Браш Лукас -
Russia and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization: the Role of the SCO in Russia’s Foreign Policy under Vladimir Putin
Under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, Russia has come to play an increasingly active role in regional and global affairs, seeking to restore its international status as a great power. In this endeavour, the use of multilateral organisations has emerged as an important strategy to create external conditions conducive to Russian interests and to create a more stable and predictable international environment. Among these frameworks, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) stands out as particularly important. Its extended membership represents almost half the world's population and its leading members, Russia and China, are major economic, military and political powers. Not surprisingly, then, there has been growing interest in the SCO among academics and commentators alike. However, relatively little has been written about the role that the SCO plays in Russia's foreign policy, i.e. what interests Russia pursues with the help of the SCO and how it does so. What has been written about this relationship has predominantly focussed on Russia's assumed security interests, reflecting the continued dominance of the realist school in much International Relations scholarship, particularly in the United States. As a result of the neglect of interests and the growing acceptance among Russian policy-makers that international politics is not necessarily a zero-sum game, the existing accounts fail to appreciate the nuances of Russia's interests and policies, leading to a reductionist view of Russia's view of the SCO as a means to maintain regional security or to create an anti-Western military alliance. This dissertation advances an alternative interpretation based on a constructivist approach that places Russia's national interest in the dynamic interrelationship between internal and external factors, both material and ideational. Contrary to what much of the literature claims, Moscow views the SCO primarily as a mechanism for engaging Beijing that allows Russia to reconcile its contradicting interests of simultaneously wanting to balance against China while at the same time seeking to cement their strategic partnership.