Russia is hosting a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation – underlining its role as a regional power broker.
The Kremlin is expected to use the meeting of leaders from the SCO to cement the six-nation group as a counter-balance to the US presence in central Asia. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev opened the two-day meeting which will address the global financial crisis and the key issue it was created to tackle -regional security. The SCO is eight years old. Dominated by Russia and China, it includes Kazakhstan, Krygyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India, Iran and Pakistan hold observer status. China has pledged the equivalent of seven billion euros in funding for the organisation which has an effective military contingent. The visiting envoys watched a series of manoeuvres, a reminder from Moscow to regional heads of state that there is an alternative to NATO. The SCO is also keen to demonstrate its effectiveness in the war on drugs. Afghanistan remains the biggest supplier of heroin to the streets of Russian cities and the countries that remain within Moscow’s sphere of influence.