June 15, 2011 is the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. A decade is a very short period for the development of a group. Subject to suspicion at the beginning, the organization has gradually grown to be a high-profile organization. Certainly, the particular attention drawn by some countries to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization also involves red flags.
The New York Times once commented that the organization is prepared to preserve the security in the region without the involvement of the United States. The Christian Science Monitor even questioned whether Russia and China intended to form the "NATO of the East" to rival NATO. Some American scholars on the Central Asia issue also believed that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is attempting to urge Central Asian countries to oust the military bases established by the United States in Central Asia in order to prevent the establishment of a U.S.-led security mechanism in Central Asia.
These views reflect the mindset of the United States that it is unwilling to allow other countries to challenge its position as the "world police." There are no rules in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's legal documents requiring its members to assume any obligations to provide each other with military assistance. Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretary-General Muratbek Imanaliev has publicly denied the view that the organization will develop into a military group or alliance. Russian Ambassador to China Sergei Razov has rejected the remarks regarding the organization as an "anti-NATO alliance." He said that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization would not evolve into a military alliance let alone an "anti-NATO alliance."
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is not and will not develop into a military alliance. However, maintaining regional security has been one its important missions. The establishment of the organization is based on a common strategic requirement, which is to curb the "Three Evil Forces" of terrorism, regional separatism and religious extremism. Over the past 10 years, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization organized more than 10 anti-terrorism exercises to fight against drug smuggling and transnational organized crime and launched cooperation in many new fields, such as anti-money-laundering and the security of large-scale international activities.
However, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization now still faces a serious regional security situation. Related member states of the organization and observer countries launched joint anti-terrorism exercises code-named "Tianshan-2-2011" in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on May 6, 2011. This routine military exercise initiated by China aims at improving the joint anti-terrorism combat readiness level of law enforcement security departments of various Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states and strengthening cooperation.
It is also an anti-terrorism military exercise that the organization's members and observer countries launched after al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed. The military exercise was targeted at regional terrorism, which is quite different with the military exercises of alliance nature that have been frequently launched in various regions of the world recently.
The death of bin Laden temporarily boosted U.S. President Barack Obama's approval rating, but it was just a partial success in the global war on terrorism because the threat of terrorism did not die with bin Laden. The security situation in Central Asia and adjacent areas has started to deteriorate again, international terrorist organizations are regrouping, and the terrorist activities in Central Asia are becoming more localized.
The United States and its NATO allies are expanding military efforts in Afghanistan in preparation for their withdrawal in 2014, making the security situation of Afghanistan even more uncertain. Many terrorists have returned to northern Afghanistan and neighboring countries, posing a major security threat to all Central Asian countries. In addition, Central Asian countries have close economic and cultural ties with and similar national conditions to Middle Eastern countries. After the election cycle begins in certain Central Asian countries, the situation of the Middle East may directly affect the stability of Central Asia. Under such a context, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will face more challenges in security cooperation.
The organization members have been strengthening military cooperation by conducting regular joint anti-terror drills and establishing a regional counter-terrorism committee. It should be noted that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's military cooperation is only aimed at combating terrorism and maintaining regional peace and stability, which is also the reason for the founding of the organization.