Tag Archives: NATO

NATO and the SCO. Doomed to be Enemies?

6 Sep

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a military alliance formed at the beginning of the Cold War to check the influence of the Soviet Union and its allies. Ever since the dissolution of their arch enemy, NATO has been having a bit of an identity crisis with many wondering if the alliance should be dissolved due to the lack of a common enemy. But recently it has taken on the role of a peacekeeping force, engaging in operations around the world and is a counterweight to the Eurasian dominance of China-Russia.

Collectively, NATO accounts for 70% of the world’s military spending and despite the seemingly bleak future of the European Union, the alliance is strong and relatively united despite occasional hiccups. New member states are added every few years after an intensive dialogue process, the newest prospective members being Georgia, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and possibly Cyprus once their dispute with Turkey is resolved. NATO also maintains several agreements with surrounding countries including the Individual Partnership Action Plan and the Partnership for Peace.

Member nations are currently wrapping up their operations with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, enforcing the no-fly zone in Libya, peacekeeping in the Balkans, monitoring the Mediterranean Sea,  pulling security in Iraq, combating Somali piracy, and assisting the African Union with peacekeeping missions on the Somali mainland.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is comprised of a soon to be superpower (China) and a shattered shell of a superpower (Russia) along with former Soviet central Asian countries, always state that the organization is not a military alliance like NATO. False. It started out as an economic group somewhat similar to the European Union but it’s slowly taken on a militaristic side, again, similar to the EU. Even Putin denied any similarities to NATO. But in recent years the SCO has raised some eyebrows by staging numerous military exercises and war games involving member countries.

As global economic power begins to shift to the east, and Russia attempts to tag along on the coattail of China’s recent success, the SCO will become an even tighter knit community which seeks an active leadership role in the world. However, if two autocratic, major powers on the UN Security Council with veto power should team up in enforcing their  often shady policies then the regional balance will be thrown into disarray. China will surely use SCO support to push its unfounded claims in the South China Sea and should India fall further under US influence then its admittance into the organization will be unlikely at best and the chances of territorial disputes breaking out into open conflict again will increase.

Russia is currently battling Islamic insurgents in the Caucasus region and is engaged in territorial disputes in the Arctic with several nations. It’s also against former Soviet republics joining NATO or Western alliances and isn’t above bullying them as in the cyber attacks on Estonia, war with Georgia, and politcal meddling in Ukraine.

SCO members in dark green. Nations with observer status in light green.

Strengths

Including active duty, reserves and paramilitary forces, NATO currently has approximately 8,013,809 soldiers and boasts an unprecedented command and control system among all member states that serves to deter the machinations of larger, less friendly countries. Almost all armed forces in the alliance are highly trained and have access to the most advanced combat systems, and equipment available and the industries that produce them are located on friendly soil. NATO maintains a broad network of friendly nations around the world, bound by treaties such as ANZUS with Australia, New Zealand, and the US, and the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and the US.

The SCO has around 6,932,300 available soldiers. China and Russia are rapidly modernizing and reforming their militaries but they have been plagued with setbacks. Their effectiveness has yet to be seen and remains suspect. Both nations are developing new fighters, ships, and armored vehicles to replace aging Cold War relics and are on pace to achieve complete modernization by 2020-2025. While NATO generally advocates democracy and the Rule of Law, both China and Russia are notorious for publicly supporting rogue regimes like those of Kim Jong Il, Ali Khamenei, Omar al-Bashir, and Bashar al-Asaad.

Conclusion

The SCO realizes that in the modern world, seeking out dialogue and cooperation with NATO and its allies is necessary and beneficial for all involved but there are numerous disputes, ranging from Russian support for Iran, Chinese support for North Korea, Chinese cyber incursions and Russian espionage in the US among many other issues. At the end of the day there can only be one big kid on the block. However both sides face incredible internal issues that will test their strength. How they handle those problems in the coming years will decide who will reign supreme.

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