CENTRAL ASIA: SCO AND NATO IN REGIONAL AND GLOBAL POLITICS
Vladimir Plastun, D.Sc. (Hist.), Professor, Department of Oriental Studies, Novosibirsk State University (Novosibirsk, Russia)
There is a more or less general agreement among political scientists that the center of gravity of the most important (or even critically important) world developments is shifting toward Central Asia. The sequence of events brings us back to square one: the Soviet Union’s disintegration and the emergence of the newly independent states. A potential boon that could have opened access to the region’s oil and gas riches and could have enriched the local states and their extra-regional partners was buried by the inadequate behavior of the sides involved. Business cooperation presupposes mutual understanding and mutual concessions for the sake of mutual benefit. It would have been wise to keep political and ideological considerations and business strictly apart, but this is much harder to achieve in reality. Reality proved different: encouraged by the disintegration of the Soviet “empire of evil,” the West, led by the United States, tried to use this opportunity to achieve unilateral advantages.
An article by Helena Cobban, member of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, which appeared in Christian Science Monitor reminded everyone that the interests of the world powers were closely intertwined. Indeed, China and Japan are the largest among America’s creditors while Russia is one of Europe’s largest suppliers of energy resources. Market, investment, and production structures are intertwined and know no state borders.
We might have rejoiced at these developments which could have improved, in the near future, the living standards of the destitute population groups across the planet, extinguished the national, religious, and ethnic conflicts, and done away with the unipolar world as the political and economic hegemony of one state. But it is too early to talk about the end of the Cold War and laying the cornerstone of mutual understanding.
Former Deputy Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union G. Kornienko, who calls himself a “Cold War participant,” has the following to say on this score: “The Cold War, which never ended (contrary to numerous declarations), stopped all of a sudden since the Soviet Union, one of its subjects and its main object, disappeared. This is very different from the orderly discontinuation of the Cold War when international relations are smoothly transferred to a new non-confrontational level.”
This never happened; as soon as the jubilation over the death of the Soviet Union, the WTO disbandment, the melting down of the “socialist camp,” and Russia’s withdrawal from Vietnam and Cuba quieted down, the United States and the West demonstrated the “paternalist approach of the victors” toward Russia and the former Soviet republics. G. Kornienko has offered the following comments: “They obviously intended to treat us not as equal members of the world community; their attitude depended on our readiness to accept Western patterns in our domestic affairs and to take orders from the United States on the international arena.” This treatment continued in the early 21st century; its echo can be heard today when new Russia is actively affirming itself as an equal partner in international affairs.
It was a time when the position of the former “main foe,” the Soviet Union, was undermined. The Russian Federation, which had recently acquired its legal status, looked like a gravely ill patient. The former Soviet republics were engrossed in dividing the unexpected wealth of…………