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EU, NATO and the SCO: Towards Rules of Engagement?

The German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Open Society Institute presented a public debate featuring the following speakers:

  • Alex Cooley, Associate Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University, and an Open Society Fellow;
  • Marcel De Haas, Senior Research Fellow, CSCP, Clingendael Institute and Defence, Security and Foreign Policy advisor, Dutch Reformed Political Party SGP; 
  • Song Xinning, Professor, UNU-CRIS & Renmin University of China.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is emerging as a player in Central Asia. Joint military exercises by its members and its role in balancing Russian and Chinese interests in the region have grabbed Western attention, sparking debates as to its role as a guarantor of post-Soviet security.

While much international interest has focused on the nature of security cooperation within the SCO, Western analysts remain divided on the political significance of this relatively little-known organization, which is enhancing regional cooperation across a variety of political, economic and social issues.

What are the guiding assumptions of the SCO as a regional organization and are they compatible with those of the EU as it seeks to engage more comprehensively with the region? Is engagement with the SCO a suitable way for NATO to expand its own relationships with Central Asian states and with China? What implications does the SCO have for the influence of other international organizations operating in the region? As Central Asia grows in significance in the eyes of the international community with regard to NATO commitments in Afghanistan and the EU seeks to implement its Central Asia Strategy, what should be the rules of engagement with the SCO as opposed to its individual members?

This debate brought leading thinkers on the SCO together to tackle these questions and assess whether the aims and approaches of the SCO are sufficiently compatible with those of Euro-Atlantic structures to give the green light to engagement.

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