From Nezavisimaya Gazeta through Novosti
Russia, whose relations with the United States and NATO are deteriorating, has stepped up efforts to create its own center of power, primarily in Asia.
General Yury Baluyevsky, chief of the Russian General Staff, will go to Beijing March 3. A month later, Anatoly Serdyukov, the newly appointed Russian defense minister, will visit China, which is Russia’s main military partner outside the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
Baluyevsky and Serdyukov will mainly discuss the Peace Mission 2007 military exercise of the Armed Forces of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), to be held in the Chelyabinsk Region (in the Urals) from July 18 to 25.
Russian President Vladimir Putin personally invited Chinese President Hu Jintao to the exercise during the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Vietnam.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a regional security and economic bloc that comprises Russia, China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and has India as an observer member.
Some experts view the move as Moscow’s long-standing desire to involve Beijing in a military union.
“That is quite probable, if we regard Balyuevsky’s visit as intended to send the U.S. a signal and to taunt the overseas partner,” said Vitaly Shlykov, a member of the Russian Council for Foreign and Defense Policy.
Russia also intended to combine the SCO exercise with the exercise planned by the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). In general, it has always wanted to involve China, which has a population of 1.5 billion, in the CSTO.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization is a regional post-Soviet security group in Central Asia incorporating Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
The SCO’s defense arm was set up to combat terrorism, while the CSTO is an informal military union.