Putin To Appear at International Summit Following Rebellion
Putin's First Multilateral Appearance Following Insurrection
In the wake of the Wagner insurrection, Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to make his first appearance at a multilateral summit, wielding his influence within an international grouping where his nation still garners support. The stage is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a security bloc formed by Russia and China in response to Western alliances spanning East Asia and the Indian Ocean.
The virtual summit on Tuesday, July 4, serves as a platform for Putin to reinforce his command following the short-lived coup attempt led by Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The SCO, with its focus on bolstering security and economic cooperation, countering terrorism and drug trafficking, and addressing climate change and Afghanistan's situation post-Taliban takeover, offers a much-needed lifeline to Moscow.
The forum's significance is paramount for Russia, a nation striving to dispel the notion, spread by Western powers, that it stands in international isolation. The SCO's roster, including Central Asian nations like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and the soon-to-be-inducted Iran, underscores the depth of Russian influence in the region. Belarus is also awaiting its turn for membership.
"Putin will want to reassure his partners that he is very much still in charge, and leave no doubt that the challenges to his government have been crushed," Tanvi Madan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said, as quoted by media reports.
As Putin needs to reaffirm his power, the SCO gathering is a rare global opportunity for Putin to project strength and credibility.
Meanwhile, the international community has largely been silent on Russia's actions. None of the SCO member states condemned Russia in U.N. resolutions, choosing instead to abstain. China has dispatched an envoy to mediate between Russia and Ukraine, and India continually advocates for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
India, the host of this year's event, finds itself in a unique position. The optics of hosting Putin and China's leader Xi Jinping, mere weeks after a ceremonial state visit by U.S. President Joe Biden, would be less than ideal.
Despite the recent fanfare Modi received from American leaders, it is still too soon for India to welcome Chinese and Russian leaders, Michael Kugelman, director of the Wilson Center’s South Asia Institute, explained in an opinion quoted by media reports.
India's foreign policy “juggles” its associations with both the West and the East, given its reliance on Moscow for 60% of its defense hardware and its position as a counterweight to China's expanding ambitions in the eyes of the U.S. and its allies.
The country's role in the SCO and its impending hosting of the Group of 20 leading economies' summit in September reflect this delicate balance. Observers suggest that New Delhi will utilize the SCO as a platform to further its engagement with Central Asia and to protect its interests, particularly against cross-border terrorism, an implied criticism of Pakistan, and respect for territorial integrity, a veiled reference to China.
The SCO's limitations stem from the efforts of China and Russia to morph it into an anti-Western alliance, a stance that clashes with India's independent foreign policy.
For nations dissatisfied with the West and its foreign policies, the SCO presents an appealing alternative, thanks primarily to the roles of Russia and China.
"The SCO could prove challenging for Washington and its allies in the long run," warned Kugelman, "especially if it keeps expanding," as he was quoted by media reports.
As the world watches the dynamic shifts within this international bloc, the power play between East and West continues to unravel in real time, underscoring the complexity of global politics in the 21st century.