Quick Post on SCO

September 30, 2006

I don’t have a lot of time this morning because I have to get to the Democrat candidate function at UTA today (I’m on camera duty for annatopia), so I’m posting the hearing transcript in full on the SCO (see last post). Also, here is a link to a blog by one of the panelists. I will post my critique tomorrow.

More below the fold…..

Hearing :: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Is it Undermining U.S. Interests in Central Asia?



SEPTEMBER 26, 2006








The briefing was held at 3:07 p.m. in Room 538 Dirksen Senate Office Building,

Washington, D.C., Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), Chairman, moderating.

BROWNBACK: The hearing will come to order. Thank you all for joining me this afternoon. I

welcome you to the commission’s hearing on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Since its inception five years ago, the SCO has been touted by its members, Russia, China,

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, as a multilateral security organization. The

SCO’s members, which have endured terrorist attacks, have sought to develop a unified approach to

combating terrorism. The member states have demonstrated a long-term commitment to the war on terror

with the U.S. in this regard.

The organization’s focus has also expanded over time to include military security, economic

development, trade and cultural exchanges.

The United States is not a member of the organization and has not been invited to participate

in its workings. On the other hand, Mongolia, Pakistan, India and even Iran — the world’s foremost

state sponsor of terrorism, I might note — are already observers. Iran is seeking full membership.

Furthermore, the SCO summit in July 2005 called on Washington to set a deadline for the

withdrawal of the U.S. military presence in Central Asia, reinforcing a suspicion that one of the

SCO’s underlying purposes is to weaken American influence in the region.

Perhaps most relevant to this commission are the worrying implications of the SCO for

democratization and human rights in Central Asia. I raised this point with the OSCE’s chair in

office earlier this year when he testified before the commission.

The Central Asian states are all members of the OSCE and have assumed extensive commitments

under the OSCE’s human dimension. In 1991, all OSCE states accepted that these commitments, quote,

“are matters of direct and legitimate concern to all participating states and do not belong

exclusively to the internal affairs of the state concerned.”

By contrast, the guiding principles of the SCO’s work is, quote, “non-interference in the

internal affairs of sovereign states,” end of quote, and the SCO has vocally opposed the exportation

of democracy. In a glaring challenge to the aspirations of the region’s people for freedom and

representative government, the SCO’s executive secretary has been quoted as saying, “The time for

color revolutions in Central Asia is gone.”

In fact, Uzbekistan’s president, Islam Karimov, has sought to use participation in the SCO as

a way to overcome isolation and a criticism has experienced over the Andijan massacre and its failure

to cooperate in an international investigation of the incident.

A further rise in SCO influence can only encourage the governments of Central Asia in more

repressive and less reformist policies that will contribute to the growth of regional extremism and

the terrorism that the SCO was founded to combat.

The United States has a vital interest in the transition of the Central Asian states to

democracy and market economies. The region is critical in our war on terrorism. We’ve encouraged

these states to move in the direction of reform and to adopt open energy and economic policies that

support their independence and long-term stability.

Along with Senators Kyl and Hutchison, I have introduced a bill in Congress to follow up on

the original Silk Road Strategy Act of 1999. This legislation articulates a strong commitment to the

region and urges the development of close U.S. political, economic and security ties with these

countries. It would recognize the historic relationship among them and, through U.S. engagement,

encourage their long-standing traditions of moderate Islam and tolerance.

I look forward to hearing from our panelists today on whether the rise of the SCO is

compatible with these goals and what the motivations are of its principal members in setting up this


I’m pleased on our first panel is the honorable Richard A. Boucher, assistant secretary of

state. He is the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs. He previously

served as the Department of State’s spokesman or deputy spokesman under six different secretaries of

state and has served as chief of mission twice. October ’93 to 1996, he was U.S. ambassador to

Cyprus. He was head of the U.S. consulate general in Hong Kong as the consul general and as a senior

foreign services officer with the rank of career minister.

Mr. Boucher, it’s a delight to have you here today. I look forward to your statement, and I

look forward to a discussion with you in a candid forum and format on what we anticipate the SCO is

all about and what it’s going to do. Good to have you here.

BOUCHER: Thank you very much, Senator.

Mr. Chairman, I want to start off by thanking you for inviting me here today to discuss this

topic of human rights in Central Asia, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the other

relationships and organizations that affect it. I’ve prepared a much longer written statement, and

I’d like to ask that that be entered into the record.

BROWNBACK: Without objection.

BOUCHER: Let me speak briefly then, and we’ll go onto whatever questions are on your mind.

As you know, Central Asia is strategically important region. It’s going through a period of

very tremendous change. Secretary Rice has articulated a clear vision for Central Asia, and we’re

working with the states in the region to try to carry it out. Simply put, above everything else in

this region, we put Central Asians at the center of our policy.

Our policy is firmly based on the premise that the nations of Central Asia are sovereign and

independent states with whom we need to maintain relations on a broad range of issues. Our overall

goal is simple: to support the development of sovereign, stable, democratic nations that are

integrated into the world economy, cooperate with one another, the United States and our partners to

advance regional stability.

Real stability, we believe, requires citizens to have a stake in their government. Long-term

stability comes from a process of democratic change, and our job is to help the countries of Central

Asia develop their own democracies, as they seek their security and develop their economies. All

three elements work together.

Central Asian republics are members of several regional organizations whose aim is to provide

multilateral security and economic coordination. We believe that cooperation among the Central Asian

states with all of their states can be useful via multilateral organizations that address the

concerns of all the member states.

You invited me here today to discuss specifically the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. I’d

note that, in its early years, the so-called Shanghai Five focused on resolving border disputes among

the members and, in fact, did some good work on that score. Today, Shanghai Cooperation Organization

still has the potential to advance regional trade and economic development, but we believe that it

needs to be an engine for cooperation and equal partnership among the five sovereign states of

Central Asia.

It should not be a vehicle for exclusion or for domination by its larger members. We have

problems when it takes excursions into more political areas, like telling the states of the region

what they can and cannot do with third countries, like ourselves. And we have problems when they

seek security cooperation on a no-questions-asked basis. We would hope to see the organization

develop in a way that supports broader regional stability and prosperity and focuses its energy on

economic development, not on geopolitical statements.

I’d note that, in addition to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, we believe the

Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Eurasian Economic Community should also be much more

transparent in how they intend to achieve their stated goals. Like the Shanghai Cooperation

Organization, these other two organizations seem to be sort on a no-question-asked membership basis,

as well. There’s no criteria for human rights standards or other participation, and there’s no

effort within the organizations to achieve more stable government or political reform.

So the question in the end becomes: Are they there to strengthen the independence and the

sovereignty of states, give them a better foundation for their future, or are they there as a way of

outside powers trying to exercise some control over what goes on in the region? And when they slip

into that latter mode, we think that’s not good for the region, and that’s what we’ve seen happen in

a few areas.

As we have tried to build new economic links and other ties between Central Asian nations and

South Asia, we’ve also tried to strengthen the multilateral ties that the nations of Central Asia

have already developed to the West. So I’d note that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO,

is very involved in this region, and especially for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in

Europe is very involved, and the European Union is involved, as well.

All of these organizations, while they might focus on economics or military security or

reforms of various kinds, they all have a basic structure that involves all three elements of a good,

stable future for these countries, security, economics, and democracy, and political reform.

All five Central Asian republics are participating states in the OSCE, and they host field

missions from the OSCE. And as this committee knows very well, the OSCE is a tremendous asset and

platform for cooperation on security, economic and environmental development, and especially

democratization and human rights.

We believe that NATO plays an important role in maintaining and strengthening relations, both

among the Central Asian nations and between them in the outside world. And NATO’s Partnership for

Peace program has enhanced security capabilities and readiness in the region, so we offer enormous

support, not only to the individual nations, in terms of their reform programs, but we consistently

support the OSCE, and NATO, and some of the other organizations that try to bring this integrated

approach and focus on the Central Asian nations themselves.

We’re promoting multiple linkages to the world for the countries of the region. We think

that countries should never be left with one option, with one market, one trading partner, or one

vital interest structure link. More choices for them means more independence for them, and more

independence means more ability to exercise their own sovereignty, and that’s our goal for the

countries of Central Asia.

We’ll continue to pursue to it by working with the countries individually and with the

multilateral organizations that share our goals in the region.

Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you again for the opportunity to talk about this important

region, and now I’d be glad to take your questions.

BROWNBACK: Thanks, Mr. Boucher.

What’s been the SCO’s impact, in terms of human rights observation in Central Asia? Has it

had an impact on human rights efforts in Central Asia?

BOUCHER: I think the first thing to note is the organization doesn’t take up human rights

questions itself, and that is probably our big criticism of Shanghai Cooperation in the human rights

field, that there’s no effort at all to match economic agreements, border agreements, security

cooperation, counterterrorism efforts with any standards of human rights or even, I suppose, what we

would say is sort of understanding of the political environment in which those things have to


And so it’s kind of, as I said, no-questions-asked cooperation in these fields. And that in

itself is not helpful to bring a balanced development in the region.

As far as observers, I can’t remember if they’ve actually sent observers to specific

elections, but some of these countries have observed each other’s elections. And despite the fact

that in some of them there have been big problems, they’ve been very quick to approve, and that

certainly gives a bit of refuge to people who otherwise in the international arena haven’t met what

one would call basic standards for a decent election.

BROWNBACK: What about the SCO has vocally opposed to exportation of democracy? What do you

make of that statement?

BOUCHER: Well, exactly. I mean, their doctrine of non-interference is sort of —

cooperation without any questions is one that we don’t think is helpful to the region. It doesn’t

help things move forward. And while they have many times assured us that, you know, our cooperation

is not directed as any third country, that was the standard talking point when I went and talked to

people in the region.

I went to Beijing in August and was talking to the Chinese, as well as I went to the

headquarters of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. And, you know, their own consistent talking

point was, “This is not directed at any third parties,” but it is directed. I’d say, in some ways,

it’s sort of insulating these countries from any criticism or any objective scrutiny from outside,

and that doesn’t help these countries in the end.

BROWNBACK: And so it’s to form protection for countries within it so that they don’t feel as

much pressure to democratize or have human rights?

BOUCHER: I think it allows them — it gives them a club to go to, and be happy with each

other, and not face any criticism, and therefore maybe lessen the pressure that can be brought on

them from outside.

BROWNBACK: Is there an intent here to build a broader coalition of people opposed to

democracy, the expansion of human rights?

BOUCHER: I don’t think so. One of the interesting things in this region is, everywhere you

go, people will claim that they have a strong human rights agenda. I was in Uzbekistan last month,

and President Karimov pointed very proudly to the statements that he had made in the past on human

rights, including some that he’d made with us. And I said, “Well, that’s great, but you haven’t

implemented any of this.”

But everywhere in the region, they know that political reform and human rights is on their

agenda. Some find various excuses; some find various different ways of doing it. But the kind of

pressure that we bring and the kind of pressure that the OSCE brings, the kind of pressure that

relations with the Europeans, or Japan, or others bring, they don’t feel it when they’re inside these

other organizations, when they’re meeting with their collective security counterparts or their

Shanghai Cooperation counterparts.

And so I think that lessens to some extent the desire of people to see them get on with that

agenda and actually implement it.

BROWNBACK: Is this an effort by the Chinese in particular to get a leg up on us

economically, by not asking any questions about democracy or human rights?

BOUCHER: I don’t think so, I mean, to get a leg up on us. I think China is pursuing its

economic interests in the region, not necessarily against us, but it’s pursuing its own economic

interests in the region. And China has a habit of not asking any questions about democracy and human


They accept dealing with all sorts of regimes, without any questions. They look for, as they

say, stability above all. And when I talk to the Chinese about this, you know, I argue very strongly

with everybody that, for the long term, the only true stability is democratic stability. The only

way to ensure the continuation of independence and sovereignty of your country is to build

institutions that will last for a long time, build institutions that are inclusive, build

institutions that allow people who have grievances to express them peacefully, and give people a

peaceful role in a political process.

And that’s something that, you know, we try to carry forward everywhere we go, that building

democratic institutions is the way to ensure stability and the way to ensure sovereignty and


BROWNBACK: What about the executive secretary of the SCO has been quoted as saying, “The

time for color revolutions in Central Asia is gone”?

BOUCHER: Well, I think that’s — I didn’t see that precise remark. You know, frankly, it’s

one based on the desire to insulate, you know, what we were talking about before, to insulate their

regimes from any sort of criticism or change.

But it’s also kind of a smear on the United States, because we’re not out there trying to

overthrow governments or, you know, sponsor color revolutions everywhere we go. We’re trying to

support and promote democratic change wherever it exists and to build a stable basis for the future

for these countries, in terms of security, in terms of economic cooperation, and in terms of

democratic reform.

So, you know, he’s first of all arguing against a false target and, second of all, it’s

really a non-sequitur. The process of reform in these countries, the process of building an

independent and sovereign state requires progress in all these areas.

BROWNBACK: I look at this, and I just have a lot of questions that really come to mind quite

quickly about the intent of the people, particularly the larger countries involved in this.

And maybe it’s based on a background of inexperience, but particularly, like in Africa, I’ve

traveled a great deal in Central Asia. I’ve traveled in Africa. And a lot of my experience in

Africa has been a lot of Chinese investment and money pouring in, with many rogue regimes and no

questions asked.

As a matter of fact, many times the rougher the regime, the more their pariah status with the

rest of the world, the more Chinese investment is there. It’s a place that we won’t go because of

genocide in Darfur or other places throughout Africa, and there’s extensive Chinese investment. It’s

almost a business plan, it seems to be, that it’s followed.

Are we seeing that being replicated in Central Asia to some degree?

BOUCHER: Sure. They’re looking for oil; they’re looking for resources; they’re looking


BROWNBACK: No questions asked?

BOUCHER: … no questions asked, yes. That’s the way the Chinese do things around the

world, as you yourself have seen.

BROWNBACK: When you press the Chinese officials about this, how do they respond? I mean,


BOUCHER: I mean, first of all, China, because it’s so fearful of people telling them what to

do, takes a very rigid line on not telling others what to do. Second of all, they’re looking to

cooperate with other countries for the sake of resources and economic growth. They need the oil.

They need the raw materials.

They need the trade and transport routes, and so that’s their first goal, and that’s pretty

much the basis of their cooperation in this region. They have new rail lines with Kazakhstan; they

have new pipelines with Kazakhstan. They’re looking at road and rail links with others. They’re

looking at the possibility of gas pipelines from Central Asia.

To some extent, this helps the countries in the region. I mean, I have to say, if the goal

is really to give them multiple outlets and multiple pipelines, then having the China option, as well

as having the Caspian option, as well as having the options of sending things to the south, these are

all good. All the infrastructure that was built in the Soviet period, obviously, led back up into

Russia, and these countries are still very heavily dependent on Russia.

And the more options they have, including the China option, probably the better it is for

each of these countries, to be able to decide on their own which is best, and which way they want to

go, and how they can exercise their sovereignty and maintain their independence by having more

choices. But, at the same time, I say that in itself does not lead to political reform. They need

to consider what the long-term stability of their nation requires.

BROWNBACK: Doesn’t it even slow political reform?

BOUCHER: I guess the answer would be: Compared to what? If it would slow — it would

certainly slow political reform if their only option was to cooperate with Europe and the West. But

since right now their only option is Russia for many of them, the fact of adding more options with

China, and with Europe, and with NATO and the OSCE actually probably stimulates a bit more openness

and cooperation.

BROWNBACK: You think President Karimov’s participation in the SCO has stimulated human

rights and democracy building in Uzbekistan?

BOUCHER: No, absolutely not. No, absolutely not. He’s been very impervious to influence,

shall we say, more than anybody else…

BROWNBACK: It seems like it buttresses his efforts and it gives him a club to go to, and

market to a substantial size to participate in, and no pressure.


BROWNBACK: No questions asked.


BROWNBACK: And there it would seem like it would be a classic case of really slowing down

the process.

BOUCHER: I can’t disagree with you, sir. I guess the only thing I’d say is slowing — you

know, what are his other options? If he didn’t have Shanghai Cooperation Organization club to hang

around in, he’d probably be hanging out in Moscow. I’m not sure that would make his policy any

different. Right now, he does both.

BROWNBACK: Has the U.S. sought membership in the SCO?

BOUCHER: No, we haven’t, sir.

BROWNBACK: Why would the SCO object to U.S. participation or wider, say, South Korean,

Japanese participation? Have you thought of that?

BOUCHER: I don’t know that they would. They might. They might find a reason, even though

theoretically it’s open to others.

We have not sought participation, I think, for two reasons. One is the purely practical and

small, well, specific reason that their rules are such that they require participation by observers

at the same level as the level of the meetings.

So if you had a summit meeting in the United States that wanted to go in observer, in theory,

it would have to be George Bush, President Bush, sitting at a table off to the side with a few other

countries watching the proceedings. And that generally is not very productive for the United States

to take a role like that. That’s what their own internal rules require.

But the second, I think, is a bigger picture, and that is that, in terms of our cooperation

with the region, we don’t think this is a particularly helpful organization. It’s certainly not one

that we would want to back, or sponsor, or promote in any way. We think our money, our energy, our

time is better invested in working with the individual countries and working with the organizations

that take a broader view, the NATO, the OSCE, the European Union, other partners, Japan, working with

them in the region, people who are interested in all aspects of cooperation in that region.

BROWNBACK: What do the Kazakhs say to you as to why they are a member of this organization

and seek to be actively participating in the OSCE?

BOUCHER: I think it probably applies to all the states in the region that they’re members of

this partly because of geography, partly because when it started out it was a useful vehicle for

solving some of the border problems and working on customs and economic issues, partly because they

do want the cooperation on security and counterterrorism.

The attitude is sort of, the more you can do in that area, the better. So they’re looking at

it from their point of view and finding some benefits for their development, for their security, for

their economic relations with neighboring countries.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation for Europe, of course, takes a broader view, a

more well-balanced view, where it is security, economics and democratization, three baskets that OSCE

has. And their interest in OSCE is to show, to get some recognition from other countries that they

have some achievements in those areas.

BROWNBACK: So a member of the Hudson Institute, Chris Brown, has termed the SCO, quote, “the

most dangerous organization that the American people have never heard of.” A pretty strong

statement. He calls it or suggests it’s more than an economic organization. He sees it as a

potential Eurasian Warsaw Pact. What do you think of those concerns?

BOUCHER: I don’t see it. I don’t really see it that way. The Warsaw Pact was an instrument

of direct control by the Soviet Union, in places where they had troops, where they had security

services, where they had direct control, really, over many of these nations, and sometimes intervened

forcefully to maintain it.

The countries of Central Asia have more options and they have more opportunities. And to

some extent, they can get out of any organization what they want to. And the more opportunities they

have, to the north, the south, the east, and the west, the more organizations they can participate

in, the more options they have.

And it makes it harder for any one organization to try to control them. It makes it harder

for any one organization to have the domination that the Warsaw Pact had over Eastern Europe.

BROWNBACK: It seems to me that this is one that bears very close watching, the SCO,

particularly in some of these, it looks like to me, incendiary statements that their leadership has

made against exportation of democracy, no more color revolutions, this sort of no-questions-asked


The operational techniques that have been used, particularly by the Chinese to secure more

resources and ask no questions or not push at all about human rights or democracy, I think this is

one that we ought to be very concerned and watching quite closely as what its trajectory is and what

it’s headed towards, to where it might look not as difficult right now, but that it could take a very

aggressive trajectory against our interests and against the spread of human rights and democracy.

BOUCHER: I agree with you, sir. I mean, we have watched this organization very closely. We

watch all the multilateral cooperation in this region. Again, our emphasis is on trying to encourage

cooperation in this region, trying to help them with their, you know, customs efforts, with their

mutual reinforcing economic efforts, with security cooperation, and other things, as well as

political reform and movement towards democracy in the region.

So we watch all the organizations that are involved in one way or the other. We don’t find

Shanghai Cooperation at this stage, given the things they’ve gotten into, particularly in the last

two years, to make that big of a contribution to this. And we’ve been very careful in watching it

and raising it. We talk about it with the countries of the region. We raise our concerns with

countries outside the region.

I think, you know, Iranian participation is quite a problem. And certainly, if you look at

the meeting this year, that Iran probably detracted from the meeting and the quality of the

organization rather than added anything by showing up. So we do raise this regularly with countries;

we watch it closely. And we will watch its evolution as it goes forward.

But I’m not sure I agree with some of the statements you were quoting from others, but we do

watch it very carefully.

BROWNBACK: And, well, thank you. Thank you for your presentation and your comments here

today. I appreciate very much your attendance.

BOUCHER: Thank you very much, Senator. Pleasure to be with you.

BROWNBACK: We’ll call up the second panel.

Sean Roberts is a Central Asian affairs fellow at Georgetown University Center for Eurasian,

Russian and East European Studies. He’s also the author of a Web site on political and social

economic developments in Central Asia. He’s been living on and off in Central Asia since 1989. And

when he was an exchange student at Tashkent State University, an expert on history and culture of

some of the people in that region. He speaks fluent Russian and other languages.

Dr. Martha Brill Olcott has testified before in front of the commission. A senior associate

at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, one of the world’s foremost experts on Central

Asia, also a professor of political science at Colgate University. Co-directs the Carnegie Moscow

Center’s Project on Ethnicity and Politics in the former Soviet Union. Has written extensively on

the region.

And the final one on the second panel, Dr. Steven J. Black, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S.

Army War College. He’s an expert on the Soviet bloc and post-Soviet world. He’s editor “Imperial

Decline: Russia’s Changing Position in Asia,” co-editor of “Soviet Military and the Future,” and the

author of “The Sorcerer as Apprentice: Stalin’s Commissariat of Nationalities.” He’s written many

articles and conference papers on Russian Commonwealth of Independent States and Eastern European

security issues.

We’re delighted to have this panel with us today. Your full statement will be included into

the record.

Dr. Roberts, we’ll start with you.

ROBERTS: Thank you very much for inviting me today to speak to you about the Shanghai

Cooperation Organization and its impact on U.S. interests in Central Asia.

When the Shanghai Five group first met in 1996, few people foresaw that this loose alliance

between China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan would be what it is today. The turning

point in the organization’s development took place in 2001, when the loosely aligned Shanghai Five

group reformed itself into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or the SCO, and took on Uzbekistan

as an additional member.

Since 2001, the SCO has gradually built an alternative universe to the Western military,

political and economic alliances that has sought partnership with the Central Asian states. While

the military potential of the SCO may be at some point an issue for the U.S., much more important

today are the political and economic counterbalances that the SCO presents to U.S. interests in

Central Asia.

And it may be the political counterbalance of the SCO alliance to U.S. interests in the

region as an alternative to the OSCE that is most critical, since this is the aspect of the

organization that gives its ideological glue.

By the choice of its name alone, it is clear that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was

created in 2001 at least in part as a conscious counterbalance to the Organization for Security and

Cooperation in Europe, or the OSCE. Its challenge to the OSCE, however, became much clearer with the

SCO’s decision to sponsor an election-monitoring delegation to the 2005 Kyrgyzstan parliamentary

election. This event signaled a serious shift in the activities of the SCO and particularly China,

with regards to its involvement in Central Asia’s internal political development.

Since 2005, this trend has become more visible in the activities of the SCO and in its public

statements. While the alliance continues to promote military, trade and security cooperation among

its member states, it now articulates its geopolitical stance as an organization that is protecting

the region from external political influences. In essence, the SCO has positioned itself as the

protector of the sovereignties of the Central Asian states from foreign interference in internal


In doing so, it is creating various regional support mechanisms that can exist in economic,

security and military development, without the commitments to democratic reform that being a member

of the OSCE entails. Such a situation creates a serious threat to the observation of human rights

and the development of democratic governance in Central Asia, as well as to the general raison d’etre

of the OSCE.

But the question remains as to when the desire for an alternative to the OSCE began in the

region and why. And, more specifically, why do the Central Asian states now, in contrast to the

early 1990s, perceive of the U.S. and its European allies as equal or perhaps even larger threats to

their sovereignty and independence than China and Russia?

In general, there are three events that have contributed to the situation. First, in 1999

and 2000, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan all held parliamentary and presidential

elections. None of those elections were recognized as free and fair by the OSCE, nor by the United

States. The failure of this election cycle to meet international standards understandably led to

significant bad international press concerning the efforts of the Central Asian states to develop


This situation one might say ended the honeymoon of Western engagement in Central Asia. It

was shortly after this election cycle that the Shanghai Five group became solidified into the more

formal Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

The second event was the establishment of U.S. military bases in Central Asia shortly after

September 11, 2001. While there was tacit agreement among all parties that the U.S. and its

coalition needed the use of bases to establish control over the disorder in Afghanistan, there had

always been and remains distrust of the intentions of the U.S. in establishing those bases.

Third, in the last three years, there has developed a general fear of U.S. political

intentions in Central Asia regarding the concept of regime change. This fear is propelled by a

conflation of the United States’ articulation of the goals of the global war on terror, in terms of a

freedom agenda of bringing democracy to the world, and the belief that the U.S. was intimately

involved in the developments of the so-called colored revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan,

as well as the Andijan protests of May 2005.

The member states of the SCO, with perhaps the exception of Kyrgyzstan, generally see the

colored revolutions of recent years, along with the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, as parts of a

unified U.S. foreign policy to selectively force regime change around the world in the name of

democracy. As long as such a perception exists, the SCO is likely to be an attractive counterbalance

to the OSCE and U.S. interests in the region for the Central Asian states.

There are, however, some internal dynamics within the SCO that can limit its ability to

present a long-term challenge to U.S. interests and to the OSCE in the region. The Central Asian

member states of the SCO continue to see the advantage of engagement with the U.S., recognizing that

Russia and China could also pose significant threats to their independence and sovereignty.

Along these lines, Kazakhstan may be in a position to play a pivotal role in how the SCO

positions itself, vis-a-vis the U.S. and the OSCE. Kazakhstan is the only Central Asian country

whose economic power allows it to be a significant international investor and to play an important

role in the development of the other Central Asian states.

In this context, Kazakhstan seeks a wide range of international partners and often wishes to

exert its independence from Russian and Chinese political and economic influence. Furthermore, while

Kazakhstan seeks to control public political competition and continues to be reluctant to implement

free and fair elections, the country’s growing middle class has Western sensibilities that will

eventually seek the reforms that are aligned with the country’s commitments to the OSCE.

In this context, it is vital for the U.S. and the OSCE to find new means for engaging the

Central Asian states on long-term democratic reforms in a way that is not seen as threatening the

sovereignty and independence of these states in the short term. In order to do so, however, the

fears of colored revolutions in these countries must be replaced by a true sense of mutually

beneficial partnership that involves the collaborative efforts of the U.S. and the OSCE to build free

markets and democratic governance in the region over the long term.

Such an approach should not be confused with being soft on democracy, as Ariel Cohn (ph)

recently suggests. The U.S. and the OSCE need to talk tough about democracy with Central Asian

leaders but also do so realistically, respectfully, and with the assurances that they are committed

to long-term engagement.

It should be remembered that the fear of U.S. democracy promotion that is prevalent among

Central Asia’s leaders is not as much a reaction against the idea of political reform as it is a

suspicion that the freedom agenda presently promoted by the U.S. abroad is actually a smokescreen for

ulterior motives. In order to refute such ideas, the U.S. needs to demonstrate to the Central Asian

leadership that its interest in promoting political reform throughout the region have nothing to do

with forcing regime change in the short term and everything to do with ensuring the long-term

sustainability of the sovereignty and independence of the Central Asian states.

If the U.S. can regain the trust of the Central Asian states in this regard, the Shanghai

Cooperation Organization will likely cease to be a serious threat to our interests in the region.

Thank you very much.

BROWNBACK: Thanks, Mr. Roberts.

Dr. Olcott?

OLCOTT: Thank you.

BROWNBACK: Good to have you back.

OLCOTT: Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear once again before you today. I

have a longer testimony, which I’ve submitted to the record.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is becoming increasingly more active in Central Asia.

Although it is not clear what the final shape of this organization will take, either in terms of its

membership or in terms of its mission, right now though I believe that, rhetoric not withstanding,

that SCO is little more than a discussion forum for a group of states with shared borders or nearly

shared borders, as in the case of Uzbekistan.

And it is unclear to me whether the efforts at institution-building of this organization will

be any more successful than those of the rather ill-fated CIS, the Commonwealth of Independent

States. Today, I don’t believe that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization poses any direct threat to

U.S. interests in Central Asia or in the region more generally, although I grant that its annual

meetings, most particularly since 2005, have become an opportunity for member states and for

observers to vent their frustration with the U.S.

I also believe that the timetable for possible expansion of this organization is uncertain,

but I certainly feel that it is unlikely to come anytime soon. And I think it’s important to

remember that observer states in the organization have a very limited range of activities that they

can participate in. And so much of the bluster comes from the observer nations, like Iran, at

general meetings.

Moreover, I believe that the expanded mission for the SCO becomes less viable if the

membership of the organization expanded. This is something that the membership in general is well

aware of, and this is one reason why the Chinese in particular have privately resisted any proposal

to increase any of the observer nations to full member station. A decision to increase membership

would need to be consensual, and Chinese authorities have sent strong signals to suggest that the

organization cannot be expanded until its final mission is clarified and made operational.

I believe that, although the SCO have made commitments to view security threats to one as a

form of threat to all, they lack the capacity to respond to these threats in any sort of concerted

fashion. And for the foreseeable future it is hard for me to imagine China becoming an equal

security partner of any of the Central Asian states or of Russia. Suspicion of China simply runs too


So furthermore I believe the capacity of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to be a

security organization with a mission anywhere analogous to NATO further diminishes if the SCO takes

on new members. I also believe that Russia itself is against the expanding of the security mission

of the SCO, because it works against bilateral Russian efforts and multilateral efforts of Russia

with the Central Asian states.

The economic mission of the organization also remains somewhat ill-defined. And the fact

that China and Kyrgyzstan are both WTO members and that Kazakhstan and Russia also have WTO ambitions

— Kazakhstan in particular is moving towards WTO membership — I think will impede the SCO from

emerging as any sort of competitive, exclusive regional trade organization.

That not withstanding, SCO member states are likely to become important economic partners of

each other, especially in the area of energy. Russia and China are to some degree competitors for

Central Asian oil and gas reserves, but both realize that the SCO and the partial pooling of their

efforts could work to their individual advantage. However, the mutual advantage that the SCO

provides in the area of energy really begins to seriously diminish if it admits other large oil and

gas competing producing states, like Iran, or other states with large markets, competing markets for

energy, like India.

I would like to turn to three points before I run out of time and then a conclusion. First

of all, energy. I would argue that China’s priority, as we’ve talked about, vis-a-vis the Central

Asian states, lies not with the SCO but with increasing its ownership of oil and gas assets in

Central Asia. As I will return in the conclusion, as I talk about in my testimony, this is something

that need not be of direct or indirect threat to the U.S.

The Chinese expects the SCO to help with energy security. OK, domestic politics — again,

you know, I’m going to run out of time. I think this question has come up, the question on human


I would say that the Chinese have little interest in the domestic politics of the Central

Asian regimes, except as they relate to the treatment of ethnic minorities, Chinese ethnic

minorities, the Uyghurs in particular. And this is the one place where the Chinese government has

placed very serious pressure on the Central Asian states to restrict the political rights and to

outlaw particular Uyghurs groups, OK?

I would say that Beijing is not encouraging the Central Asian states to be autocratic, and

they wouldn’t break ties with any of these regimes if they became democratic, but like the rest of

the SCO member states, the leadership in Beijing — and this is really what I’d like to emphasize —

believe that security threats come from groups with alien — and I would read extremist — ideologies

and are not produced as a result of the domestic and, in particular, of the human rights abuses of

the governments themselves.

And this really is where I think the SCO and the OSCE really differ, in the evaluation of

what constitutes threat, domestic threat, and what produces domestic threat. And I will come back to

that in another second, in the conclusion.

Finally, I’d like to say just a word or two about Russia and the SCO. The increased

visibility of the SCO provides a useful buffer for the Central Asian states to use in trying to

balance Russia and Chinese influence in the region. One Central Asian foreign minister once noted

that the biggest advantage that his country gets from membership in the SCO — and this is off the

record — was that they used it to oppose Moscow.

When there was a position that there had been a clash at bilateral meetings, they would bring

it before the SCO if there was any evidence at all that China would take the opposing view, that it

served as a great discussion place to neutralize some of Russia’s concerned.

I feel it’s very important to note that the security goals of Russia and the SCO do not fully

overlap, and Russia itself would be very uncomfortable with intelligence-sharing between the Central

Asian states and Beijing, if all the SCO members would just share intelligence. I’m sure some

limited intelligence-sharing goes on, but not the kind of intelligence-sharing that goes on between

Russia and the Central Asian states.

I’d like to make for my last minute some concluding comments. The existence of the SCO, I

would argue, will never serve U.S. interests but it need not directly hinder them. It’s easy to

criticize the SCO as a union of non-democratic states, but I would argue that these states are not

bound together by their common interests in keeping member states from becoming democracies.

They are bound together by a shared set of security interests and a shared set of perceived

risk. Unfortunately, they understand the roots of these risks in ways that are impeding the

advancement of a democratic process of most of these states.

I think that China’s role in the energy sector can be quite positive. Secretary Boucher said

some of that; I’d happily to go back to that in the question period.

But I think that it is not in U.S. interests to try and create chasms in the relationship

between the Central Asian states and China, that Kazakhs and Kyrgyz in particular understand that

there’s no way that the fate of their countries can be fully separated from that of China.

For now, at least, China is behaving responsibly in Central Asia, but I think that the U.S.

goal — that Beijing sees the organization as a way to parry Russian influence and, even if only

indirectly, to keep these states from becoming exclusively European in outlook. The U.S. goal should

be to ensure these states be Euro-Pacific in outlook and find more ways to engage with them in trying

to achieve what we hope are our shared European — and by this I mean the shared OSCE democratic


Thank you.

BROWNBACK: Thank you, Dr. Olcott. I look forward to further discussion in our

question-and-answer period.

Dr. Blank?

BLANK: Thank you, Senator Brownback.

I’d like to speak today about the relationship between China and SCO, which raises many

questions about Chinese policy and the SCO, which is a work in progress. As Dr. Olcott testified, it

has not yet found or crystallized its final mission and, for that matter, even its final membership.

And it remains to be seen where it’s going to go.

But it is no doubt that China sees the SCO as its main instrument for countering the United

States on a multilateral basis in Central Asia today. And this realization started with the original

Shanghai Five in 1996. There is some evidence that the conclusion of the border treaties then was

due to the decision by China to move to multilateralism against American foreign policy, as shown

then in the Taiwan crisis.

Since then, what has become the most striking fact about the SCO is that it’s a platform for

all of the local governments, including Moscow and Beijing, to state firmly that Washington should

not interfere in their domestic arrangements.

This pervasive fear about American calls for democratization or alleged outside American

agitators, like the Open Society Institute or the CIA, are somehow conniving to launch revolutions in

Central Asia may be misguided and false, because they are not doing so, but it is nonetheless widely

believed. And in the absence of any countervailing public information policy by the U.S., it has

become an article of faith among elites in Central Asia, China and Russia that the United States is

involved in trying to revolutionize Central Asia. And this has contributed in no small measure to

our setbacks over there.

At the same time, both China and Russia realize full well just how fragile not only the

Central Asian governments are but their own governments are, because of their democracy deficits, and

as a result they continue to stoke these fires in order to wage what might be considered an

ideological counter-campaign against the United States.

So, in other words, the great game in Central Asia is not just about geostrategic or energy

access; it also is about political and ideological values, such as democratization. But we are not

trying to overthrow governments in Central Asia, as Assistant Secretary Boucher pointed out.

Nonetheless, in the absence of any coherent statements to the contrary, this is still

believed widely throughout Central Asia and allows Beijing and Moscow ample scope to influence

governments which are very concerned about their own internal and external security and which,

therefore, as Dr. Olcott said, find the SCO very palatable for their objectives.

We also can see that there is an identity in Russo-Chinese approaches to world politics which

is not necessarily shared by the other members of the SCO and which leads them to try and drive the

SCO in ways against American foreign policy objectives, not just in Central Asia, but in Asia more

generally. It’s no sign of this — no sign that, say, Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan are really concerned

about the Korean issue or that they share Moscow and Beijing’s view on Iranian proliferation.

Nonetheless, it is not as vital an issue to them as it is to Russia and China. And as a

result, these issues prop up in the agenda of the discussions there.

At the same time, China views the United States military presence, as well as its ideological

presence in Central Asia, as a source of strategic encirclement and has tried very hard to put

pressure on both Kyrgyzstan and supported Uzbekistan last year in getting them to push us out. Were

it not for the Taliban offensives this year, I suspect that we would be under much greater pressure

in Kyrgyzstan than was the case and we would be under much greater pressure to get out of there than

proved to be the case.

Furthermore, China, as Russian sources have pointed out, is trying to project its military

power into Central Asia. The minute we were removed from the scene in Uzbekistan, Beijing made

inquiries as to whether or not it could move into Karshi-Khanabad, and the Russians promptly stopped

it, which shows you that the Sino-Russian rivalry in Central Asia still exists alongside of the talk

about partnership.

And to the extent that the United States is not a factor in the Central Asian issue, you will

see tensions arising, not just among Russia and China, but between the smaller states, as well as

Russia and China. And, again, Dr. Olcott pointed that out in her testimony.

There are also differences between them as to where this organization is going to go. Russia

flirted with the idea of it being a military organization. The Chinese have come out openly against

the idea of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization being a military bloc, because that would violate

one of the fundamental principles of Chinese military power and foreign policy, that is no membership

in military blocs.

At the same time, China sees the SCO as a template of the future organization of Asia against

the American alliance system and is in favor of a kind of concept of multilateralism from which the

United States is excluded. It also has used the SCO as the platform by which to conduct military

exercises, either bilaterally with Kyrgyzstan and just recently Tajikistan, or with Russia, or with

all the members together.

Ostensibly, these are anti-terrorist operations, but the exercises last year with Russia,

which took place on China’s coast in Shandong Peninsula, were widely regarded as being anti-Taiwan

and, for that matter, anti-American, with regard to the Korean theater, in their orientation, even

though they were conducted under the SCO’s auspices.

What all this shows is that the SCO is a work in progress. Its final destination, its final

membership have not been settled. As a matter of fact, its membership is open to some dispute. It’s

very unlikely that anybody really wants Iran to become a member of the SCO, because that would entail

an obligation to defend Iran. And everybody in this game knows that Iran is playing with fire and

they’re not being entirely responsible actor, insofar as playing with fire is concerned, and they do

not want to have to be called to defend Iran, lest the United States strike at it because of its


China also is committed to bilateral deals with various Central Asian governments, most

recently Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, in the energy sphere and is enhancing its trade

relationships with all the governments in Central Asia on a bilateral as well as multilateral basis.

Whereas President Putin has called recently for it to become a networking organization for Asia or an

energy club, it remains to be seen exactly if that’s going to happen, if that’s going to command

support from the other members, and whether or not it’s actually going to materialize.

So, in conclusion, I would say that this is an organization whose orientation is to a

significant degree anti-American but shows very little capability of developing into an anti-NATO or

an anti-OSCE. Even though it may try to develop into that kind of operation, there are two many

fissures and too may crises which the SCO cannot address in its present form.

And while we need to keep a close eye on it and work against its attempts to suppress calls

for democratization and genuine liberalization in Central Asia, it is not going to be the answer to

Central Asia’s very crowded security agenda.

Thank you.

BROWNBACK: Thank you, Dr. Blank.

Dr. Blank, you noted that there was a military exercise done under the auspices of SCO or

just SCO members?

BLANK: There have been several military exercises, going back, I believe, to 2002. There

have been bilateral Chinese exercises with Kyrgyzstan in 2002 and, I believe, 2003. There was just a

recent one that concluded last week with Tajikistan.

There was an anti-terrorist operation in both Central Asia and China, which embraced all the

members of the organization, in 2004, I believe. And last year, there was a major division-size

operation involving combined joint arms with Russia, which was allegedly conducted under the auspices

of the SCO, but which was billed as an anti-terrorist operation. But if you look at it closely, it

involved every kind of conceivable theater, conventional operation, amphibious operations, paratroop

landings, and the like, leading observers to speculate it was aimed either at Taiwan or at Korea,

despite the fact that it was billed as an SCO operation.

BROWNBACK: Do we have any recent history of Russia and China doing military exercises like

this outside of an SCO organization umbrella?

BLANK: There had been smaller scale naval exercises between Russia and China about five or

six years ago, before the SCO formally became a security agency, at the time when it was basically a

discussion club and a border-monitoring or confidence-building operation.

The 2005 exercises were significant as a new departure. The earlier operations were

multilateral or involved China and a Central Asian government, Russia exercises with Central Asian

states, under the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which is its attempt to build a military

organization to defend against threats in Central Asia.

So last year’s operations were the first of their Russo-Chinese type. And more are

scheduled, I believe, for this year and next year, which may also involve India.

BROWNBACK: Doesn’t that raise your awareness on this issue quite significantly, when you

talk about — I don’t know if it was quite you or Dr. Olcott or others, talking about the lack of

ability of China and Russia to be able to cooperate or the Russians wanting it to be a military

organization, but the Chinese not wanting it to be a military cooperation organization, and yet

you’re seeing these exercises happen at pretty significant levels?

BLANK: Yes, that does raise a flag. But the point is that the Chinese still say this is not

going to be a military organization, and it is still clear to me that this is a work in progress.

This is a debate that has not yet been resolved in favor of the SCO becoming a trade- and

economic-security-providing organization or a hard security organization.

And the membership has not yet — the smaller states have not yet stated their position. It

is, I think, a significant point that they did — Russia and China did carry out this kind of

operation in 2005 and that we may see something like it again. But it is not clear what the next

operations are going to look like, so we cannot say in advance what they represent.

However, it does suggest to me an attempt to create a deeper political and military alliance

against U.S. interests, not only in Central Asia, but perhaps in East Asia, as well.

BROWNBACK: That seems to me to be pretty significant.

BLANK: I agree it’s significant, but we haven’t seen any follow-up as to what that may mean

for the future. It certainly does not mean that if — let’s say, for example, there was a scenario

involving Taiwan that the Russian army would get involved in that.


BLANK: On the other hand, Korea is an area where both Russia and China have vital interests,

as is in Central Asia. So conceivably, if some sort of major crisis developed in either of those two

theaters, we could see perhaps joint operations or joint action or the threat even of joint action by

them, but that’s only a hypothetical possibility. And we don’t know for sure what’s going to come

out as a result of that.

In the meantime, though, it’s very clear that there are divergences between Moscow and

Beijing, with regard to the future orientation of the SCO.

BROWNBACK: Which there have been for years and years differences between Moscow and Beijing,

going back to many years, in different times. But it sounds like some of those are being overcome…

BLANK: Well, they’re being overcome…

BROWNBACK: … by common desires here in the region or common desires to offset U.S.


BLANK: Well, it’s our policies that drive them together. And, you know, we have to examine

why they’re being driven together, and what the consequences of that are, and what we can do about

it, so as to prevent what could develop into a full-fledged strategic partnership.

BROWNBACK: What policies on our part would you change to prevent them from being driven


BLANK: Well, it’s not up to me to change U.S. policy, but it’s very clear that they take

exception to what they believe to be our unilateralism and disregard for their interests, for

example, in going to war with Iraq without going through the final U.N. approval stage, or

disregarding their interests in Iraq.

They certainly do not approve of our efforts to tie what they see as regime change to

nonproliferation in both Iran and North Korea. And what certainly exercises them the most is the

combination of what they believe is American efforts to spread democratization in the former Soviet

Union, at the same time as we are building military bases in and around the former Soviet Union,

which they both regard as strategic encirclement and as a kind of ideological campaign against the

stability and integrity of their governments or of their vital interests.

BROWNBACK: Dr. Olcott, I always appreciate your opinion and thoughts. I gather from your

comments you really don’t have a lot of concern about this SCO, what it’s doing or what it’s likely

to do?

OLCOTT: I don’t have concern about the SCO. I accept a lot of what Steve has said. I mean,

there’s actually a huge amount of overlap between our positions.

I think that — I’m trying to think of how to put it — I don’t think the structure of the

SCO is going to turn into a structure that is used to successfully destabilize the U.S. position in

Central Asia. I mean, I think what Steve said about the Russo-Chinese military activities are really

interesting, and I wonder whether that would have been possible in Central Asia, you know, that this

was not a theater of operations that Russia has a large military presence in.

And I think that the SCO plays a very important role in Russia for groups that want closer

cooperation between the Russian and Chinese military to conceal some of what they’re doing, because

Russian policy, Russian public opinion is still very, very strongly anti-Chinese. And this creates

an umbrella for that.

I think that the concern that we should have is what I tried to allude to in the testimony,

that we understand risk in very different ways than they understand risk. And that really is our

burden, if you like. We have to get these states to understand that their policies are putting their

stability at risk and that the SCO is not meeting their security burden, that it’s not the ideologies

that create the risk, but the policies of governments take the presence of ideologies and make them

much more dangerous, as catalysts.

No one talks about Great Britain falling apart because there were the threat of Islamic

terrorism on U.K. soil. But when you go to Central Asia, you have other fears, because the

governments themselves are destabilizing their own situation. I think the danger that the SCO has is

that it creates an atmosphere where people just reinforce each other’s prejudices, and it’s that,

these prejudices, are what are hampering the U.S. effort to spread our policies.

One thing I’d like to very briefly say that I really disagree with Dr. Blank on, is I’ve had

the opportunity to spend a lot of time with some of the Chinese advisers to the SCO over the past

seven or eight months, in various settings, in China, in Central Asia. And I find that where they

disagree with us is the question of what constitutes stability and destabilizing. But they’re really

much more interested in balance in the region than in excluding the U.S.

So I don’t think the U.S. military bases — rhetoric at some of these meetings

notwithstanding — become the real point where we disagree with China on policies in Central Asia. I

think where we have not managed to convince the Chinese is that our understanding of what’s creating

security risk there is really what’s at stake, that they’re making the situation more unstable, not

less unstable, by their policies. So it’s not the SCO, but the mindsets that I think we need to do

battle with.

BROWNBACK: Dr. Roberts, you’ve spent quite a bit of time in Uzbekistan, a student and other


ROBERTS: Also in Kazakhstan, as well.

BROWNBACK: My experience in that region, but particularly in Uzbekistan, with the leadershi


3 Responses to “Quick Post on SCO”

  1. derek Says:

    hey chris, how far down the 9-11 / 7-7 / Oklahoma City Federal Building / Branch Davidian / 6-Day War / Northwoods-JFK / Pearl Harbor / Nazi Hitler rabbit’s hole are you? being in Austin and Ft. Hood has fully awakened me…peace!

  2. monkey Says:

    hey derek. way, way too deep down the rabbit whole. i am having trouble logging into my myspace account right now, but as soon as it is fixed, i will drop you a message or two.

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