The city of Ufa in Bashkortostan, Russia appears to have become the crossroads of a number of multilateral, bloc-building organizations which are increasingly finding consensus that the momentum is on their side to build unions that are designed as alternatives to the EU and the IMF.
The 15th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit begins where the 7th annual BRICS Summit ends; with Russia chairing the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), it’s no surprise that the three organizations would meet at Ufa.
During the 90-minute plenary session of the meeting of the three organizations, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that cultural, religious, and socio-economic differences did not hinder, but in fact empowered the member states to establish a fair and comprehensive standard of sustainable 21st Century global management.
“All our organizations and associations (SCO, BRICS and the EEU) just like each of our countries have a common interest in working out optimal ways of sustainable development and guaranteeing prosperity and the well-being of peoples in conditions of guaranteed peace and security,” Putin said in statements carried by the ITAR-TASS news agency.
“Today, we have an opportunity to discuss ways of deepening interaction in the Eurasian space,” he added in reference to the EEU.
Hybrid of economics, geopolitics
While the SCO was established in 1996 (later expanded in 2001) as a means to cooperate on military and security issues, the EEU was designed in 2014 as a regional trading bloc involving more than 180 million people.
It is difficult to envisage that the three organizations would not potentially form a geopolitical hybrid; for BRICS, at least, it is equally challenging to keep geopolitics out of the equation. Case in point – Ukraine, South China Sea maritime disputes, etc.
Chinese President Xi Jinping spared no time in highlighting the importance of this congruence.
He urged the three organizations to become “influential mechanisms of cooperation in the world,” on Thursday evening.
Xi said while the different countries that comprise the three organizations have different cultures and social systems, they nonetheless share a unified vision of developing their mutual economies, ensuring security and stability toward that goal and lifting their people’s welfare and common good.
The Ufa summits are being heralded as historic by member states; the meetings are reminiscent of the strategic impetus and global hope on the eve of the October 1945 San Francisco summit which brought 50 nations to create the United Nations.
Just like the UN template, members of BRICS, EEU and the SCO have pledged to combat terrorism and transnational crimes, drug-trafficking, and unilateral interventions.
To that end, the SCO looked to expand its current coterie – China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan – by upgrading the observer status of India and Pakistan to full membership.
This Russian effort at creating a new multilateral map – with the Chinese economic engine fueling it – comes as the European Union struggles with the Greek question. A Grexit, as it has been called, could potentially pull Spain, Portugal – perhaps, even Italy – from the union.
It also comes as the White House star project – the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a key Obama administration initiative to strengthen America’s positioning in Asia – appeared to stall in Congress.
Further to enhancing the depth and spread of these multilateral blocs, China wants to link its “One Belt, One Road” initiative – modeled after the ancient Silk Road connecting Asia to Europe – with SCO activities and the EEU framework.
In the weeks leading up to the Ufa summits, Putin said that Russia was working with China to mesh the two blocs together.
“We are intensively working on combining these two projects – the economic zone of the Silk Road and cooperation as part of the Eurasian Economic Union, and Russia’s plans to expand its transport network in the east of the country. We are absolutely confident that the implementation of this joint work fully meets our mutual interests.”
By Firas Al-Atraqchi for The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies