention of abiding by our concepts of human rights, political freedom, or any other such liberties. The argument is essentially that they have different concepts of human rights, and the "sovereign equality of all states" gives them the right to exercise state power with their concepts of human rights in mind, not ours. It's a not-so-subtle warning that they'll be doing business on their own terms, so if we don't like Chinese-style detention camps, then that's our problem because they won't feel obligated to change the way they operate on our account.
development of a close cooperation between diplomatic, foreign, external economic and law enforcement bodies, intelligence and defense agencies of the member states
Read: we will speak with one voice, spend from one wallet, keep one watchful eye on you as well as our own people, and come together to defend each other with one gun. This is a big departure from what the EU has established - where Europe has chosen not to coordinate foreign or defense policies, the SCO is clearly going to get together on this stuff. Which means that if Uzbekistan is attacked, then China and Russia are attacked as well.
This goes a long way in explaining why the Bush Administration has done absolutely nothing about Uzbekistan's recent human rights violations and violent crackdowns on political opposition (remember pro-democracy protestors who were slaughtered by the hundreds a few months ago?). Confronting Uzbekistan is confronting China, basically, and we've got no intention of doing that.
harmonisation of national legislations on issues of security provision;
-training of respective personnel.
-cooperation on the invention and implementation of modern technical equipment used in fight against new challenges and threats;
Again we see evidence of a consolidation of not only defense policy, but also defense institutions. This language tells us that SCO-negotatited treaties and defense provisions will be binding resolutions, and that they'll be promoting a common pool of soldiers and equipment to enforce those treaties.
In laymens' terms, this means that they intend to integrate their armed forces into a common military which will take orders indirectly from the SCO, not from individual national governments.
A combination of the Chinese and Russian militaries? Yikes....
formation of an effective mechanism of mass media counteraction against new challenges and threats;
We call this "propaganda" where I'm from.
The SCO member states will prevent any attempts on their territories to prepare and commit acts of terror, including those aimed against the interests of other countries, not provide asylum for individuals, accused or suspected of conducting terrorist, separatist and extremist activity, and extradite such individuals at respective requests on the part of another SCO member state in strict accordance with the current legislation of the member states.
This is another very interesting declaration. Including "separatism" is very important to note, because that clearly refers to China's Taiwan "problem." What this treaty means is that every SCO member is obliged to support China in the event that Taiwan declare independence - including Russia. Not a bad deal for China to have struck, considering they'll have to face us in any conflicts that occur over this issue. Or will they? I have half a mind to wonder if our Taiwan policy will hold up against the prospect of having to fight against China AND Russia (as well as probably Iran).
This also makes the entire organization responsible for responding to any Chechnyan or Tibetan problems, the latter of which presents a very interesting question: should India gain full membership (remember, they're an observer right now), would they be obliged to hand over the Dalai Llama as a "separatist"?
We are supporting and shall continue to support the efforts by the international coalition, conducting antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan. Today we are noticing the positive dynamics of stabilising internal political situation in Afghanistan. A number of the SCO member states provided their ground infrastructure for temporary stationing of military contingents of some states, members of the coalition, as well as their territory and air space for military transit in the interest of the antiterrorist operation.
Considering the completion of the active military stage of antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan, the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation consider it necessary, that respective members of the antiterrorist coalition set a final timeline for their temporary use of the above-mentioned objects of infrastructure and stay of their military contingents on the territories of the SCO member states.
Another VERY obvious dig at the United States. They begin by taking the very reasonable position that they support the actions taken against the Taliban in Afghanistan and encourage continued cooperation against terrorists and drug dealers who operate from there. But they take a quick turn in the second paragraph and stipulate that member countries who're hosting American forces need to set a timeline for kicking us out.
I suppose this explains why Uzbekistan recently kicked us out. Officially this was the fall-out from their massacre of political demonstrators, but unofficially.... well, I'm confident that DKos readers can connect the dots.
The SCO will be making a constructive contribution to the efforts by the world community on issues of providing security on land, at sea, in air space and in outer space.
I told you I wasn't kidding about outer space!
I guess it's important at this point to remind you that yes, this is very real. It surely must seem rather fantastic to think of an EU-style conglomeration forming between Russia, China, the 'Stans, and possibly even Iran (including military and foreign policy coordination), but that's exactly what's happening. And as I said earlier, our piece-meal foreign policy has thus far prevented us from connecting these dots and recognizing what's been happening under our noses.
This should put a whole new spin on Dick Cheney's recent remarks deriding Russia. In some ways they were appropriately portrayed as the first volley in a new Cold War - but what nobody advocating that line of thinking bothered to mention is that the players in this latest iteration have changed considerably.
The dispute over Iran's nuclear program is another piece in this puzzle. If you notice who lines up on each side of this fight, you'll see that it very clearly squares up with the new balance of power that's been created by the formation of the SCO. Russia and China, primarily, are coming to the aid of their new best friend. The United States, with somewhat less enthusiastic support from Europe, is lining up against Tehran.
It should be no surprise to anyone, then, why President Ahmadinejad is so confident: he can read the writing on the wall, and he knows as well as the next man that the United States won't mess with him because not even George Bush is stupid enough to pick a fight with both China and Russia. Dick Cheney will fire off a few choice words towards them, because that's what he does, but by and large the US government will shy away from confronting them anytime soon.
And that's what really ought to concern us about the SCO. The scary, unspoken, unplanned-for truth is very simple: They can beat us.
While Dubya went off and decimated our military and our treasury in Iraq, these guys were busy planning for the future. Almost all of their most ambitious planning and most serious agreements have been made in the period since we went to war against Iraq. They have carefully and strategically formed an alliance and increased their power at exactly the same time that we have been losing allies and seen our own power erode.
If we go to war against the SCO tommorrow, they will win. Hell, if we go to war against the SCO five years from now, they'll win! And that's dangerous, because this is an organization that is designed specifically to counterbalance our power in the world. It's sole purpose is to present a credible threat to us - and it sure as hell does.
The bloc of nations that are aligning with them is significant and growing, too. Southeast Asia, nearly all of South America, parts of Africa, and possibly even some more Middle Eastern countries are either on board or are going to get on board with them. Look no further than China's recent flurry of investment in South America (hint: it's HUGE, and is largely responsible for that region's recent hostility towards us) as evidence of what's to come.
So get ready, because these guys are serious and they're not going away. The SCO represents a rival on the scale of the former Soviet Union, and we will hear more and more about this group in the coming years. Whether we ever engage in direct military conflict with them is impossible to predict, but it's very likely that the next generation of Americans and Europeans will grow up in the icy grip of a new Cold War: one that pits an ageing, out-of-shape West against a fiesty, well-prepared East.
If we don't get our shit together, and do it fast, the SCO will win.