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The “Shanghai Five” is formed in Shanghai with China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan as its founding members.
Its purpose is to resolve old Soviet-Chinese border disputes between the countries and ease military tension in the border regions. An agreement titled “Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions” is signed at this time. The five members are said to be bound together by mutual distrust of US hegemony in the region. [BBC, 6/21/2001; Jane's Intelligence, 7/19/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org), 7/4/2005] In early 2001 the group will morph into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (see June 14, 2001).
Six Lithuanians and one Georgian are arrested in the town of Visaginas, Lithuania, for attempting to sell 100 kilograms of uranium on the black market. The uranium had been smuggled there from another post-Soviet republic, Kazakhstan. Following their arrest, the men tell the authorities that the uranium was for an anonymous buyer in Pakistan. The CIA comes to believe that Sunni extremists, possibly linked to Osama bin Laden, are behind the purchase. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 261]
Ahmed Rashid. [Source: Jane Scherr/ University of California, Berkeley]Ahmed Rashid, correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and The Daily Telegraph, conducts extensive investigative research in Afghanistan after the Taliban conquest of Kabul. As he will later write in his 2000 book, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, he sees a “massive regional polarization between the USA, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the Taliban on one side and Iran, Russia, the Central Asian states and the anti-Taliban alliance on the other. While some focused on whether there was a revival of the old CIA-ISI connection from the Afghan jihad era, it became apparent to me that the strategy over pipelines had become the driving force behind Washington’s interest in the Taliban, which in turn was prompting a counter-reaction from Russia and Iran. But exploring this was like entering a labyrinth, where nobody spoke the truth or divulged their real motives or interests. It was the job of a detective rather than a journalist because there were few clues. Even gaining access to the real players in the game was difficult, because policy was not being driven by politicians and diplomats, but by the secretive oil companies and intelligence services of the regional states.” [Rashid, 2001, pp. 163]
Bowing to intense diplomatic pressure from the Clinton administration, Belarus agrees to give up its nuclear arsenal. It is the third former Soviet state to give up its nuclear weapons after negotiations and pressure from the US, joining Kazakhstan and Ukraine. [Federation of American Scientists, 12/18/2007]
Mark Burles authors a report for the RAND Corporation on the subject of recent Chinese policy toward Russia and Central Asia. The report notes that while “China’s relationships with the countries of Central Asia do not carry the same potential threat to US interests as its relationship with Russia does,” China’s support “for the extension of pipeline routes from Central Asia through Iran [does have] the potential to generate conflict between Beijing and Washington.” Burles says China’s “pledge to help construct a pipeline from Kazakhstan to the Kazakh-Turkmen border, with the goal of eventually extending through to an Iranian port… would run counter to the current US policy of denying Iran access to Central Asian oil.” [Burles, 1999]
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization logo. [Source: Shanghai Cooperation Organization]The Shanghai Five (see 1996) becomes known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and expands to include Uzbekistan. [BBC, 6/11/2001] SCO member-states agree unanimously to take the organization to a “higher level” and expand its mission beyond the original objectives of resolving border disputes and dealing with Islamic separatists to include issues such as regional economic development, commerce, and investment. [Shanghai Cooperation [.org], 6/20/2005] Leaders of the organization’s member-states say they hope the SCO will counterbalance US dominance of world affairs. According to Chinese President Jiang Zemin, the organization will foster “world multi-polarization” and contribute to the “establishment of a fair and reasonable international order.” [Associated Press, 6/15/2001] During their meeting in Shanghai, members sign a letter of support for the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty (see May 26, 1972), which the United States has said it wants to scrap to make way for a missile defense shield (see December 13, 2001). [BBC, 6/15/2001] SCO members say the defense system will have a “negative impact on world security.” [Associated Press, 6/15/2001] One Russian official at the meeting says the 1972 ABM Treaty is the “cornerstone of global stability and disarmament.” [BBC, 6/15/2001] China and Russia also discuss collaborating on a joint program to develop a radar system capable of tracking US F-117A stealth fighter planes. [CNN, 6/20/2001]
Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation authors a report warning that recent agreements between Russia and China demonstrate that the two countries are “positioning themselves to define the rules under which the United States, the European Union, Iran, and Turkey will be allowed to participate in the strategically important Central Asian region.”
Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation Treaty - The treaty, signed two days before, includes a commitment to pursue “[j]oint actions to offset a perceived US hegemonism.” Cohen says the treaty “should signal to the Western world that a major geopolitical shift may be taking place in the Eurasian balance of power.”
Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) - Cohen says the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), created on June 14 (see June 14, 2001), and consisting of Russia, China, and the Central Asian States of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, could undermine US influence in Central Asia.
Military partnership - Cohen warns that the two counties are interested in boosting “each other’s military potential as well as that of other countries that pursue anti-American foreign policies.” They could encourage the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in order to “force the United States to spread its resources thinly to deal with evolving crises in different regions simultaneously.”
Russian and Chinese economic cooperation - There are “numerous projects for developing free economic zones along the Chinese-Russian border and an international port in the mouth of the Tumannaya river (Tumangan)….” The Russian and Chinese also plan to “cooperate in developing a network of railroads and pipelines in Central Asia, building a pan-Asian transportation corridor (the Silk Road) from the Far East to Europe and the Middle East.”
Cohen's conclusion - Cohen urges US policy makers to “examine the changing geostrategic reality and take steps to ensure that US security and national interests are not at risk.” [Heritage Foundation, 7/18/2001]
Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, the Russian government realizes the US will attempt to push into the Central Asian “Stans”—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—as part of the US effort to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the region. But these countries had been part of the Soviet Union ten years before, and Russia does not want the US increasing its influence there. On September 13, 2001, Russian intelligence officials hold a meeting with Northern Alliance figures and the other governments that support the Northern Alliance—Iran, India, and Uzbekistan. They promise to increase support to the Northern Alliance in an attempt to outbid the US and keep the US military out of the region. Soon after, Tajikistan announces that it will not allow its airspace to be used by US aircraft. But Uzbekistan is the key country, since it has the most military bases inherited from the Soviet era, the largest population, and also a key strategic location. It also has been working with the CIA against al-Qaeda and the Taliban for several years (see 1998 and After). Uzbekistan indicates it is going to allow the US to base some of its military operations there. Realizing that the other countries are likely to follow Uzbekistan’s lead, Russia switches positions and attempts to make a collective offer to the US. On September 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting in Moscow with the leaders from all the “Stans” in an attempt to reach a joint agreement about allowing the US to use former Soviet military bases. A formal deal is reached between the US and Russia on September 22 after Putin speaks to President Bush on the telephone.
The US agrees that its bases in the region will only be temporary.
Bush will stop criticizing Russia for its war in Chechnya.
The US will consult with Russia before taking further steps in Central Asia.
The US will help accelerate Russian integration into Western economic institutions.
Russian commanders who fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s give extensive briefings to US Army generals.
By this time, CIA teams are already moving into the K2 air base in southern Uzbekistan. Tajikistan also reverses course and allows the US to use bases there as well. Deals between the US, Russia, and Central Asian countries are initially kept secret from the public. But within days of the agreement between Putin and Bush, newspapers begin to report that US forces are moving into Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Other countries make similar deals later (see September 22, 2001-December 2001). [Rashid, 2008, pp. 69-71]
A Mirage 2000-D fighter in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in February 2002. [Source: Shamil Zhumatov/ Reuters]Witnesses begin to report US military planes secretly landing at night in the Central Asian nations of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The US, Tajik, and Uzbek governments initially deny that any US troops have been sent there. [Daily Telegraph, 9/23/2001; Associated Press, 9/25/2001] By October 5, witnesses say a “huge military buildup” has already occurred. [Daily Telegraph, 10/4/2001] In fact, on September 22, the US and Russia signed a secret agreement allowing the US to use bases in the Central Asian countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, but only on a temporary basis (see September 13-22, 2001). The US then makes deals with individual countries:
Uzbekistan - On October 7, the US and Uzbekistan sign a secret agreement that reportedly is “a long term commitment to advance security and regional stability.” [Financial Times, 10/13/2001] The US is allowed to use the massive K2 (Karshi-Khanabad) air base in southern Uzbekistan. CIA teams begin arriving at the base just days after 9/11, while an agreement to use the base is still being worked out, and by mid-October there are 2,000 US troops there. Germany is also allowed to set up a resupply base in Termez, close to the border with Afghanistan. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 70-71]
Kyrgyzstan - The US begins using the Manas air base in the nearby country of Kyrgyzstan in December 2001. “There are no restrictions” in the agreement on what the US can do with this base, and it will be a “transportation hub” for the whole region. [New York Times, 1/9/2002] The base is only 200 miles from China. [Christian Science Monitor, 1/17/2002]
Tajikistan - The French are allowed to base their Mirage fighters at Dushanbe, Tajikistan. They will withdraw in November 2005. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 70-71]
Turkmenistan - Turkmenistan only allows US overflight rights and support for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
Kazakhstan - Kazakhstan initially only allows US overflight rights as well. But in March 2002 it will be reported that US special forces are training troops in Kazakhstan in a secret location (see March 30, 2002). [Rashid, 2008, pp. 70-71]
In early 2002, it will be reported that the US military bases in the region, “originally agreed as temporary and emergency expedients, are now permanent.” [Guardian, 1/16/2002]
Five of the six members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) conduct their first ever military exercises together. Experts say the joint-maneuvers demonstrate how important the SCO is to China in its effort to counter the growing US military presence in Central Asia. Alex Vatanka, of the London based Jane’s Intelligence, suggests the point of the exercises is to show the Central Asian states what China can offer as a partner that the US cannot. [Radio Free Europe, 8/5/2003]
Kazakh Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev says during a news conference that the foreign ministries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) are reviewing membership applications submitted by Iran and Pakistan. [Interfax, 2/25/2005]
Representatives from Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan meet in Tehran as part of an effort to resolve territorial disputes concerning oil and gas exploitation in the Caspian Sea. During the meeting, Iran’s special representative for the Caspian Sea Affairs, Mehdi Safari, says that Iran is opposed to the militarization of the Caspian region. [Xinhua News Agency (Beijing), 5/16/2005]
A map of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization countries. Blue countries are members, green countries are observers. [Source: Shanghai Cooperation Organization]Vyacheslav Nikonov, a leading Russian political scientist and the president of the Moscow-based Polity Foundation, says during a news conference in Moscow that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is resetting its priorities and that curbing US influence in Central Asia has become one of the organization’s central objectives. “The SCO is now emerging as something of an interest club,” he says. “The member countries are coming to share an interest in the possible restriction of American influence in Asia.” [Novosti Russian News and Information Agency, 6/29/2005]
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