SCO: on the eve of change. Afterword to the Sochi expert forum« Back
Last week in Sochi, the Second Eurasian Integration Forum on the theme "Prospects for the development and strengthening of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization" was held. We asked to share impressions of one of the participants of the Kazakhstan delegation, the famous journalist and web-publisher Dzhanibek Suleev.
Way out from the shadow
- This is the second Sochi forum. What is its purpose, who is the organizer, what is the level of representation?
- I'll start with the representation. Sochi forum With what has no problems with this. This is truly an international meeting. Two years ago, almost thirty countries were represented - almost all of Asia. Now delegations of 17 countries arrived, and the most interested in the SCO. Afghans, Iranians, Syrians last time were very active, but now their desire to join the SCO has only intensified. Let me remind you that at present the share of the SCO countries in the world GDP is almost 30%. And by 2020, according to IMF forecasts, it will approach 34-35%.
Now let’s talk about the organizers. A few years ago there was such a strange feeling that the SCO "seemed to have disappeared from the radar". First of all, SCO is seen as a phenomenon of international life in journalistic and expert terms, and in a broader sense - in information mapping. At the beginning of 2000’, the SCO thundered, and in the next decade, somehow, I emphasize, in a certain media sense, went into the shadows. No, of course, some kind of movement was taking place. The SCO, like other major international organizations, entered the UN format; general secretaries (an authorized person from the SCO) were changing in the organization. At one time this position was occupied by the representative of Kazakhstan.
In short, the organization fulfilled its original goals perfectly - it is the settlement of territorial disputes, mutual inspections of state borders, and the formation of a border infrastructure. At the same time, other issues of a permanent nature within the SCO have not yet been resolved to some extent. However, they are constantly engaged. First of all, it is about the joint struggle against separatism and terrorism, the establishment of cultural and scientific exchange.
But anyway, some constant, accented information, besides the coverage of the SCO's official events proper, was not in the media space. Two years ago, under the auspices of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, the Institute of CIS Countries, with the support of the administration of the Krasnodar Area, Gazprom, Aeroflot and some other Russian companies, State Duma deputy Konstantin Zatulin organized an international forum on pressing issues of expanding the Shanghai Cooperation Organization . The agenda was formulated as follows: "On the second track. The role of civil society and public diplomacy in the further development and expansion of the SCO".
Not totally, but quite noticeably this forum stirred up interest in the SCO. There were many comments. For example, sincerely yours then gave an extensive interview about the site Zonakz.net. And then it was promised to collect such a forum at least once every two years. As you can see, the Russian side kept its promise.
Undoubtedly, the SCO summits are being held, new members are being admitted to the organization, and all these events are covered in one way or another. But at the same time, organizations of this level, according to the logic of things, clearly lacked a separate status event, at which the expert community of the participating countries would gather, as well as the states among potential candidates for membership. In the information and consultation plan, the Sochi forum is a necessary dialogue platform. Probably, it should be done even earlier, not to mention the fact that something like this could be organized not only by the Russians, but also, say, our country. However, we preferred to spend money on some other international events.
As for what concerns the goals. Then, two years ago, the organizers sounded quite clearly the main direction. The needs of the progress and sustainable development of the SCO, on the one hand, the great and small crises of today's world, on the other, highlight the need to seek and support the most diverse models of international cooperation and cooperation. But international processes are developing swiftly, and the SCO from the issues already largely solved, after two years, has to move to respond to the challenges of a much more global property.
Pluralism or misunderstanding?
- In one of the theses of your report at the forum, you drew the attention of the participants on the fact that in the public political and ideological space of the Russian Federation, anti- I would like to know what was the reaction to this?
- According to the regulations, the forum was divided into several sections: "Greater Eurasia: world order, security and the fight against terrorism"; "The SCO and the economic and integration processes in Eurasia. Economics, energy, transport and migration"; "Interaction of cultures and religions. Ecology and preservation of the environment. Education and Science". I and the famous Kazakh political scientist Andrei Chebotarev were participants in the first of them. As far as I could see, the sessions of all sections were quite interesting. By the way, also members of our delegation took part in the work of other sections - Peter Svoik and Bulat Sultanov.
As what concerns my report. It was at the moment when I was supposed to present it; I was not there because of purely subjective reasons: according to the regime, I had to take an injection of insulin, and so I got stuck in the hotel room. But the report itself was released synchronously with the event. One of the participants from the Russian side kindly posted it on such a respectable Internet resource as CentrAzia. And from there it was "distributed" to others. Moreover, according to the rules of interaction with the inviting party, I sent my report to the organizers a day before the trip.
Now, in fact, let’s discuss your question. I believe that even if I read the report, as they say, live, I'm not sure that he would cause some heated discussion. For the simple reason that many foreign experts participated in the work of the section, that is, not Russian citizens. But, nevertheless, I still tried to track down a certain reaction on the sidelines. On my question to some Russians about the report already published in open sources to me in reply, I will say so, did not throw stones. On the contrary, they thanked you for having received some information about the reaction that exists in Kazakhstan regarding this issue
By the way, in the continuation of the topic let’s proceed. For example, at the previous Sochi forum, our Kazakhstani expert, Marat Shibutov, in his report very reasonably criticized the SCO in a purely economic-integration section with a projection on Kazakhstan. And I'll tell you this: a rather unflattering assessment of the observed processes was made. For example, he drew attention to a certain inhibition of cross-border cooperation, to a low degree of effectiveness of such institutions as the SCO Bank, the SCO Development Fund. Nevertheless, his report was fully included in the final compilation of the first Sochi forum. In other words, with freedom of speech, the palette of opinions in this meeting seems to be no problem.
SCO proceeds existing...
- In the light of the growing negative trends in international life, the role of such associations as the SCO clearly increases. Did this affect the atmosphere and the work of the forum? Was not there any discrepancy, discrepancies between points of view and similar things?
- I would say: very much so! Let us assume that such discrepancies between Azerbaijan and Armenia, who do not want to become members of the SCO and at the moment, have the status of partners. That is, they are potential members of the SCO! These countries actively manifested themselves through the positions of the experts delegated by them, who stated their vision in the speeches (reports). So, even at the previous forum, the report of an Armenian expert had a rather picturesque and ambiguous name: "The genocidal policy of neo-Ottomanism as the main destabilizing factor of the Middle East". Although, as we can now observe, the events in the Middle East are not exactly and even not quite Turkey, which itself fell into a very delicate situation. On the one hand, as a member of NATO, and on the other, as a country that no one is going to let into the European Union.
This time it was evident that, for example, the Chinese participants were more concerned about the SCO's activities in connection with India and Pakistan joining it last year - was excited in the context of the need to resolve the existing contradictions between China and India. And they agree that they are quite deep. In this case, we are talking about the members of the SCO. In turn, experts from India showed interest in stabilizing the situation and intensifying the fight against armed extremism in neighboring Afghanistan. The Afghan delegates again raised the question of the earliest possible entry of their country into the organization.
Still, assessments and proposals for strengthening the SCO and its activities in terms of economic cooperation became common for all forum participants. It includes the implementation of specific joint projects and mutual settlements between member countries in national currencies, information support, joint participation and voting in the UN, building up the SCO's cooperation with other international organizations, etc. For Kazakhstan extremely urgent are the following issues: the expansion of the format and mechanisms of cooperation with other states on countering the threats in question, including in the format of the CIS Antiterrorist Center and the SCO Regional Antiterrorism Structure.
- In which aspects or points does the opinion of the expert community of the SCO member states coincide unconditionally? What events of international life were most discussed at the forum?
- I will speak only for my section. It was felt that the forum was taking place in the context of an aggravation of the international situation. First of all, in connection with the latest events in Syria and around it (the bombing of the territory of this country by the US and its allies, the UN Security Council meeting on this situation, etc.), which affected the overall agenda and content of speeches by individual participants. In particular, the wishes were expressed that the SCO should define its common position on the Syrian issue and, moreover, become, as it were, a regional alternative to the UN.
... and we will present in it too
- From your point of view, expert discussion at such forums can influence the evolution of the SCO in the context of trends observed in international life and having a negative character?
- It is a difficult question. In what context is it difficult? As you understand from the answer to the penultimate question, in connection with the escalation of tension in international relations, the organization is on the verge of certain modernizations that are in high demand. Which ones? I believe, towards more in-depth strategic cooperation in the political and military spheres. Such thoughts, in particular, were voiced by Russian representatives. And it is seen not only by them. Of course, it is not necessary to talk about militarization, but some trends of this kind are in the air. Two years ago, some experts predicted the possibility of such an escalation and, unfortunately, were right. Since the events in the past two years clearly confirm the existence of such trends, and this is an entirely objective trend.
For example, the representative of the Syrian delegation, speaking about the recent missile attack of the United States and its allies, expressed the opinion that these events should not be regarded as a preemptive strike, but as a very real act of aggression. She directly and warmly thanked for the support of Russia and the SCO, as well as Iran. It should be understood that this is a state that has tense relations with the US and, as already said, is ready, and even keenly wishing to join the SCO. This is a great game, great geopolitics. And to such players as China, Russia and India (RIC - a kind of informal club turned out within the SCO framework), this organization, perhaps, is interesting primarily in this aspect.
But here there are questions of a different kind. For example, where is the interest of actually not even Kazakhstan, but, let's say, our small and medium-sized business? After all, when the SCO was created, emphasis was also placed on business, on trade and economic progress and expansion of opportunities in this direction. That is, Kazakhstan at the expense of the SCO wanted to get, first of all, an economically positive effect. Was it there, is there it, or is it still coming? On the other hand, I repeat, the observed processes are quite an objective course of things. It is clear that, for example, the same Afghanistan, which year strives for the SCO not only for economic reasons, but also from the point of view of security. And above all, its security, which implies the need to ensure its sovereignty.
Ability or rather, the ability to reduce the interests of the SCO member states to a certain mutually acceptable denominator is a very difficult task. But it must be solved, and actively and consistently. Using, among other things, the next Sochi forum, this should take place in two years. I think that in this regard the forum is quite a worthy and potentially useful platform. A rapidly changing world cannot but affect the goals and tasks of states or international structures in some fundamental issues. And for Kazakhstan, based on its geopolitical position, today it is important to be a member of the SCO - and preferably not as a statist member.