The Institute of CIS countries held a seminar "Coronavirus in the SCO space»

« Back

The Institute of CIS countries held a seminar "Coronavirus in the SCO space» 16.07.2020 16:07

On July 7, 2020, the Institute of CIS countries held a seminar "Coronavirus in the SCO space". The event was attended by representatives of the Institute of Oriental studies, Primakov Institute of world economy and international relations (IMEMO), Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Far Eastern studies and analysis center, "strategic culture Foundation".

The coronavirus pandemic has had an extremely negative impact on all States of the "SCO family". It has led to the infection of a significant number of their populations and the death of some of them. Economic activity was suspended, especially in the sphere of medium and small businesses. International contacts have been curtailed and communication between countries has been interrupted. As a result, the summit of the member States of the Shanghai cooperation organization (SCO) was postponed to the autumn of this year. In such circumstances, The Institute of CIS countries was forced to postpone the Third Sochi forum of Eurasian integration until February – March 2021.

The following issues were considered during this workshop:

1) coronavirus pandemic in SCO member States and observers;

2) socio-economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic for the "SCO family»;

3) new trends in the attitude towards the Shanghai cooperation organization in the Eurasian space;

4) prospects for holding the SCO summit (2020) in C. Petersburg.

The seminar was opened and moderated by Vladimir Evseev, head of the Department of Eurasian integration and development of the SCO Institute of CIS countries. He drew attention to a certain passivity of the SCO's activities during the acute phase of the coronavirus pandemic in the Russian Federation in April-mid-May 2020, despite Russia's chairmanship in this organization. In his opinion, this was caused by a serious distraction of the Russian leadership's attention to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in their own country. In addition, out of 200 planned international events in 13 Russian cities, including C. Petersburg, Chelyabinsk and Moscow, as of mid-March, managed to hold only 25. The worsening epidemiological situation has forced the cancellation or postponement of many of them.

During this period, Moscow followed the path of Beijing, moving mainly to bilateral cooperation, including by providing humanitarian assistance to a number of countries of the "SCO family" (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan). In contrast to the Eurasian economic Union (EEU), this took collective measures to counter the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the multilateral events within the SCO, we can note only the holding of a meeting of experts on the preparation of the Meeting of the SCO health Ministers on April 1 via videoconference (it will be held in the second half of July) and a number of meetings of permanent representatives of the SCO member States to The organization's Secretariat from April 9 to 24. In addition, on April 23-24, a seminar of the SCO Interbank Association was also held via videoconference.

To some extent, this was compensated by the activity of the SCO Secretary General Vladimir Norov. In particular, on June 24, 2020, he spoke at the session "Transnational threats: current and future trends in the OSCE space and beyond" of the OSCE Annual conference on the review of security issues, which was held via videoconference. In his opinion, the SCO and the OSCE are the largest TRANS-regional associations in Eurasia in terms of territory and population coverage, which make joint efforts to strengthen security in the Central Asian region. This is especially true now, when the coronavirus pandemic has increased the risks associated with the spread of radical ideas in society, increased the number of crimes in the field of information and communication technologies, increased the threat of bioterrorism and new channels for the illegal transport of drugs. All this will be reflected in the documents submitted for the upcoming SCO summit in St. Petersburg. In conclusion, Norov positively assessed the working contacts between the SCO and OSCE secretariats.

The Russian Federation activated its activities in the SCO only in mid-May-June. Thus, on May 13, an extraordinary meeting of the Council of foreign Ministers of the SCO member States was held. During the meeting, Russian foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov proposed to adopt a statement on biological security at the upcoming summit in Moscow. Petersburg. He highly appreciated the work of medical experts from the "SCO family" countries.

For his part, Chinese foreign Minister Wang Yi said that the SCO should continue to defend the "Shanghai spirit", especially during the period of the spread of the coronavirus. In this regard, it is necessary to strengthen cohesion and coordination of opinions in the Organization in order to defeat the pandemic as soon as possible. Wang Yi suggested establishing a SCO data Center on infectious diseases, as well as developing a mechanism for joint prevention and control of epidemics in the border areas of the SCO member States.

On June 16-17, under the Russian Federation's chairmanship, consultations of experts and heads of services of the SCO member States responsible for ensuring sanitary and epidemiological well-being were Held in the format of a videoconference. In addition to the members of the Organization, representatives of the health sector of the SCO observer States (Belarus, Iran and Mongolia) and the dialogue partner (Armenia), as well as the Executive Director of the who health emergencies Program, Michael Ryan, took part in the meeting.

The draft Comprehensive plan of joint action of the SCO member States to counter the threats of epidemics in the region and the Agreement on cooperation of the member States of the Shanghai cooperation organization to combat the plague (its local manifestation was observed on the territory of Mongolia) were discussed. These documents are planned to be adopted at a meeting of the heads of state of the Organization in C. Petersburg. At the end of the meeting, a final statement was made by the heads of services of the SCO member States responsible for ensuring sanitary and epidemiological welfare.

Stanislav Pritchin, senior researcher At the center for post-Soviet studies of the Primakov IMEMO of the Russian Academy of Sciences, candidate of historical Sciences, made a report on "Fighting the coronavirus pandemic in Central Asia and prospects for SCO development". In his speech, he briefly analyzed the situation with coronavirus in all Central Asian States. In General, this situation is most favorable in Uzbekistan, where with a population of 34 million people, the number of infected is only 11092, 45 people died.

Turkmenistan still does not recognize that there are cases of coronavirus infection on its territory. For a long time, this policy has also been pursued by the Tajik leadership, where conditions are being prepared for the transfer of power from President Emomali Rahmon to his eldest son, 32 – year-old Rustam Emomali. In mid-April 2020, the latter, previously the mayor of Dushanbe, was elected Chairman of the upper house of the country's Parliament - the Majlisi Milli, that is, the second most important politician in the Republic. And in 2016, the country's Constitution was amended to lower the age of a presidential candidate from 35 to 30 years. Now, even according to official data, there are 6364 people infected with coronavirus in Tajikistan.

The most difficult situation with the pandemic is in Kyrgyzstan. Where, with a total population of 6.4 million people, the number of people infected with coronavirus was 8847. The urgency of this problem was confirmed on 24 June, when the President of Kyrgyzstan Jeenbekov Sooronbai could not take part in the celebrations in Moscow, dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the great Patriotic war, because of positive tests for coronavirus his entourage (head of foreign policy Department of the President's office Daniyar Sydykov and security officer). All this is happening against the background of the parliamentary election campaign in the country.

Kazakhstan is currently experiencing the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. There, the number of people infected with it increased to 53021, of which 264 died. As a result, by order of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, July 13 was declared a day of national mourning in memory of the victims of the coronavirus pandemic. From 5 to 20 July, a strict quarantine was re-introduced in the Republic. Public catering establishments (except for street verandas), shopping centers, hairdressers and beauty salons, museums and religious institutions are closed. All mass events are prohibited, and no more than three people can gather on the streets. In addition, passenger bus service between the regions has been canceled and public transport has been restricted. But at the same time, international air traffic remains.

Astana, as well as Bishkek, requested urgent assistance from Moscow. Teams of Russian virologists were sent to these republics.

According to S. Pritchin, the SCO did not manifest itself in any way during the coronavirus pandemic. Against this background, the United States continues to search for China's vulnerabilities in Central Asia (CA), actively using against it the problem of Muslims living in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous region (XUAR) of the PRC (ethnic Kazakhs and Uighurs live there, having their own tribesmen in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan), the increasing financial dependence of the CA from Beijing (this is less pronounced for Uzbekistan) and the alleged coronavirus pandemic used by the Chinese leadership to expand its global influence.

The report "The Coronavirus in Pakistan as a factor influencing the activity of Islamabad in the SCO" was made by senior researcher of sector of Pakistan Center for the study of the countries of the Middle East Institute of Oriental studies, candidate of historical Sciences Natalia Zamaraeva. She believes that the government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (IRP) has lost the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. In particular, because it is impossible to maintain a quarantine for the 60% of the country's poorest population, who mostly live on the streets. According to official data, this country has a population of 220 million people. Coronavirus infected 241,000 people, and died-4983.

In 2020, Pakistan is expected to reduce its GDP by 1.5%. The volume of export deliveries and cash receipts from abroad, primarily from the Persian Gulf countries, are significantly reduced, and the amount of tax revenues is also decreasing. The corruption crisis has been added to the fuel and energy sector. As a result, the country's socio-economic situation deteriorated, which significantly weakened the position of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the leader of the justice Movement.

At the same time, Chinese investments and projects, primarily the China-Pakistan economic corridor, were seen in Islamabad as the only opportunity for the country's development. This brings political dividends to the PRC, for example, in Afghanistan. Thus, it was Islamabad that largely controlled the negotiations between the Americans and the Taliban. At his initiative, the Taliban delegation to the Doha talks included only representatives of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which existed in 1996-2001 (it has received diplomatic recognition from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE). In the future, India's influence in this country will inevitably weaken. And Kabul was generally withdrawn from the negotiations between the Americans and the Taliban. All this contributes to the further expansion of Chinese influence in Afghanistan.

The development of Pakistan-China relations has a serious political dynamic. But they are developing exclusively on a bilateral basis. As a result, Islamabad has reduced its activity in the SCO, which did not manifest itself during the coronavirus pandemic.

Report "The situation with coronavirus in Mongolia. Its impact on Ulaanbaatar's participation in the SCO" was presented by Elena Boikova, senior researcher of the Korea and Mongolia Department of the Institute of Oriental studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, candidate of historical Sciences. As she notes, Mongolia will be in January 2020 (earlier than many States) began fighting the coronavirus pandemic, although the first case of infection (a foreign Frenchman, an employee of a uranium mining company) was recorded only in March. The quarantine in Mongolia was introduced on February 13. At the same time, it was taken into account that out of 3.3 million people. The country's population is 1.4 million in the capital (47% of the Republic's population).

The corresponding test systems were purchased in Japan. Mongolia received assistance from the world health organization (who) and individual States, including Russia. The measures taken in the country to combat the coronavirus were calculated until March, but in reality everything was delayed until the end of June. The effectiveness of the measures taken is evidenced by the fact that currently there are only 227 infected with coronavirus in Mongolia and there are no fatalities. And this is despite the fact that about 100 thousand Mongols live abroad, including 40 thousand in the United States and 30 thousand in the Republic of Korea. Their removal to Ulaanbaatar began in February.

On February 15, the border with China was closed. Two weeks later, the country's President Khaltmaagiin Battulga visited Beijing, giving the Chinese 30 thousand heads of small cattle as humanitarian aid. He very much wanted to be in Moscow on June 24 to take part in the celebrations dedicated to the 75th anniversary of Victory in the great Patriotic war. But it was on this day that the Republic held parliamentary elections (the Great state Hural of Mongolia).

In the fight against coronavirus in Mongolia, much attention was paid to the protection of the younger generation, as 26.8% of the country's residents are under the age of 14, and 17.7% are between 15 and 24 years old. They were transferred to remote forms of education in January. Students and students were the first to be exported from abroad. Events with a large number of people were canceled. The Mongols were obliged to wear masks, which was not rejected by the local population (they are used to wearing masks in winter, especially in the capital due to the adverse environmental situation). The country did not celebrate the Mongolian New year either. In April, the period of self-isolation for patients with coronavirus was extended from 14 to 21 days.

In relation to the SCO, Ulaanbaatar's position has not changed. It is quite satisfied with the status of an observer country of the Organization. One reason for this is that Mongolia actively cooperates with the World Bank, which is controlled by the United States. The country has already mastered its first tranche of $350 million, and now the second tranche is expected to be $ 100 million. The World Bank has donated $27 million to fight the pandemic in Mongolia. In addition, Ulaanbaatar closely cooperates with other American allies (primarily the Republic of Korea and Japan).

Nevertheless, at the beginning of July 2020, Russian Deputy foreign Minister Igor Morgulov stated that it was expedient for Mongolia to obtain full membership in the SCO. In his opinion, this is supported by the other members of the Organization. The actual response was to hold a second videoconference on the Mongolia-China cooperation mechanism in response to the coronavirus pandemic. As its organizers were the Department of neighboring countries of the foreign Ministry of Mongolia and the Department of Asian Affairs of the Chinese foreign Ministry, it was attended by representatives of border, customs and specialized inspection, trade and transport, as well as employees of embassies in the two countries. For Ulaanbaatar, bilateral rather than bilateral cooperation is preferable, especially in the field of transporting goods and people under restrictions. This time, the parties agreed on a temporary "Green gate" procedure that allows citizens of Mongolia and China with reasonable pretexts and foreign experts to enter the country against the background of the coronavirus pandemic to participate in bilateral projects in the field of trade, logistics, production and services.

Senior researcher, sector of Iran, Institute of Oriental studies, candidate of historical Sciences Elena Dunaeva spoke with a report "pandemic coronavirus in Iran and its impact on activities of Tehran in the SCO". She noted that initially, in the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), the coronavirus was considered exclusively as a Chinese phenomenon that would not reach them. The first case of the infection took place in Qom during the exhibition of leather shoes from China on January 20. However, no measures were taken to contain the pandemic in the country. On February 11, the country held another celebration of the Islamic Revolution, and on February 19, parliamentary elections were held. Only then did the government of Iran inform who of the first cases of coronavirus infection in the country. Although in Iran, a significant number of not only local residents, but also representatives of the elite, had already fallen ill, which was impossible to hide. At that time, the fight against coronavirus was led by the Minister of health, whose recommendations, for example, to stop Friday prayers and other religious ceremonies, including funerals and weddings, were not taken seriously in Iran. In particular, the Minister of health has stopped training in schools and Universities, but distance learning has not worked there.

According to WHO, Iran has become a distributor of coronavirus in 17 countries, so all nearby States have closed their borders with it. In three months, this led to a reduction in trade with China by 53% and Turkey by 70%. This coincided with increased us sanctions and a drop in world oil prices. As a result, the export of Iranian oil, the main source of foreign exchange to Iran, has decreased by 35% (a decrease of 60% compared to 2018). As a result, the IRI budget deficit will exceed 20% in 2020. From 5 to 6 million people may lose their jobs in the country.

March 5, 2020 Iran was one of the first countries to request a $ 5 billion loan from the IMF. Under pressure from the Americans, this was refused. Some States, such as Russia and Japan, have provided small amounts of humanitarian assistance to Iran by supplying test systems for detecting cases of coronavirus. In this situation, the government of Iran was forced to sell shares of state-owned enterprises through the exchange. Religious Islamic foundations also provided some assistance to the population.

According to WHO, at the beginning of March, the Iranian data underestimated the number of people infected with the coronavirus by five times. The IRI believed that this was an American biological weapon. It was only by this time that the anti-pandemic headquarters was headed by the chief of the General staff of the Iranian Armed forces, major General Mohammad Bagheri (former commander of the Islamic revolutionary guard Corps). The army and the IRGC blocked certain areas of Iran, where a significant part of the population was infected with coronavirus. But it wasn't enough.

On Nowruz (the Iranian New year, from mid-March to April 1), 80% of Iranians went to visit their relatives. Within the country, automobile (the most popular form of transport) and bus services continued to operate, partly by air and rail. Small markets were not closed, and small street trade continued. As a result, now 253 thousand people in 83-million-strong Iran have become infected with coronavirus, 12447 have died. Most of the cases are in Tehran, Khuzestan province and the Caspian territories. Apparently, the state of the coronavirus pandemic in Iran could be even worse, since WHO report noted that the Iranian medical system is one of the best in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Now the main thing for Iran is to stand up to the United States and American financial and economic sanctions. A number of Iranian diplomats (for example, ambassadors Alireza Bigdeli and Mohammad Malayek from the Institute of political and international studies of the Iranian foreign Ministry) and political figures are negotiating with the United States in order to maintain the current power in country. One reason for this is that Iranians have traditionally been used to living on social benefits, which sometimes accounted for up to two-thirds of the family's budget. Now the state no longer has money for such benefits, which can lead to a social explosion.

The Iranian leadership is currently implementing a policy called "Looking to the East" (primarily China, India and Russia). The SCO is not mentioned separately, except for the Institute of Iranian-Eurasian studies (IRAS) located in Tehran, which was again headed by former Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanai.

In Tehran, interest in the SCO is shown only within the framework of the development of Iranian-Chinese relations. Recently it became known that a representative Iranian delegation visited China 1.5 years ago. In its composition was the speaker of the Majlis (Parliament) Ali Larijani and foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif. At that time, the conclusion of a 25-year strategic partnership agreement between Tehran and Beijing was discussed. According to available information, China is ready to invest $400 billion in Iran for the development of the oil and petrochemical sector. On the condition that the Chinese buy (take a long-term lease) plots of Iranian land, where they create their own infrastructure and extract oil. Moreover, these areas will be protected by Chinese police forces. The Iranian version of this agreement has been approved by the government of Iran. The Mejlis will also support this within the framework of the "View to the East".

In the economic sphere, Russia is of interest to Iran in the context of interaction with the EEU. The temporary (for three years) agreement on the free trade zone of Iran with the UES creates a channel for the development of export-import relations. From may 2019 to may 2020, the volume of trade with the Union States increased by 60% (of this volume, 70% is accounted for by the Russian Federation).

Andrey Areshev, an expert of the strategic culture Foundation analytical center, presented the report "Coronavirus in Armenia as a foreign policy factor". He noted that the first case of coronavirus infection was brought to Armenia from Italy. On March 16, a state of emergency was introduced in the Republic, which was then repeatedly extended. On may 14 and 18, various restrictive measures were lifted in two stages. But after that, the situation related to the coronavirus pandemic again escalated. Health Minister Armen Torosyan and Prime Minister Nikola Pashinyan were accused of this.

Although from a formal point of view, Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan was responsible for this, who received the status of Commandant. In fact, the so-called commandant's office showed itself more in the information field. It closed some markets where local foci of coronavirus infection were detected. But this could not fundamentally change the situation in the country, as the national health system and regional authorities were passive and were not ready to fight the coronavirus. Russia and China provided humanitarian assistance to Armenia.

Now in the Republic of 3 million people, 31392 infected with coronavirus, 559 have died. These are the worst results in the South Caucasus, which is actively used by some representatives of the opposition to pressure the ruling government using controlled media. This aggravates the internal political situation in Armenia against the background of the failed referendum on changing the status of members of the constitutional court (now this problem is being solved by the ruling Alliance of political parties "My step" through the national Parliament).

Although from a formal point of view, Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan was responsible for this, who received the status of Commandant. In fact, the so-called commandant's office showed itself more in the information field. It closed some markets where local foci of coronavirus infection were detected. But this could not fundamentally change the situation in the country, as the national health system and regional authorities were passive and were not ready to fight the coronavirus. Russia and China provided humanitarian assistance to Armenia.

Now in the Republic of 3 million people, 31392 infected with coronavirus, 559 have died. These are the worst results in the South Caucasus, which is actively used by some representatives of the opposition to pressure the ruling government using controlled media. This aggravates the internal political situation in Armenia against the background of the failed referendum on changing the status of members of the constitutional court (now this problem is being solved by the ruling Alliance of political parties "My step" through the national Parliament).

Although from a formal point of view, Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan was responsible for this, who received the status of Commandant. In fact, the so-called commandant's office showed itself more in the information field. It closed some markets where local foci of coronavirus infection were detected. But this could not fundamentally change the situation in the country, as the national health system and regional authorities were passive and were not ready to fight the coronavirus. Russia and China provided humanitarian assistance to Armenia.

Now in the Republic of 3 million people, 31392 infected with coronavirus, 559 have died. These are the worst results in the South Caucasus, which is actively used by some representatives of the opposition to pressure the ruling government using controlled media. This aggravates the internal political situation in Armenia against the background of the failed referendum on changing the status of members of the constitutional court (now this problem is being solved by the ruling Alliance of political parties "My step" through the national Parliament).

The mask regime continues to operate in Armenia. The country's authorities do not want to return to strict restrictive measures with the closure of bus services, blocking the work of economic entities and state-owned enterprises. This is obvious, since Armenia is in a difficult socio-economic situation.

In Nagorno-Karabakh, strict quarantine measures were also taken to combat the coronavirus. Despite this, presidential elections were held there on March 31, where Araik Harutyunyan won. Currently, the epidemiological situation in the Republic is generally under control, although several dozen cases of coronavirus have been reported in some communities.

In contrast to Azerbaijan, the Armed forces of the Republic of Armenia imposed strict restrictions, including on leave to visit relatives. Thanks to this, the situation in the Armenian army is quite stable and the coronavirus epidemic is not of a mass nature.

The mask regime continues to operate in Armenia. The country's authorities do not want to return to strict restrictive measures with the closure of bus services, blocking the work of economic entities and state-owned enterprises. This is obvious, since Armenia is in a difficult socio-economic situation.

In Nagorno-Karabakh, strict quarantine measures were also taken to combat the coronavirus. Despite this, presidential elections were held there on March 31, where Araik Harutyunyan won. Currently, the epidemiological situation in the Republic is generally under control, although several dozen cases of coronavirus have been reported in some communities.

In contrast to Azerbaijan, the Armed forces of the Republic of Armenia imposed strict restrictions, including on leave to visit relatives. Thanks to this, the situation in the Armenian army is quite stable and the coronavirus epidemic is not of a mass nature.

It should be noted that during the coronavirus pandemic in Armenia, the SCO theme was not mentioned. In contrast to bilateral humanitarian assistance, including from China, in which Yerevan has shown serious interest.

Thus, the total number infected by the coronavirus in the SCO in the lead India (878 thousand), the second place is Russia (734 thousand), third place – Iran (253 thousand). The number of infected per capita leads Armenia: 104, 6 per 100 thousand of population (in Russia the figure is 50.8 mm). This requires collective efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic, but in reality, isolationism has prevailed in the territory of the "SCO family" with limited humanitarian assistance on a bilateral basis. As a result, interest in the Organization began to wane. Now many States see it only as an opportunity to build relations with China. This negatively affected the Russian presidency of the SCO, which was compounded by the serious distraction of the Russian leadership to its own problems in the period of April – the first half of May 2020 and the difficult epidemiological situation in our country.

 

Vladimir Evseev head of the Department of Eurasian integration and development of the SCO