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Heads of state at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Sept. 12, 2014. (AP photo from RIA Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service).

Responding to Crises, SCO Finally Embraces Expansion

Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on Sept. 12-13 may have been one of the organization’s most important. After years of stasis, the group’s heads-of-state summit finally agreed to consider expanding the organization’s membership, which has remained fixed since its foundation in 2001. They also adopted several other important measures promoting regional development, as well as a political declaration that lent support to Russian and Chinese positions in those countries’ disagreements with the U.S. and the West more broadly. But the SCO still faces several obstacles to expanding its role in Eurasia.

After the instability engendered by the Arab Spring and the ongoing NATO military drawdown in Afghanistan, two developments in particular apparently generated sufficient alarm to propel China and Russia to reverse longstanding crosscutting positions and permit expanding the organization’s membership and functions: the Russia-Western tensions over Ukraine and the recent upsurge of terrorism inside China. ...

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