Original by Vladimir Zakharov published at vpk-news.ru; translated from Russian by J.Hawk
Russia and China will help their neighbors tighten safety belts
Russia’s expert community is assuming that dealing with various threats and challenges that the country is facing is possible only if Russia retains its status of a great power which it was over several centuries. But the current polar world order is incapable of ensuring global stability and the new centers of influence are as of yet unready to step in and assume that role. In that situation the Russian Federation should use the opportunity to play the role which is dictated to it by its civilizational model, great history, geography, and the cultural genome. In the political and military sense, we are talking about creating a zone of stability and security in Eurasia.
Even though the scholarly community is continuing its philosophic and political discussion on whether Russia has the necessary and sufficient civilizational resources to form a new geopolitical integration center in the post-Soviet space, there is no doubt that the need to form such a center exists. Especially since such political-military projects are being successfully developed, usually with our country playing the leading role.
“Ethnic diversity, overpopulation, the Soviet-era border shifts, water conflicts, all make the situation in Central Asia very explosive.”
We are speaking, first and foremost, of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). However, several problems have prevented these integration projects from becoming fully-fledged military-political alliances. These problems have to do not only with parrying threats, but also with the absence of a clear civilizational orientation. Russia, in addition to demonstrating its political, economic, military, and other capabilities, also ought to formulate common value points of reference based on historical sources.
The newly independent states’ civilizational vector of development may be oriented toward both Western European democracies and other political “constructions.” That choice will determine national priorities in the area of politics, economy, and security. One must also recognize that possible changes in the ensuing world order will be determined by the growing global economic and socio-political crisis. The West is actively propagandizing the thesis that in order to overcome the negative trends one must internationalize national resources (especially when it comes to hydrocarbons). In the middle-term perspective it means establishing a forcible distribution regime through the application of military force. In any event, Western experts are studying such scenarios.
Since geopolitical and economic instability in Eurasia is increasing, Russia should develop a new concept of reintegrating the post-Soviet space which might require changes not only to the CIS and the CSTO, but also to the relationship with other Asian and Pacific region countries.
It’s important to remember that integration of this sort assumes delegating decisionmaking on matters of war and peace to the supranational level, developing shared rules of international behavior, seeking out military allies, clear military development phases in order to, in the end, establish a unified defense zone on a regional and even global scale.
It was thought earlier that the global security system will be established solely within the UN framework, an organization with a rigid and codified structure which requires resolutions be implemented and which controls that implementation (including through the use of military force). However, in the practical sense international law in the area of security was used extremely selectively, and the UN is mostly used against those governments and countries which inconvenience the West (especially the US).
Therefore the role of regional security systems is increasing. However, their formation is hindered by problems associated with the fluidity, conflicts, and even irrationality of the existing world-order. It is simultaneously experiencing globalization and growing national and state egoism which divides humanity along different “social coordinate” axes due to resource exhaustion, growing impoverishment, increasing demographic, inter-religious, and ethno-political conflict, and other factors leading to the clash of interests and escalating geopolitical competition between countries and nations.
North Africa and the Middle East have already experienced the creation of a veritable “arc of instability.” Central Asia plays a special role in that arc. As these countries gained independence in the early 1990s, religion has become more of a conflict factor. Islamist groups received considerable freedom of action. While the governments’ ability to control and suppress them declined.
Social tension may be the reason the protest mood in Central Asia may erupt into riots. Ethnic diversity, overpopulation of many regions, shifting borders, battle for regional leadership, unresolved water use issues, etc., make the situation explosive.
Since NATO is concerned with the problem of Afghanistan’s stability after the withdrawal of its forces, one should expect US attempts to draw various CSTO countries into joint operations in Afghanistan. It also appears appropriate to start preparing the organization for a possible worsening of the military and political situation in Central Asia.
The top priority is to clarify old and develop new CSTO doctrinal documents which specify the organization’s development path and also approaches to cooperating with other international security structures.
One should also consider the question of granting CSTO special authority to react to deterioration of situation in Central Asia. Given that organization’s founding documents do not provide for using rapid reaction forces to deal with internal political matters, the burden of stability operations should be placed on Collective Peacekeeping Forces. That would require removing some countries’ constitutional prohibitions on the use of their armed forces outside their national territory. Finally, the CSTO should develop a coordinated strategy concerning the Afghan question.
It’s important to remember that a deterioration of situation might lead to the introduction of a NATO contingent under UN aegis, or of international police forces from the OSCE. Therefore one ought to develop a mutually agreed upon policy on reacting to such initiatives among all the CSTO members.
The escalating situation around Syria means one should consider establishing security frameworks not only within the CSTO but also the SCO. At the moment, the SCO includes Russia, PRC, Kazakhstan, Kyrgizia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Mongolia, India, Pakistan, and Iran have observer status, with the latter having filed an official application with the secretariat for full membership. There exists an SCO Charter which outlines the goals, principles, and priorities in developing mutual partnerships in socio-economic, humanitarian, and military spheres. Moreover, defense cooperation is listed as a priority even though the organization is not military bloc in the traditional meaning of the term.
SCO’s role in building a collective security system in Central Asia is predicated not only on its collective demographic and territorial potential, but also the emerging strategic partnership of its two nuclear powers and permanent UNSC members: Russia and China.
Currently the SCO advertises itself as an universal membership Eurasian organization. It has made considerable advances in promoting international cooperation on security matters, military interoperability through joint exercises, and in developing common political concepts. At the same time, the SCO has not made any decisions to transform itself into a military-political bloc. Likewise so far nobody has put the question of creating international formations or a unified command on the agenda.
The latest version of PRC’s national security doctrine states that China is in favor of a security concept based on mutual trust, benefit, and coordination, that it does not seek hegemony, and will not engage in militarist expansion. It does not plan to replace NATO in Afghanistan after its troops leave. At the same time, China believes that, to paraphrase Robert Browning’s formula, “just because the US has the ability to reach something does not automatically give it the ability to seize it.”
Russia and China seek to establish a security belt around themselves composed of friendly states whose priorities are close to those of the CSTO, EEU, and SCO. The question of deep integration of these organizations remains open. Doing so would end the clash of interests between the main geopolitical actors of Eurasia and the Pacific Rim.