Analysing CSTO, SCO and NATO

Question: Comparing to CSTO, SCO seems to be a more effective eastern version of NATO. Do you agree with this statement? Evaluate.

Background of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

China founded this grouping, called the Shanghai Five, in 1996. It comprised Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. In 2001 Uzbekistan was invited to join it and the SCO was officially born. India has an observer status in the group. Other Observers are Mongolia, Pakistan and Iran. Belarus and Sri Lanka are dialogue partners. Guest Attendance Status has been extended to Afghanistan, ASEAN, CIS, and Turkmenistan. Mongolia is the first country to receive observer status at the 2004 Tashkent Summit. Pakistan, India and Iran received observer status at the 2005 SCO summit in Astana, Kazakhstan on July 5, 2005.

Background of NATO:

North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO is intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed on 4 April 1949. The organization constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its member states agree to mutual Defense in response to an attack by any external party. NATO’s headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium. The combined military spending of all NATO members constitutes over 70% of the world’s defence spending.

Background of CSTO:

Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is an intergovernmental military alliance which was signed on 15 May 1992. On 7 October 2002, the Presidents of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan signed a charter in Tashkent founding the CSTO. The CSTO charter reaffirmed the desire of all participating states to abstain from the use or threat of force. Signatories would not be able to join other military alliances or other groups of states, while aggression against one signatory would be perceived as an aggression against all. To this end, the CSTO holds yearly military command exercises for the CSTO nations to have an opportunity to improve inter-organisation cooperation. The 7 member states of CSTO are Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Analysing SCO’s role in Geopolitics:

SCO is primarily centred on its member nations’ Central Asian security-related concerns, often describing the main threats it confronts as being terrorism, separatism and extremism. However evidence is growing that its activities in the area of social development of its member states is increasing fast. One of its objectives was demilitarising the China-CIS borders and it was achieved years ago. The role of China as well as strategic importance of SCO has increased over the period of a decade and now address problems like terrorism, separatism and militancy in the region.

SCO is considered and tagged as anti-west. Behind the veils, it is alleged that SCO is going to be a NATO like military alliance in East.

After the Astana Summit Declaration in 2005, SCO has emerged as a regional security organization. Further, it has sought to extend its role in economic cooperation and cooperation with other regional organizations.

China has always taken interest to add economic sheen to the organisation and is rooting for a free trade area, evident by a proposal by PRC’s Premier, Wen Jiabao, in 2003 for long-term objective to establish a free trade area in the SCO. So for China, this multilateral forum has assumed an enormous importance for Beijing.

How China projects SCO:

Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) has recently completed 10 years. Its latest (12th) summit was held on June 6 and 7,2012. In this summit, China has denied the possibility of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) evolving into NATO style military and political bloc. If we carefully analyse the evolution of the organisation, we find that the claim that the bloc is sliding toward a bullying military alliance, is once again proving to be something carved utterly out of thin air. However, China exaggeratedly says that the SCO was founded on a principle of non-alignment and functions as an effective stabilizer for regional security and peace. China has always maintained that the focus of SCO is on combating the “three evil forces” – terrorism, separatism, and extremism – and other unconventional security menaces.

How West projects SCO:

A few of the Western political analysts say that the routine joint military drills conducted by SCO members is a proof that the bloc is in its nature, or at least aspires to evolve into, a NATO like military alliance. They look SCO as a belligerent monster in the making. Its worth note that since 2002, a number of military manoeuvres have been staged by member states of SCO. China says that the theme of these exercises is to improve the cooperative proficiency of the security forces in the event of a regional terror attack.

Can SCO be an eastern version of NATO?

Initially, SCO was wisely designed / promoted as a counterweight to NATO’s Eastward creep towards the peripheries of Russia and China. However, at the end of a decade of its existence we find that it has not lived up to its objectives. Even today, NATO continues as an effective and strong military alliance, and added some breakaway constituents of the former Soviet Union to its enlarged membership. Still NATO is embedded in Afghanistan, putting threats to so called Chi-Pak referring to China’s strategic nexus with Pakistan. United States still encircles China with its bilateral security alliances with South Korea, Japan, Philippines and Thailand.

However, in recent future, a possible terrorist resurgence after the planned withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan in 2014 could mean a higher terror alert for the region and the SCO.

That potential threat makes the bloc’s emphasis on anti-terror readiness even more relevant. But it seems that SCO, as an eastern collective, is unlikely to measure up to the security challenges that confront it amidst the Western military retreat from Afghanistan.

In May 2012, in Chicago, the US and its NATO allies announced an “irreversible” plan to end Western combat role in Afghanistan by 2013 and withdraw all but a few thousand troops from there by the end of 2014.

The US and NATO have indeed offered financial support to the maintenance of a large Afghan armed force and continue to assist its economic development.

In our view, SCO is not an effective eastern version of NATO (as the statement in the question says) but yes, CSTO still is. The Russian headed CSTO shares many of the members of the SCO. The CSTO includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Unlike the SCO the CSTO has a combined air force from all her members and has developed a rapid strike force similar to that of NATO. Since many members are in both organizations, the combined power of the SCO and the CSTO extends from the China sea to Eastern Europe. China, at the moment, has not developed the SCO into a force similar to the CSTO but when it was created it was meant simply to be a union of nations that addressed boundary issues and trade. Since then the SCO has grown into a regional power and will continue to do so.

We conclude that currently SCO by itself is not an effective eastern version of the NATO but with Russia, including many members of the CSTO as part of the SCO, China does have the leverage.

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