Russia plans to invite India, Pakistan and Iran into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)
This has been discussed for a very long time already, but this time it is official: Sergei Lavrov has just declared that at the next summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) countries Russia will propose to the initiate the process of accepting Iran a a full member alongside India and Pakistan.
Quick reminder: the following countries are currently member of the SCO: China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tadjikistan and Uzbekistan; the following countries are currently “observers” and, therefore, possible candidates: Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan while Belarus, Sri Lanka and Turkey are “dialog partners”. The near-future SCO would thus include all of the following full members: China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tadjikistan and Uzbekistan.
[Sidebar: It is also important to remember that the SCO is a security organization with a strong military component to it. While its main goal is the coordination of members states in their struggle against terrorism, separatism and extremism, the SCO has conducted a number of military exercises. The SCO is not a formal military alliance but it has at its core countries which are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) i.e., Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tadjikistan, and Uzbekistan. We could very roughly say that the SCO has a function similar to NATO while the CSTO has a function comparable to the one of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). This comparison is not to be taken literally, but just as in Europe we can observe an economic alliance (the EU), a political security alliance (NATO) and a single purely military military command (SHAPE), so in Asia we see the Eurasian Economic Union (or EEU) being the economic alliance, SCO as a political security organization and the CSTO as a purely military organization].
Needless to say, the White House is absolutely horrified by all this: not only did the US oppose the creation of the SCO, CSTO and EEU at every step of the way, but the consolidation of these organization is a vivid illustration of the loss of influence and power of the USA. The USA tried to stop it, lobbied hard to prevent anybody from joining it, and even tried to ignore it – and they failed: the SCO is growing in membership and influence.
To make things worse, the BRICS states have now become an open and direct challenge to the USA’s economic hegemony over our planet. The folks in Washington are now very slowly becoming aware of the magnitude of the threat now faced by the Empire.
These developments also illustrate the dramatic contrast between US and Russian diplomatics methods and goals. While the US favors the classical “divide and conquer” method, Russia favors a “unite and lead” method which is designed to bring former enemies together (like India and Pakistan or China and India) and build large coalitions.
The prospect of Iran joining the SCO is seen by Washington as an overt provocation, as slap in the face of the Emperor, especially at a time when the US and the KSA are at war in Yemen precisely to isolate and “contain” Iran (of course, “containing” Russia, China and Iran all at the same time was not a very smart plan to begin with!). The US response is predictable: punish everybody involved with chaos. This time, it is tiny Macedonia which the object of US aggression (via the CIA-run UCK terrorists from Kosovo) with the deliberate desire to send everybody else the following message: side with Russia and you will pay, dearly. There have also been warnings by Russian analysts about the risks of ISIS/IS training in Georgia or a resumption of the Chechen insurgency, but this time around, with direct Ukronazi support. Uncle Sam is apparently trying to hit Russia in her “soft underbelly”, but this plan has no chance of success because no such soft underbelly exists any more.
The myth of the soft underbelly of Russia
Amongst the many myths of old style geopolitics was the famous “soft underbelly of Russia”. To be fair, there was some truth to that, but not much. Nowadays, however, this is absolutely false.
In reality, the combined results of the two wars in Chechnia, the war against Georgia, the civil war in the Ukraine, the terrorist threat in Dagestan, the Wahabi insurgency in Tadjikistan and the US-created chaos created in Iraq have all contributed to the definition and implementation of a long-term Russian policy to “armor her belly”.
The earliest manifestation of this policy was the decision to deploy the elite 201 Motor-Rifle division in Tadjikistan in direct support of the combined Russian-Tadjik border guard forces. Later, this division was re-named the 201st Base to reflect he unique capabilities of this unit. At the present time, subunits of this base are located in 3 Tadjik cities and “cover” all the critical areas. The 201 is, by any standard, a formidable force, far superior to anything Tadjikistan or Afghanistan could deploy. But the Russians went one step further: the recently tested the ability of Russian Airborne forces to deploy within hours to Tadjikistan: without any warning, elements of the 98th Airborne Division were put on alert and transported with all their equipment and weapons to southern Tadjikistan.
This exercise was specifically conducted under the aegis of the rapid reaction forces of the CSTO and was designed to test the Russian ability to project her military power right to the Tadjik-Afghan border.
Currently, the Russian security posture towards Afghanistan relies on the following layers: first, maintaining a good working relationship with the Tadjik population of northern Afghanistan; next – strengthening the Tadjik border guards and regular military forces by providing them with instructors and equipment; next deploying Russian border guard troops alongside their Tadjik colleagues; then, to maintain a powerful combat “fist” in the form of the 201 Base and, finally, to be ready to reinforce the 201st with Airborne Forces and aviation elements. As a result, Russia is now capable of deploying an extremely powerful combat group within 48 hours anywhere in, or near, Tadjikistan.
Another example of the “armored underbelly of Russia” is the no-less formidable 58th Army which is located in and around Chechnia whose recent combat record includes defeating the Chechen Wahabis in 2000 and the Georgian military in 2008. The 58th Army is one of the best trained and best equipped army in the Russian armed forces. Now it can also count on the full support of the Chechen forces loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov which are beyond any doubt the most best trained and experienced forces in the Caucasus. Should the ISIS/IS crazies ever try to penetrate into the Caucasus (say, via Georgia) they would be met by an extremely powerful military force which would be superior to anything Syria or Iraq could deploy.
Finally, there is the Black Sea fleet which in the Soviet days was considered the least capable and, frankly, least important of the four Soviet Fleets (Northern, Pacific, Baltic and, last, Black Sea – in order of importance). Now, with the civil war in the Ukraine and after the war in Georgia, the Black Sea has re-acquired a new found importance, especially as “Crimea’s Fleet”. Russian officials have announced that they will greatly strengthen not only the group of forces in Crimea, but also the Black Sea Fleet.
The solution chosen by Russia was the creation in Crimea a separate “military grouping” comprising 96 formations and units and whose tasks will include not only the protection of Russian interests in the Black Sea and on the Crimean Federal District, but also to “meet the challenges in the long-range maritime zone.” In other words – power projection.
The Crimean “fortress”, the Black Sea Fleet, the 58th Army and the 201st Base are all part of a new, armored, Russian hard underbelly which is quite ready to deal with any threat coming from the south.
Over the past decades Russia has invested tremendous resources into the development of multi-dimensional policy towards the South and the East. On a political level, organizations such as the SCO, the CSTO and the BRICS are all forming a network of alliances which Russian can count on for support. On a military level, Russia has placed “military locks” her southern flank in the Black Sea, Caucasus and Central Asia and has developed the capabilities to send powerful reinforcements to these “locks”. In effect, Russia has created a “cordon sanitaire” to protect herself from the instability on her southern border. This combination of political and military measure have given Russia a great degree of flexibility in responding to any crisis or challenge.