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

This article is part of our premium archives.

To continue reading and get full access to our entire archive, you must subscribe.

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