Courtesy Reuters

The recent rise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) -- a mutual security assembly comprised of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan -- has been met with skepticism in the West. Some fear that it has nefarious intentions to control Central Asia; others worry that the West will somehow be left behind in the region if it does not engage with the SCO. Since its founding in 1996 as a forum for negotiating lingering Soviet-Chinese border disputes, the SCO's mission has broadened to promote regional security and economic cooperation, and combat what its members call the "three evils": separatism, extremism, and terrorism. As its agenda has expanded, so, too, have Western concerns.

When the heads of the SCO countries called for a timetable for closing U.S. military bases in Central Asia at its annual summit in 2005, the SCO appeared to be positioning itself against U.S. influence in the

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  • ALEXANDER COOLEY is Associate Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University, and a fellow at the Open Society Institute.
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