A Line in the Steppes: NATO Meets an Expanded SCO

While NATO leaders were congratulating themselves on the accession of petite Montenegro into the military pact, NATO’s counter-balancing force to the east was welcoming as full members India and Pakistan. While Montenegro’s flag was being raised at NATO headquarters in Brussels, the flags of the world’s most populous democracy and the third-most populous Muslim nation – India and Pakistan, respectively – were being raised at the Beijing headquarters of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The enlargement of SCO effectively neuters NATO’s long-sought march to the east where it intended to gobble up as members, the former Soviet Central Asian states.

SCO’s enlargement also signals the end of the neo-conservatives’ dream of a «New American Century» dominating the entire planet and even beyond, in space. The 21st century will be a «New Eurasian Century» with the United States, Britain, the European Union, and NATO sitting on the sidelines as anemic observers bickering among themselves as the center of global power shifts to the Eurasian land mass.

In 1904, Halford Mackinder wrote a prophetic article, titled «The Geographical Pivot of History», that advanced what Mackinder called the «Heartland Theory» of geopolitics. Mackinder’s «heartland» comprised Asia, Europe, and Africa, which Mackinder called the «World-Island». In 1919, Mackinder pointed out that whatever power controlled the world-island would also control the world. Mackinder wrote: «Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the World-Island commands the world». Mackinder described Britain and Japan as «off-shore islands» of the World-Island. «outlying islands» included North and South America and Australia.

The expansion of SCO with the addition of India and Pakistan and other Eurasian nations knocking on the organization’s door represents the realization of Mackinder’s World-Island as the pivotal event that will phase out the unipolar domination of the world by the United States and its allies.

India and Pakistan, while not agreeing on much else, decided to put their differences aside and recognize that aligning with China and Russia in SCO is preferable to being led into dubious alliances with the United States. For China, the Indians and Pakistanis in SCO is a major boost to its Silk Road initiative, also known as the «One Belt, One Road» project, of creating new highway, rail, and maritime links with countries around the world. The prospect of major trans-Himalayan highways and rail links between China and the Indian sub-continent may serve as such a boost to the economies of both India and Pakistan that religious differences over control of Kashmir may subside in favor of détente and closer economic cooperation. Centuries of religious warfare between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland subsided after both Ireland and Northern Ireland became members of the European Union. Economic development in Ireland, north and south, was preferable to guerrilla warfare. The same could take place in Kashmir if China’s Silk Road projects results in Muslims and Hindus concluding that an improved economic situation relegates religious warfare to an anachronistic impediment.

Fears that India and Pakistan would disrupt SCO with their mutual political differences were put to rest when SCO emphasized that its charter strictly prohibits members using the organization to advance any bilateral schisms. The same rule applies to the bilateral tensions between India and China.

China is also flexing its muscles in what Mackinder called the «outlying island» of the Americas. China drove home the importance it gives the Silk Road project when it announced that it was establishing full diplomatic relations with Panama after the Central American nation and controller of the Panama Canal cut its longstanding diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

China’s state-owned China Communications Construction, China Railway Group and COSCO Shipping Company are involved in major infrastructure improvement projects in the Panama Canal and surrounding region. Chinese billionaire Wang Jing’s company, the Hong Kong-Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company, broke ground in 2015 for a $40 billion sea-level canal through Nicaragua.

Nicaragua, El Salvador, Paraguay, and the Dominican Republic are soon expected to ditch relations with Taiwan and recognize Beijing. This will facilitate China’s continued extension of influence in the «outlying islands» of Eurasia.

Chinese control of two canals in Central America will give it enormous economic clout internationally, as well as in America’s backyard.

On deck to join SCO down the road is Afghanistan, where the Trump administration announced an increase of 4000 military personnel in what is America’s longest war. There will soon come a time when SCO, after Afghanistan transitions to full member from observer status, will order the U.S. and NATO to pull their occupation troops from a SCO member state. Will Washington risk a war with the four most populous nations in Eurasia to keep its military planted in a SCO nation? That is doubtful, especially as the United States fades into a second-rate political power that happens to possess a technically-advanced and globally-deployable military force.

The United States has, over the years, attempted to co-opt Mongolia, situated between Russia and China, as a prime listening post for the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency. That effort will be marginalized after Mongolia eventually becomes a full member of SCO. And making things difficult for Washington and its alliance of Arab potentates in the Persian Gulf, as well as Israel, is the fact that the next Asian nation that will become a member of SCO is Iran. While Iran was under United Nations sanctions, it was prohibited from becoming a full SCO member. However, after the sanctions were lifted in 2016, China announced that Iran was on track to become the next full member after the accession of India and Pakistan.

The addition of Iran, as well as Belarus and the other aspirant nations as SCO members, will make the organization a powerhouse that can stand toe-to-toe against not only the United States and NATO, but the European Union and Japan as well.

Waiting to step into the SCO observer category are «dialogue» partners Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Armenia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka. Interest in SCO has also come from Bangladesh, Vietnam, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Maldives. There appears to be no stomach by either Russia or China for Saudi Arabia to join. After the Saudi-led economic blockade of Qatar, it is very possible that Qatar may make a play for SCO observer or dialogue status. SCO has not been particularly eager to act on dialogue partner applications submitted by Ukraine and Israel. Both would represent American «Trojan horses» within the SCO community.

Unlike NATO, SCO has been very careful not to grow too big too fast. India and Pakistan waited for 12 years to become full members of SCO. Ironically, the stage has been set for SCO to take in its first NATO nation, Turkey, as a member. Such a development may see Turkey become the first NATO member state to exit the military pact in favor of SCO.

The Western corporate media chose to almost completely ignore the accession of India and Pakistan to SCO. Those Western media outlets that chose to cover the story did so in opinion pieces representing the views of the CIA-linked Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The CFR and other «spy shop» think tanks reason that SCO and the BRICS alliance of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa are faltering international organizations unworthy of much press. In fact, it is the European Union and NATO that are faced with internal dissention and stumbling on the world stage.

By Wayne Madsen
Source: Strategic Culture

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