Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Research Report

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: Towards a full-grown security alliance?

Marcel de Haas (Editor)
Marcel de Haas
Frans-Paul van der Putten
Copyright Date: Nov. 1, 2007
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 88

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. (pp. [i]-[ii])
  2. (pp. [iii]-[iv])
  3. (pp. 1-2)
  4. (pp. 3-4)
  5. (pp. 5-6)

    The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a regional international organisation comprising states in Europe, the Near East, Central Asia and South East Asia. The SCO has China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as member states and Mongolia, Iran, Pakistan and India as observer states.¹ The SCO takes care of cooperation in political, military, economic, energy and cultural fields. SCO member states have a population of nearly 1.5 billion people, which is about a quarter of the total world population. Including the four observers, the SCO even encompasses nearly half of the world’s population. Furthermore, in addition to the member...

  6. (pp. 7-12)

    The institutional development of the SCO can be divided into three phases, in which this entity matured from an ad-hoc arms control grouping via emphasis on internal security to an international organisation with a variety of cooperation and activities (See Annex A: ‘Shanghai Five and SCO Summits 1996-2007’).

    In November 1992, China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan started security negotiations.⁵ These were former Soviet republics facing China. The basic objective of this grouping was to diminish possible tensions at the borders, after the Cold War had ended. In 1996 the ‘Shanghai Five’ group of cooperating states was founded with the...

  7. (pp. 13-22)

    Cooperation in the domain of defence and security comprises security policy concepts and agreements, military drills, counter terrorism activities and armament deals. Energy security will be discussed separately.

    Although the SCO started as a security organisation – extending from confidence building measures at the borders to anti-terrorist activities – the SCO members frequently state that this organisation is primarily meant for political and economic cooperation and that military coordination – focussing on domestic security – plays a minor role. For instance, the Russian Deputy Defence Minister, Sergei Razov, denied allegations that military cooperation among SCO members is a top priority...

  8. (pp. 23-28)

    SCO oil reserves, including SCO observer Iran, are some 20% of the world’s total. As these countries are not members of the OPEC, western oil companies view the oil reserves in the region, especially in Central Asia, as very attractive, which leads to a lot of investment and cooperation. The situation with gas is even more important. Aggregate gas reserves of Russia, Central Asia – including Turkmenistan, which is not (yet) aligned to the SCO – and Iran exceed 50% of the world's known reserves, according to a Russian formal source.35 The fact that the SCO contains major energy exporters...

  9. (pp. 29-30)

    The framework of the SCO is much broader than security and energy activities. As a regional answer to the challenges of economic globalisation, the SCO envisages a free trade. Economic cooperation is also regarded from the security dimension: fighting poverty will also remove the grounds of the ‘three evils’, i.e. terrorism, separatism and extremism. Improving economic cooperation is the responsibility of the prime ministers of the SCO, which have been working on this agenda item as of 2001. At their meeting of 2003 they launched a programme which mentioned as the major fields of cooperation: energy, information, telecommunications, environmental protection...

  10. (pp. 31-40)
    Frans-Paul van der Putten

    What are China’s interests in the SCO, and does the pursuit of these interests contribute to an external security role for the SCO? China plays a leading and active role within the SCO. It has been a driving force behind the organisation’s institutionalisation.49 It is also the main financial contributor to the SCO.50 Whether or not China’s influence exceeds Russia’s is difficult to measure. On the whole, China and Russia can be said to jointly dominate the SCO.51

    Following the approach by Russell Ong, Chinese foreign policy can be seen as shaped by political, economic, and military interests (as perceived...

  11. (pp. 41-46)

    For Russia’s foreign and security policy the SCO is a rapidly rising organisation. In this regard, it is interesting to note that in none of Russia’s current highest security documents, the National Security Concept, the Military Doctrine and the Foreign Policy Concept – all formally approved by President Putin in 2000 – the SCO, at the time called ‘Shanghai Five’, was dealt with. It was only mentioned in the Foreign Policy Concept as one of the cooperating organisations in Asia.

    In ‘The priority tasks of the development of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation’, a security policy document published...

  12. (pp. 47-54)

    With regard to the possible development of the SCO towards a full-grown security entity, it is worthwhile to make an assessment of other security organisations which are also based in and around Central Asia. First, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which is an organisation dominated by Western countries and especially focuses on the human dimension of security. Secondly, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led military alliance of CIS member states, which has the military-politico dimension of security as its main concern.

    The OSCE comprises 56 participating states, which makes it the largest regional security...

  13. (pp. 55-64)

    Considering the recent security activities above all ‘Peace Mission 2007’ and the Bishkek Summit, is the SCO developing into a “NATO of the East” as it was regularly described after the anti-Western flavour of the 2005 Astana Summit? In the last couple of years the SCO indisputably has made huge steps in intensified security cooperation, operational (military exercises), as well as political (policy concepts). A number of events and agreements in 2006 and 2007 indicate a cautious development of the SCO towards a fullgrown security organisation: for the first time a combination of a political summit (Bishkek 2007) with war...

  14. (pp. 75-82)