Ahead of the 10th anniversary summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Leonid Moiseyev spoke to InfoSHOS
editor-in-chief Tatiana Sinitsyna about the results of the organization’s ten-year activities, its problems and outlook.
When an anniversary approaches, it is customary to talk about the phenomenon of its hero… Is ten years a lot or little for an international organization?
On the one hand, it is a lot; after all, it has been ten years of fairly intensive work. The structure of the organization has been shaped, a legal framework created for functioning, the structure has been made efficient, and finally, a unique philosophy has been worked out. Hence the phenomenon of the recent years: the SCO has become a popular regional organization that attracts ever more attention. Recognition on the part of the UN General Assembly is worth its weight in gold, and it passed a resolution where the SCO is described as a key regional union that deals with maintaining security and stability in Central Asia. On the other hand, ten years is a good occasion to analyze what has not been done and to think about a strategy for the future, about ways to promote the ideas declared by the SCO, given the new developments in the world. In the new international circumstances, and they have changed drastically, it is important to think about internal consolidation within the organization and about how it will expand, since from the very beginning the SCO positioned itself as an open structure. There are already countries willing to become its full members. There are aspirants for the status of an observer or a dialog partner. These applications are being considered and they require decisions.
- Many experts believe that the SCO will play the part of a stronghold of safe and fair world order. Do you think the SCO can cope with this mission?
- We see a lot of hopes vested in the SCO and a lot of expectations connected to it. The global community sees our union as an alternative to the order that has shaped in the world in the recent decades, where powerful nations believe that they can behave as they want, ignoring both the international law and the opinion of others.
We see a lot of hopes vested in the SCO and a lot of expectations connected to it. The global community sees our union as an alternative to the order that has shaped in the world in the recent decades, where powerful nations believe that they can behave as they want, ignoring both the international law and the opinion of others.
There are attempts to project their own domestic legislation on other countries and to act without any consideration for others’ opinion. This approach is absolutely alien to the SCO. We defend what our alliance is based on: all countries regardless of their size, history and cultural and national traditions have equal rights and an equal vote in resolving issues on the agenda. Hence the world’s response to the SCO as to the real alternative and, therefore, huge expectations connected to it.
This is why more and more countries turn to us, willing to join the SCO’s orbit. We, in our turn, are ready to work with everyone who shares our values.We,i n our turn, are ready to work with everyone who shares our values.
Any anniversary is a good occasion to sum up the results and demonstrate aggregate achievements. What are the SCO’s main achievements and most important projects? I would start with security and stability. Together, we have managed to organize counteraction to the most acute threats to security. Today, we are focusing on fighting drugs that cross the SCO borders and get into our countries in an ever increasing amount. We see the drug threat as a threat to security. We are taking important, drastic steps in this direction, adopting an anti-drug strategy, creating a real mechanism to fight drug trafficking. It will start functioning in the near future and add to the existing system of mechanisms built to counteract threats to stability and security.
Speaking of the economy, the SCO’s achievements are more modest. And it is understandable, because it is an extremely difficult task to start close, mutually beneficial, promising economic cooperation between six countries that are very different in terms of their economic weight, size, resources and economic priorities. But something is being done nevertheless. We are finding niches where the SCO can cooperate on a multilateral basis. Gradually, our interaction will develop further, because it is geared towards improving the social and economic situation and the well-being of people in our countries. This task is becoming very relevant: we see what is happening in North Africa and the Middle East, how profoundly social and economic problems may affect the politics and the stability of the society. In this respect, the goal of improving the population’s living standards is becoming even more important and relevant.
We have taken a number of important steps in spheres that are of interest for the entire global community, and we were pioneers there. I will first of all mention international information security, where the SCO is getting ready to come up with new initiatives and to offer its vision of how nations should behave in the sphere that is intertwined with politics and economy.
So, we have achieved some serious things. I don’t even mention the sphere of education (we have launched the SCO Network University) and the cultural sphere, where we have serious achievements in terms of developing an inter-civilization dialog and mutual cultural enrichment. Our work is based on reality. The most important thing is to move forward, taking into account everyone’s interests.
- The SCO didn’t emerge because life was too good. The region’s states had to respond to threats that became more acute at the end of the 20th – the beginning of the 21st century. To what extent has the SCO justified its image as the region’s guarantor of stability?
- Speaking of stability and comparing what we saw in the region ten years ago to what we have now, the drastic improvement of the situation is obvious. But we will, of course, continue working on ensuring stability and counteracting terrorism and drug trafficking. It is very important how the situation
The international coalition forces are expected to withdraw from the country’s territory, delegating the main responsibility for supporting peace and stability within its borders to local authorities. It is hard to say how it will be managed in reality. We should be ready for any turn of events in Afghanistan and around it in order to take timely measures. This task is currently coming to the fore. It didn’t exist when the SCO was being created. At the time, we were more worried about instability problems that existed within our own countries. Now, however, the main threat to security comes from outside, namely, from Afghanistan and bordering Pakistan. Some countries outside the region are insisting on the SCO shouldering the main responsibility for managing the situation in Afghanistan. We are not going to do it, given the past experience, I mean, the Soviet Union’s ten-year war in Afghanistan. The most important thing for the SCO is to preserve security around the Afghan border.
- Will the SCO voice its opinion should the Americans, who have announced withdrawal of their forces, deploy them in neighboring countries, including the SCO member states, instead of sending them home?
First of all, experience shows that the Americans never leave anywhere for good. In this respect, Afghanistan is more likely to repeat the story of Iraq. Definitely, there is a desire to perpetuate their military presence outside Afghanistan as well. I think it will be a focal point for discussion within the SCO given the collective approach that was worked out in 2004. Its essence is that as military operations in Afghanistan are being scaled down, a need is arising to scale down foreign presence in the region as well. Perhaps, the current situation is not exactly what it was in 2004. But the general approach remains the same, and it says that the region’s security should first of all be ensured by the region’s countries.
- The organization has come a long way of adjusting, establishing and bringing together parts of its organism. After the Tashkent summit, work began to create a legal framework for expanding the SCO. There is a queue to join the SCO, so to say. But the bigger the mass, the higher the turbulence. Won’t the SCO be shaken by the expansion process?
Of course, there certain doubts about the pace of the expansion. But I should say that we are moving forward quite orderly. In Tashkent, a resolution was adopted related to the admission of new members. In Astana, we expect to adopt a detailed document that will regulate the technical aspects of the admission. We envisage a consistent and fairly long procedure that will help a new member to adjust to the rules and forms of work customary for the SCO. This process will take a few years, but we hope that it won’t be painful.
Last year, in Tashkent, the SCO Secretariat signed the Declaration on Cooperation with the UN Secretariat. Today, the West says NATO also needs a dialog with the organization. Do you think the SCO may move towards cooperation with NATO?
If there is a dialog with NA TO, it will be very difficult. There is prejudice and long-time stereotypes that do not allow looking at the partner in a new way. This is true about the Collective Security Treaty Organization and about the SCO. Remarkably, the EU countries have already begun reconsidering and changing old stereotypes, showing interest in a dialog with the SCO. Just a few years ago, it was not so. As to NA TO, it is a military and political structure, while the SCO is not military. If any dialog is possible at all, it will not happen in the near future.
- Last year, in an interview with InfoSHOS, you said that “the SCO has outgrown the regional borders.” Can you please explain this statement from today’s position?
- Take anti-terrorist efforts, which are among the SCO’s main goals, as an example. Obviously, fight against terrorism cannot be conducted on some narrow field. There are common problems and common methods of fighting this evil, which are interesting and relevant for everyone and to which every region can contribute with its know-how. Every region is now looking for different forms of cooperation. We believe that terrorism is a global threat and it should be fought jointly. Or take the topic of drugs. They come from Afghanistan en route the territory of the SCO. So we understand that drug trafficking should be fought not only within the narrow framework of our alliance, but together, and it is very important to learn from others’ experience. There is something to learn from Iran, an observer at the SCO, which has an efficient anti-drug system. Anti-drug efforts are a topic we are willing to cooperate on with different countries, including outside the SCO. Drugs produced in Afghanistan are not only a regional threat, it is a global challenge as the SCO sees it.
One cannot but mention Kyrgyzstan, the SCO’s tender point. The country’s domestic problems are yet to be resolved. What does the Shanghai Six do to help Kyrgyzstan, to promote civil peace in the country?
Not long ago, on May 14, 2011, at the meeting of the SCO Foreign Ministers Council in Almaty, the participants were unanimous in marking the significant role the SCO had played in normalizing the situation in Kyrgyzstan. They were referring not only to economic and humanitarian aid; the SCO played a political part as well, which is very important. We are willing to work with the Kyrgyz authorities, and they feel and appreciate it. I should mention that, despite all the events, there has been no pause in working with Kyrgyzstan within the SCO, there has been no questioning the value of Kyrgyzstan’s membership in the organization. Individual member states continue regular close contacts with the Kyrgyz authorities in terms of providing aid. For example, Russia is now actively helping Kyrgyzstan in establishing an anti-drug service, which has not existed there previously. We are providing organizational and financial help.
- How do you assess Kazakhstan’s presidency in the SCO? What new features have appeared? What innovations?
- Kazakhstan has taken its presidency very scrupulously and made it very saturated and intensive. The calendar for the past year was tightly scheduled, and all events were held impeccably, with an emphasis on organizational culture. The meetings and congresses enjoyed a wonderful friendly and business-like atmosphere, all contacts were very productive. I want to believe that the summit will also be held at a very high level. Apart from the anniversary Declaration the summit will sign an Anti-drug strategy, the name of which speaks for itself. Another step in Astana will be a Memorandum that will serve as a mechanism to admit new members to the organization. Actually, it completes work on the legal framework for the expansion. It should also be mentioned that Kazakhstan, with participation of other countries, has for the first time prepared videos about the SCO’s life and activities to be shown on the backstage of the summit. It is a vivid and informative documentary able to enrich the PR element the SCO needs so badly. We have also issued a commemorative anniversary coin and a stamp for the summit.
Speaking of Russia, is the extent of its involvement in the SCO sufficient?
It is difficult to give an unequivocal assessment. It would be more accurate to say we work as we can. In some areas, we act very precisely and efficiently. I can point to the example of the customs group, which in the SCO is headed by a Russian representative. We have managed to do a lot in this direction. At present, the Russian Finance Ministry is actively promoting the concept of a mechanism for launching joint economic projects. Our financiers are willing to invest in these projects at the early stage in order for other investors to join in later.
Recalling Russia’s presidency in the SCO in 2009, I believe Russia’s initiative then played an important role and became kind of an example for others. We for the first time rationally and meticulously planned the entire program of joint activities for the year and this approach has now become a norm for other SCO presidents.
The Russian party came up with a number of initiatives, for example, to launch SCO cooperation in the sanitary and epidemiological sphere, which gained everyone’s support. At the same time, another area of cooperation emerged, it was between interior ministries.
Following suit, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan during their presidencies brought their own identities and their initiatives to programs of interaction. Each time, it contributed to a more efficient and harmonious work, bringing cooperation within the organization to a new level.