Ukraine and Taiwan will be key topics on the sidelines of a meeting dominated by Russia and China, which should (according to the Kremlin) show “alternatives” to the Western world.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization covers 60% of Eurasia, 40% of the world’s population and over 30% of the global gross domestic product, and in the face of Iran, it will expand with another member at the two-day summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan – a of the most famous cities on the old Silk Road between China and Europe.
The organization gathers China, India, Russia, all (except Turkmenistan) Central Asian countries, Pakistan, Iran is about to be included; observers are Afghanistan, Belarus and Mongolia, and trade is expected to be a key topic along with regional crises (there was tension the day before the meeting along the border of two members, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan).
Given the two crises, however, the West will be watching the meeting on September 15-16 closely, until its relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin improve, and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping demonstrates a strong (though not always so under the surface) partnership with him.
Putin’s foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said his meeting with Xi was “of particular importance”, especially given the “large-scale political changes” in recent times. Putin has rarely traveled abroad since the war began: a meeting with the leaders of Iran and Turkey in Tehran was only his second since his country invaded Ukraine.
However, for Xi Jinping, Central Asia is the first foreign destination since the pandemic began. The first stop was Kazakhstan, with which China shares a common border and which has given signs in recent months that it is looking for partners other than Russia.
Rearmament, meetings with the US, drones from Turkey: Kazakhstan is afraid of Russia
China’s support for the war, despite assurances of “boundless friendship” with Russia, is not unequivocal; Beijing does not condemn, but does not welcome the invasion, and tries to maintain relations with Kyiv.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country is a SCO partner, will also be at the meeting.