Interview with Aleksandr Pikaev
Russia Today: How practical are these manoeuvres? What can the SCO countries achieve by them?
Alexander Pikaev: Well, the manoeuvres are practical. Of course, all manoeuvres have some deterrence reason because they want to deter potential subversive attempts from potential opponents. However, these manoeuvres had a clear reason. What is needed for the SCO countries is to improve interoperability for their forces because there are post-Soviet countries participating on one hand, and China on the other, and we do not have problems in interoperability between former Soviet republics, but we certainly have problems with China because of language and different training mode. Therefore, such manoeuvres are necessary to improve the interoperability in order to react effectively if something happens in Central Asia. Certainly, we need Russian and Chinese forces to understand each other. And from this viewpoint such manoeuvres are an important step ahead.
RT: From your point of view, have the countries achieved this particular language of understanding?
A.P.: This is a process, it cannot be achieved immediately and unfortunately we still do not have direct communication between, say, pilots of Russian and Chinese planes, because their radio systems work on different frequencies, so they have to communicate through ground-based relay station which reduce their efficiency. There are also some other questions which are to be solved. For these reasons such manoeuvres are important. We had interesting bilateral manoeuvres with China on Chinese territory near the Yellow Sea a year ago. Now we have other manoeuvres, larger this time. So, we hope that as a result of series of manoeuvres interoperability will be achieved.
RT: There is no doubt that it is very important to have all those countries trained together?
A.P.: Yes, apart from other reasons it is a demonstration of solidarity. We understand that Russia and China could deliver the majority of contingencies for these manoeuvres, low thousands. But other countries, the not very rich Central Asian nations, were able to send hundreds of their soldiers to the Chelyabinsk region and therefore these were not bilateral, but six-lateral manoeuvres. So it was a demonstration of solidarity as well as of the fact that Central Asians are ready to make their contribution for their own defence.
RT:What role is the SCO trying to carve out for itself?
A.P.: Initially it was established for improving confidence along former Soviet-Chinese border. But later on it included fighting against international terrorism. The regional anti-terrorist centre was established in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Then they started to think about how to respond to a larger scale military infiltration by considerable groups of Islamists into Central Asia and this is why the manoeuvres were needed in Chebarkul, Chelyabinsk region. And recently the SCO has started to work on economic matters. The business council and inter-banking council were established. From a broader viewpoint, multilateral organisation is a good mechanism to adjust the interests of many nations, particularly Russia and China. It is not a secret that there are some divergent interests. The Chinese are interested in gaining control over some Central Asian resources. And through the framework of the SCO it is much easier to achieve mutual understanding, to have consultations before a decision is made and therefore, for instance, a Chinese decision is made upon previous consultations with all interested players in the region, through a mechanism of that organisation. Therefore the final decision would be much more co-operative.