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Tuesday, March 27

Shanghaied!

Nobody's clowning around anymore with language; the "independence" word is now openly used by UN negotiators with regard to Kosovo. The Kremlin is still hopping mad about the US-led UN plan to give Kosovo independence. Serbia has denounced the plan and Russia has threatened to veto the UN resolution when it comes to a vote in May and to demand a review of all previous UN resolutions on Kosovo.

While the biggest EU powers support the independence plan, Russia and Serbia aren't the only ones upset about it. EU members Spain, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus are backing Belgrade's assertion that the Balkan country shouldn't be further -- balkanized.

China has remained silent about where they will stand the issue at the UN. Beijing might well remain mum, if only to keep Berlin happy. But given China's strong stance against separatism, the Kosovo deal is another spur to increased China-Russia cooperation, which is growing by leaps and bounds --
Russia’s more assertive, anti-Western foreign policy may increasingly push Moscow into the arms of countries with similar foreign outlooks (i.e. China and Iran). The growing importance of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) -- whose members include China, Russia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan -- is one manifestation of this security reconfiguration. [India, Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan and Afghanistan have observer status.]

Begun as a sleepy mechanism to demilitarize China’s borders a decade ago, the SCO has slowly morphed into a powerful player in an energy-rich region teeming with terrorists and drug pushers.

The Shanghai club is retooling its mission statement to include counterterrorism operations, intelligence sharing, and even election monitoring. Meanwhile, the orientation of its members is increasingly aligning to project a more united front that experts say is, if not hostile to, then outwardly suspicious of U.S. military, economic, geopolitical interests in Central Asia. Iran, currently an SCO observer, is clamoring to join the club."
-- Lionel Beehner, staff writer for the Council on Foreign Relations
Here's Ria Novosti's recent take on the SCO:
The primary ambition of the SCO is to ensure regional security by combating drug trafficking, illegal arms trade, and trans-border crime. It also works to boost economic cooperation in the region and to create favorable conditions for trade and investment. Promotion of closer cultural and humanitarian ties is another important area of the alliance's activity.
Russia-China relations are blossoming. China's President Hu Jintao is in Russia for a three-day visit with Russia's President Vladimir Putin. Hu's visit kicks off Russia's "Year of China" exhibition, which reciprocates last year's "Year of Russia" in China. The Russia exhibition is the biggest sponsored by China in a foreign country. About 200 enterprises and organizations from around China, including the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions, will attend the exhibition, with more than 15,000 kinds of products on show.

Hu and Putin are also signing $4.3 billion in agreements and contracts, and issuing joint statements on international issues and their increased efforts regarding the Shanghai Cooperation Organization:
MOSCOW, March 26 (Xinhua) -- China and Russia on Monday pledged efforts to promote multilateral cooperation within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The SCO is becoming an influential force in the region and on the international arena, and promoting multilateral cooperation with the framework of the SCO is a foreign policy priority of both China and Russia, a China-Russia joint statement said.

As the SCO enters a new stage of development, close political dialogues on urgent international issues are of great significance, visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said in the statement issued on Monday. According to the statement, both sides agreed to take coordinating measures to expand and deepen trade and economic cooperation among the SCO members. China and Russia will also enhance cooperation with Central Asian countries in politics, trade and economy and security within bilateral frameworks and the framework of the SCO, it said.

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