|Tatiana Sinitsyna, the Editor-in-Chief of InfoSCO
The Guinness Book of World Records will have to submit one more page to Yekaterinburg, a big Russian center in the Urals, close to the Europe –Asia geographical line. For the first time it appeared in this popular edition at the end of the XX century as a city of the shortest underground in the world (7 stations). And now it has distinguished itself by hosting the two summits simultaneously – those of SCO and BRIC. These alliances are young – the first has just celebrated its 8 year anniversary, the second one is newborn, but both have already given a clear signal to the global space that the world order can no more remain the same.
“Malachite site" for summits
Having covered eastward two thousand kilometers from Moscow, having crossed the Urals, one finds himself in the space of the Ural Federal District. The plane lands in the airport recalling a Samarkand flat cake: the flat airfield is surrounded by a dense ring of barrows – what explains the name - "Koltsovo”. Preparing for the summit, residents of Yekaterinburg made qualitative changes and technical re-equipping of their air gateway. Now “Koltsovo”, extremely comfortable and reasonably equipped with the necessary facilities, welcomes everybody by shining polished granite, marble, sparkling of all kinds of Ural stones. And early June an up-to-date landing strip and a control tower were put here into operation. All that was examined with interest by the President Dmitry Medvedev who arrived at the summit.
Yekaterinburg is situated near the modest Iset River, as if it pressed itself against countless riches of the Ural Mountains, against that magic “malachite box”, whose epic image had been created by the writer Pavel Bazhov. And in this “box” there are countless riches, the whole periodic table, 150 kinds of precious and semiprecious stones, unique quartz deposits. The main thing is to think, act and love this blessed land.
The Uralians just live on this, as the saying goes. They have called their city “the Uralian capital”, twined the silk ribbon around the coat of arms and gave it to the two symbols – a bear and a sable: the first embodies Europe, the second one embodies Asia. Yekaterinburg also has an emotional image - the heart of Ural. As seen, the citizens do all that is necessary that its cardiogram corresponds to the best vital signs.
Plant facilities concentration in the region exceeds 4 times the Russian middle level. Metallurgy and mining industry, large-scale mechanical engineering, all kinds of equipment, petroleum, gas – it is not possible to quickly grasp all the features of the Uralian economy. There is no denying, it’s Russia’s powerful “industrial fist”! At the same time the city is among the ten biggest education research and cultural centers of the country.
Yekaterinburg is ambitious; it tenders care of its reputation and expends a lot of efforts that its image indicators correspond to the spirit and norms of the age.
As any bogatyr epic character, Yekaterinburg takes a great interest in display of power and possibilities. Ambitious high-rise buildings are drawing the city’s complicated graphic contour, architects even ventured upon 50-storey buildings. The urbanistic unique is being completed – the Academic complex. But at the same time the extant antiquity is lovingly protected – strong merchants’ houses, the wooden and stone ones – now pompous, now angry, remembering many things.
A while back a unique house of lacy black metal was carried for safety from the street under the museum’s roof. The forging is haute couture! At the beginning of the 19th century this paragon of houses was applauded at the exhibition in Paris. The buildings that had appeared under the Soviet constructivism are also considered as the city’s architectural heritage. By their straight lines they remind the Florentine classics (the guide said that “the visiting Italian architects were actually delighting.”)
Yekaterinburg is only two score years younger than St. Petersburg and approaches with confidence to its 300-year anniversary. In term of history this Uralian city (as its neighbor - Perm) is a charismatic manifestation of Peter the Great’s majestic imagination, a bold idea for Russia’s advancing eastward.
...But here we are in the 21st century, in its ninth year. Two middle June days, the 15th and 16th made Yekaterinburg world-famous. Presidents of 11 countries got together here, representing three continents, interests of more than a half of the planet population.
Two years for the sake of two days
Two days and two years. The uproar of the recent summits in Yekaterinburg kept within such a formula of time. Nevertheless, there was no uproar: the organization score turned out to be irreproachable, and everything went off seamlessly, actually masterly. And indeed the results presented by the leaders did not disappoint: 11 SCO documents were signed, of which the main ones are the Yekaterinburg declaration of Heads of the SCO member states and the SCO Convention against terrorism. And in the format of BRIC the first document appeared opening this informal alliance's history – the BRIC Leaders’ Joint Statement.
For sure, on the talking grounds it was not all plain sailing – both sharp opinions and unpleasant dialogues were expressed, but we will not know them all the same. Finally, it is a result that is valuable, and it is quite convincing.
It is impossible not to underline the fact that for the sake of an adequate implementation of the summits, Yekaterinburg (and indeed the whole Ural Federal District) went through two difficult years, having coped with a fantastic volume of work connected with the total renovation, realizing the unprecedented by its scale development program, which was expressed in material terms by tens of billion of dollars. As was calculated, in whole the summit costed the city $60 billion (but the figure is informal).
The two summits in question were certainly a unique event for the Uralian capital – before it had not known anything more important and responsible. It is self understood that it was important for the host party, which was admitted by the Governor himself Eduard Rossel, “to prove ourselves in fine feather, in the whole scale of our own riches and talents.”
Yekaterinburg was putting itself in an ideal order according to the traditional Russian rule - by pooling resources. Heaps of work was done with the help of an active vitality, powerful energy, and creative ideas so characteristic of the city. Various urbanistic levels were equipped, grandiose projects were implemented; a great number of objects were modernized. It was an unprecedented large-scale “plastic operation” skillfully implemented at a great pace. In the issue Yekaterinburg received a renovated face.
Its inhabitants, of course, paid two-year discomfort for this. In winter and summer tower cranes were invariable personages of cityscape. Clouds of dust, noise and crash of architectural engineering, congested streets, and other inconveniences pestered townspeople. “But the summit is on a visit!” a hotel employee answered me, when I asked how it was going in this not simple situation.
The city understood what unusual mission was assigned to it, so, a natural wish was actuated to do justice to itself, to receive top men in an appropriate manner, to do things in a big way in hospitality. In a word, the unrestrained Russian welcome worked, as they say, to the maximum.
Of course there were local dramas going on: pessimists and panic-mongers carried out their work, promising nearly collapse to the city, as well as a “worldwide shame”, if it is not able to comply with the world standards required for very important persons. Sceptics grumbled that allegedly it will succeed in neither tuning the Koltsovo Airport, nor completing the Hyatt hotel. But the result was absolutely miracle-working: a majestic, stylish, very comfortable and shining with beauty city greeted the guests. Disputes were settled by Time.
Is it necessary to remind of its transience? Two intense summits days came and passed. Eleven presidents, numerous high-ranking persons of their team, 700 journalists covering the summits, one and all remained satisfied. Well-known observer and news camera person of the NTV company Vladimir Kondratiev, who has seen a great deal of summits in his time, recognized that the quality of the SCO and BRIC summits organization is not inferior to others, and sometimes even excels them.
However there was one reclamation. True, it would have escaped observation if it had not been expressed at the press conference by the RF presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich: the speed of lifts in the Hyatt hotel did not correspond to that required by the presidents. But this rather nice claim was looking as a prove-the-rule exception.
Another thing must be noted too: the Uralians showed an exclusive loyalty to the important visitors: neither antiglobalists, nor other “protesters” (any summit’s dream!), not a “yellow” attack of the press. And the weather was not capricious: moderate sun and small rain. Except for, there was a storm of poplar wool, not weaker than that of February, and it was necessary to sweep fluffs out from lobbies…
Local journalists called these “48 hours” of June ones of the most “pure and quiet” in the whole city’s life. Certainly, it was living in its own particular mode: the central streets were empty, minimum of people and cars, many shops were closed. It was clear that the strictest safety regulations in such cases were observed.
“These were not simple days for the inhabitants of Yekaterinburg, a densely populated city. We have probably brought certain problems in its life. I ask the citizens not to judge us strictly,” said Dmitry Medvedev, closing the summit. “We were seized of the important matters. I hope we will attain our objects in consequence of our decisions.”
As was fairly noted by Arkady Dvorkovich, assessing the conditions provided for the summit work, “it is a sin not to use such an infrastructure that was created in Yekaterinburg, for next summits.” And, apparently, it will be so – Yekaterinburg, for sure, will be asserted itself as an official site for all kinds of vip-meetings. “Malachite site”, the journalists specified, thereby underlining the quality of the summit infrastructure, and of all the charm of the city.
I would like to finish the short story about the city, where the two summits were held, by a nice fact: a saleswoman in a souvenir shop in the Koltsovo Airport, with whom I involuntarily entered into a conversation, told that on June 15 in her house a Persian cat Martha gave birth to two kittens. The one was named Shos (SCO), another – Bric...
SCO’s Yekaterinburg motives
The Hyatt hotel that became for the time of summit a residence of the 11 states leaders was, certainly, a place of energy attraction and the focus of attention of seven hundred of journalists inhabiting the Press center, ideally equipped for work and perfectly hospitable. We did not let big television screens on the walls out of our sight: “What are the presidents doing there now?”
Initially Yekaterinburg was smartening itself up only for one summit – it was waiting for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states leaders. Russia was chairing the Organization, and the annual working summit was to be held in its territory. On June 15, on the first day of the meeting, the SCO colleagues congratulated each other with the organization’s birth day – it was 8 years. The structure is rather young, being in the making, seeking its philosophy, correcting its conception and form.
It is worth remembering here what initial forces had impelled the organization appearance - everything, as is known, has causal relationship. A starting point for SCO can be considered that intense cooperation with China that seethed near the common border in late years of the Soviet Union existence. As was explained in an interview of the Special Representative of the President of Russia for the SCO affairs Leonid Moiseev, “then the two states were pioneers in working out unique for the Asian Continent measures of military confidence and reduction in force near the common border. There has been no example like this in the history of Asia (by the way, later it was used by China and India – at their borders). Absolutely new for Asia process had an important effect – it laid foundation for the creation of an atmosphere of mutual confidence.”
This positive tone, fortunately, continued in subsequent years too, when the USSR was no more, and in the Central Asia region a number of young sovereign states appeared. Thus in post-Soviet political realities in this part of the world a new quality of relationship appeared.
At the beginning the Shanghai Five came into existence and developed into the Six in 2001 after Uzbekistan’s joining. The challenges issued were absolutely practical. In the region the forces of terrorism and extremism became more active. Accordingly, it was necessary to counter the threat, concentrating the general possibilities.
But life was changing, making allowances. In SCO an economic dimension and a humanitarian component appeared. The organization was taking universal features, developing relations in many areas. Thus, the projects of an express Information Highway, transportation corridors, and electronic signature for SCO appeared. The organization was increased with a “youth wing”, a unique in the world Network University is now under formation. From the very beginning SCO were demonstrating a new, unique in the international practice example of communication, when countries of different traditions and civilization cultures could conduct an equal dialogue on a very wide range of questions.
“SCO is a unique organization,” Leonid Moiseev emphasized. “In its frame structure there are two big countries, Russia and China, plus four relatively small states of Central Asia – Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. But the peculiarity shows up both in the form and in the content. SCO advocates the philosophy of equal rights and possibilities, all the participants of the organization, independently of territorial scale, economic power, and cultural traditions possess absolutely equal vote in political affairs and can participate fully and equally in the discussion of critical problems of the present.”
Against the background of the unipolar world the philosophy of parity enabling the countries to cooperate, regardless of economic, cultural and other differences, is solely taken as a challenge. But the same philosophy serves as an attractive moment, communicates to the organization original features. Besides different multilevel formats of communication, SCO annually hold summits, where the leaders strike the balance, “synchronize the clocks”, correct viewpoints and the progress of events. After the meeting in Yekaterinburg SCO’s reins of government passed to Uzbekistan, respectively, in its territory the next summit will took place.
But what is the main outcome of the Yekaterinburg summit? Above all, it is confirmation of the Organization member states’ intention to continue strengthening of cooperation, improvement of mechanisms of cooperation between the countries united in the SCO structure. In the center of discussion there were priority questions of the maintenance of security and stability, struggle with new threats and challenges. The general opinion, view on the establishment of fairer and rational architecture of intergovernmental relations, financial stability were reflected in the Yekaterinburg declaration signed by the heads of state of the Shanghai Six.
In this document an idea is perpetuated that “the tendency toward a real multipolarity is irreversible.” A wish for joint development on basis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Charter is confirmed in it, the need for activization of the partnership with the world community in the sphere of international finances control and management is stressed, and energy’s key significance for the economic development is noted. The SCO states once again confirmed their commitment to the dialogue between civilizations, world’s values, tolerance, mutual respect and consent. Iranian journalists reminded that in remote antiquity there was the Vedic God Mitra patronizing their “people’s consent”. Maybe today it is worth praying to him too...
The presidents of six states also signed the SCO Convention against terrorism – a document developing the Organization’s regulatory and legal framework in accordance with the necessities of the times and the changing specific character of challenges and threats. And, certainly, special attention was given to the cooperation in the Afghan area, which was very much contributed by the presence at the summit of the presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran - Khamid Karzai, Asif Ali Zardari and Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad.
Yet another detail: SCO has been enriched by new participants of its process - Byelorussia and Sri Lanka were approved as dialogue partners. The Six supports the opinion that an observer and dialogue partner status must be used more actively, more efficiently.
There can be little doubt that the international political establishment, experts and analysts were following with great attention what was going on in Yekaterinburg. The interest is clear: new alliances of international cooperation are being formed for all to see, centers of the world economy and new intercontinental force are making their way.
This process arouses allergy and suspicion in somebody. As recently as early June the professor from Paris Catherine Poujol, speaking at the international expert conference “SCO as a factor for the Central Asia integration” (Issyk Kul, Kirghizia) on behalf of all Europe was translating an opinion about SCO as a “great and terrible” organization. Critics among “domestic” experts are enough as well. But SCO successively goes own way, as an international caravan hard covering its way, loaded with challenging possibilities.
In the Press center of the Yekaterinburg summits one could also hear different opinions. For example, a correspondent of Asakha said that Japan does not show any interest in SCO (which is hard to believe, so long as there is no country not worrying about what is going on at its nearest neighbors). Meanwhile, the summit was nevertheless covered by several Japanese correspondents - therefore, it is interesting after all. Americans were most of all interested in the “Afghan track”, as well as in judgements on a new supranational currency. Iranian reporters were asking when their country will become a full-fledged member of SCO. The same question also interested Pakistanis. But SCO has not elaborated yet those ideal criteria of new members admission that should be suitable for the whole Shanghai Six. In the meantime, it is a consensus that is one of SCO’s priorities.
BRIC is “a child in a cradle"
At a certain stage an idea started up in the Kremlin to hold the BRIC summit in Yekaterinburg at the same time. Asking my question at the press conference, why it had been decided to joint the two summits in one geographical point and at the same time, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Riabkov underlined that “the Russian Federation pragmatically uses different formats to promote and protect its national interests.” He noted that SCO’s and BRIC’s agendas do not coincide though have something in common.
With all seeming symbolicalness of time and place coincidence of the summits, SCO and BRIC are really different formations. SCO is an organization with a clear structure, while BRIC is an informal association that has recently appeared. “SCO has its known and clear competence, a sufficiently developed model of work, while BRIC is in the initial state of its evolution so far,” Sergei Riabkov underlined. By the diplomat’s vivid expression “a child is just in a cradle, and it will take some time till he breaks ground. Any way, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step”, he cited a Chinese wisdom, emphasizing that this first step was done by BRIC just in Yekaterinburg. Sergei Riabkov estimated this step as “wide and important” as long as the new international structure’s history has begun with it.
This is, for a certainty, the only alliance in the world, whose name had appeared before it came into existence itself. Where is the intrigue, indeed? In Yekaterinburg BRIC declared of its actual appearance, but this “opera” has a curious overture. Strictly speaking, Brazil, Russia, India and China (the four countries the BRIC abbreviation consists of) were just given an idea to unite. BRIC’s conception was formed, according to Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim “at first in analysts’ minds, and then developed into a real practice.” That is, an economist’s thoughtform was supported by politicians and together with diplomats they did all in power to implement it.
The BRIC term’s father, as is thought, became Goldman Sachs' Chief Economist Jim O'Neill. In 2001 he arbitrarily designated an abbreviation of the four biggest, distinguished for the intense development of national economies and foretold them a global leadership already by the middle of the century. This signal, purely psychologically, made the Four feel the movement of centripetal forces. Firstly it seemed that to create some alliance was impossible: the Four has too few common “acupuncture points”, uniting interests, and indeed distances speak for themselves. Nevertheless, the first summit has completed and confirmed the main thing: Brazil, Russia, India and China are “already a quartet”, they are the countries of influential economies, and it is impossible to disregard their significance in today’s world.
Having pushed off from the Yekaterinburg land, the BRIC alliance left for the future prepared for it. But none the less, what is BRIC required for? As Arkady Dvorkovich answered this question, “BRIC is required to make the world become fairer.” This moral guideline is clear and, certainly, cannot but be welcomed. As to practical essence of the Four’s intention, it was formulated by Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at the press conference following the results of the BRIC leaders meeting.
The major tasks set by the presidents – to bring the international cooperation to a brand new level, ensure the countries cooperation when surmounting the crisis, in food and energy security etc. Many things here have something in common with the SCO program, but if in the world there are troubles spoiling life, such as economic crisis, food and water deficiency, epidemics, then why not to go to work on them totally, using everything at hand?
Certainly, by no means all experts believe in perspective and viability of BRIC. They refer to the fact that the newly Four has too many cultural barriers, it is difficult to overcome. But there are also obvious uniting elements after all: advancement to a multipolar world, overcoming the economic crisis, emphasis on the international law. As Sergei Riabkov believes, “It is worth seeking other “uniting grains” of which BRIC’s frame trunk can grow.
The world order justice, as an everlasting call, a cherished dream, disturbs the human nature, agitates minds, compelling to search for the paths approaching to a challenging goal. A new element appearance in the world policy architecture - the BRIC alliance - is one this not simple process manifestations.