Friday, March 20, 2009

Another Obama First: Getting To Know The “SCO”

(And also posted over here.)

This tells us another way that President Obama has distanced himself from his eminently forgettable predecessor…

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States said Thursday that a top US diplomat will travel to Moscow for a meeting this month on Afghanistan sponsored by the Shanghai group and he could meet Iranian delegates there.

Iran usually sends an observer to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional grouping set up in 1996 as an alternative to NATO that would allow Russia and China to counter US influence in Asia.

"Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Patrick Moon is planning to attend this Shanghai Cooperation Organization conference in Moscow on the 27th of March," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.

"It's a conference about Afghanistan and its neighbors," the spokesman told the daily news media briefing in Washington.
As Wikipedia confirms here, the group was indeed formed in 1996 as the “Shanghai Five,” but after Uzbekistan was added in 2001, the group reformed as the “SCO,” if you will, that year, perhaps thinking that the “Shanghai Five” sounded too much like the title of a martial arts movie (seriously, though, this is a formidable group – this prior post tells us the following…

According to the SCO Charter and the Declaration on the Establishment of the SCO, the main purposes of SCO are: strengthening mutual trust and good-neighborliness and friendship among member states; developing their effective cooperation in political affairs, the economy and trade, science and technology, culture, education, energy, transportation, environmental protection and other fields; working together to maintain regional peace, security and stability; and promoting the creation of a new international political and economic order featuring democracy, justice and rationality.

Though the declaration on the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization contained a statement that it "is not an alliance directed against other States and regions and it adheres to the principle of openness", most observers believe that one of the original purposes of the SCO was to serve as a counterbalance to the United States and in particular to avoid conflicts that would allow the United States to intervene in areas near both Russia and China. Many observers also believe that the organization was formed as a direct response to the threat of missile defense systems by the United States, after the United States reversed course in its nuclear policy and began promoting National Missile Defense.
Yep, or should I say “Da!” – as noted here, the formation of the SCO was considered to be "a great success of President Vladimir Putin in foreign policy” according to the Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Independent Gazette); basically, our old buddy Vlad saw this as a way to get back at Dubya’s militarism (hence the prior wording about "rationality" - wonder if “43” saw this coming when he famously said that he “looked into Putin’s soul” here? Also, Wikipedia tells us that the U.S. applied to attend an SCO meeting with “observer” status in 2005, but was denied).

It’s still way too early to tell how the current foreign policy overtures of the Obama Administration are going to play out (including this greeting to Iran), but he deserves the same chance we afforded the prior individual who took up space in An Oval Office. And as Jack Cafferty said here, “at least I don't go to bed at night worried that I'll wake up in the morning to find out we're about to invade someone.”

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