CNN on the SCO summit in Kazakhstan

11:04 05.07.2024 •


A club of Eurasian countries spearheaded by China and Russia to advance their leaders’ vision of an alternative world order is set to expand again this week – this time adding a staunch Russian ally that has openly supported Moscow’s war on Ukraine.

The expected admission of Belarus to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at its annual leaders’ summit in Astana, Kazakhstan is another push by Beijing and Moscow to transform the grouping – from a regional security bloc into a geopolitical counterweight to Western institutions led by the United States and its allies, CNN stresses.

Founded in 2001 by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to combat terrorism and promote border security, the SCO has grown in recent years in line with Beijing and Moscow’s shared ambition to counter what they see as US “hegemony” and reshape the international system in their favor.

In 2017, the bloc underwent its first expansion to welcome India and Pakistan. After adding Belarus, it will boast 10 members, representing more than 40% of the world’s population and roughly a quarter of the global economy. It also has two observer states, Afghanistan and Mongolia, and more than a dozen “dialogue partners” from Myanmar to Turkey and the Arab states.

The SCO’s expansion comes after another bloc led by China and Russia, the BRICS group of major emerging economies, more than doubled its membership and significantly extended its global reach last year.

As the SCO grows in international visibility and economic weight, it has also broadened in geopolitical ambitions.

The expected admission of Belarus, which borders the European Union, “really highlights how the SCO’s mission has changed in the last few years,” said Eva Seiwert, an expert on China’s foreign policy at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) in Berlin.

“They want the SCO to be perceived as a major bloc that cannot be ignored anymore,” she said. “With all these countries joining, China and Russia (want to show they) both have a lot of supporters for their worldviews.”

And in that shared worldview, there is no place for the US in Eurasia.

In a meeting with his senior foreign ministry officials last month, Putin laid out a future vision for “a new system of bilateral and multilateral guarantees of collective security in Eurasia,” with the help of existing organizations like the SCO and a long-term goal to “gradually phase out the military presence of external powers in the Eurasian region.”

“During my recent visit to China, President Xi Jinping and I discussed this issue. It was noted that the Russian proposal is not contradictory, but rather complements and aligns with the basic principles of the Chinese global security initiative,” said Putin, who visited Beijing in May.

That big picture vison of an alternative future is going to be the “headline message” for China and Russia coming out of this SCO summit, said Bates Gill, a senior fellow for the National Bureau of Asian Research.


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