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© Vladimir P. Kozin. 2018

Leading Expert, Center of Military-Political Studies, Moscow State Institute (University) of International Relations, MFA, the Russian Federation

Member, Academy of Natural Sciences, Professor, Academy of Military Sciences

 Global Senior Fellow, GTTN, National University of Sciences and Technology

Remarks at the International Seminar “The SCO Cooperation in Different Fields: Problems and Solutions” (Islamabad, February 27, 2018)





The SCO still has tremendous challenges in military-political sphere, especially in the last several years. It is obvious that such challenges will not cease to be by a magician gesture or vanish in the haze due to some climatic reasons.

Three major military strategies recently stamped by the Trump Administration, namely «National Security Strategy», «National Military Strategy» and National Nuclear Strategy in the form of «Nuclear Posture Review» directly target national security of some the SCO states having different membership status, and the SCO as a whole. [1]


In general terms the SCO is confronted with the Cold War 2.0 which has been imposed by the key Western community actors, headed by the USA


Such Cold War sometimes is called the Colder War that started in April 2014 when NATO ministers ushered in the long period of additional confrontation nearly in all areas between East and West.

In particular, the most acute challenge the SCO is facing now is that two of its original members namely the Russian Federation and the PRC have been labeled as “long-standing strategic competitors of the USA” and “revisionist states”, though both powers have defensive nuclear doctrines than the USA. During next five years the USA is going to allocate $ 3,6 trillion in its military budget with the great emphasis made to contain the PRC and Russia. In the 2019 FY draft military budget the Trump Administration intends to spend $ 6,5 billion for containment of Russia (in 2018 FY for the same purpose will it spend $ 4,8 billion).

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan as a SCO full-fledged member is also under constant pressure from the USA under the ‘South Asia Strategy’ for alleged offering safe havens for terrorists. Strange to hear such claims, because it is namely Pakistan who made a formidable contribution to wiping out the menace of terror: over the past three years the number of terrorists in the country has declined by two-thirds. Moscow is grateful to Islamabad for such tireless contribution to deliver a decisive blow to terrorist activity. Later this year Russia and Pakistan will conduct anti-terrorist exercises that are essential in combatting terrorism.


In general terms Russia is happy that its relationship with Pakistan are developing very actively and promptly along all directions


Iran has been arbitrarily characterized as a developer of the ballistic missiles system and having nuclear ambitions, and as a terrorist-sponsored state. The idea of Washington to reconsider the Vienna nuclear deal with Tehran can lead to an arms race in the region.

New National Security Strategy says that the USA would create new coalitions “to consolidate success” in Afghanistan. But what kind of success, if there is no success?  Donald Trump’s predecessor failed to maintain tranquility there even with 100,000 troops in 2011. During prolong U.S. and NATO military presence in Afghanistan 19 more terrorist organizations have been created in addition to two already existed there, namely Al-Qaeda and Taliban. The Donald Trump administration will be unable to control the situation in Afghanistan despite its intention to increase the number of the U.S. own troops there up to 13,000 and in the framework of NATO-led ‘Resolute Support’ military operation up to 16,000 military personnel. These steps will extend the U.S. interference in Afghanistan.

Though North Korea is not a SCO member, but a very strong military pressure of Washington against it will have too negative repercussions for many SCO member states, leaving the nearby areas, especially if nuclear arms are used by the USA. Russia regards as a very alarming the overt threat contained in the recent U.S. 2018 NPR that has reaffirmed that North Korean nuclear program must be completely and irreversibly eliminated by using all means. The same notion has been reiterated by the U.S. delegation at the Munich Security Conference held February 16-18, 2018.

The USA is going to set its firm military and political foot in the Central Asia for its ‘indispensable’ geopolitical gains over another group of the SCO member states. The new National Defense Strategy openly sets a task to the U.S. Armed Forces to “contain aggression” in three key areas: Indo-Pacific, which is wider than Asia-Pacific region, as well in the Middle East and Europe.

Washington still is taking part in disrupting the process of national reconciliation process in Syria and recreate new IS-type terrorist armed structures with the aim to topple the legitimate regime in Damascus and to dismember the country. The USA carefully camouflaged all cases of using CW agents against civilians in SAR and saved many terrorists in that country. The Pentagon has established illegally that is without permission from the SAR Government 20 military bases and 50 km no-fly zone in that country. Thus acting as intruder and aggressor.


There are several other challenges stemming from outside the SCO adjacent zones of vital national security interests: nuclear and non-nuclear


Russia is assessing rather critically the U.S.2018 NPR. Moscow has challenged U.S. compliance with a key nuclear arms control treaty and warned that the Trump Administration’s new nuclear strategy lowers the threshold for using nuclear weapons. The current U.S. President’s pivot to a new nuclear strategy could now negatively affect the entire globe and the arms control process, including the possibly of renewal of the New START, as well as block any tactical nuclear arms limitation or arms reduction talks.

Though both sides have reported that they have reached the overall figures stipulated by the treaty by February 5th, 2018 (Russia announced that it now has 779 versus 800 U.S. operationally deployed and non-deployed SOA delivery vehicles, and respectively a tally of 1,444 strategic nuclear warheads, while the USA claimed to have 1393 strategic nuclear warheads), Moscow has: a) voiced its concern about the U.S. reconfiguring some SSBNs and heavy strategic bombers to carry conventional weapons; b) said that it doesn’t have a possibility to confirm that the reconfigured hardware was rendered incapable of carrying nuclear weapons, and c) added that Washington also “arbitrarily converted” some underground missile launch sites into training facilities, which wasn’t spelled out in the New START signed in 2010.

The Pentagon-led 2018 NPR specifically points to a possibility to resort to a strategy to “escalate to de-escalate,” in which Washington would use or threaten to use smaller-yield nuclear weapons in a conventional conflict in Europe and in Asia-Pacific. Consequently, the review says the USA would modify the existing long-range ballistic missiles carried by Trident II (D5) SSBN in two years’ time and a sea-launched cruise TLAM-N missiles to fit them with smaller-yield nuclear warheads. The mini-nukes warheads will be also installed inside a newly-built free-fall navigationally-guided U.S. A-bomb B-61-12, having different nuclear yields: 50/10/1.5 and 0,3 kiloton.

In Russia’s view, the U.S. plans to develop new low-yield nuclear weapons “will greatly increase the temptation of using them, especially considering the right to a disarming first strike as set out in the new U.S. doctrine.”  Moscow believes that this dramatic lowering of the threshold conditions can provoke a nuclear missile war even in a low-intensity conflict.”

While Russia’s military doctrine envisages the use of nuclear weapons as a second nuclear strike in response and to deter a massive non-nuclear aggression that threatens “the very existence” of the state, Washington, however, took a no-limit approach that could mean using nuclear weapons in “extreme circumstances”, including non-nuclear attack on nuclear command and control system, early warning infrastructure, and even under pretext of “technological surprises” or “sudden changes in the geopolitical environment”. The U.S. planners may view practically any use of military capability as a reason for delivering a nuclear strike against anyone they consider as an ‘aggressor,'

The U.S. Presidents have exclusive and unilateral power to use nuclear weapon at their own will, easily bypassing Congress, Defense and State Secretaries. All military strategies recently stamped by the current U.S. administration have fixed its intention to interfere into the domestic affairs of the SCO members through a widely dispersed military installations and bases emplaced in Europe, the Gulf, South Asia and Asia-Pacific Region.

Such strategies have widened the chances for using nuclear weapons, especially by potential deployment of low-yield nuclear weapons. The Restricting First-Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017 introduced in both chambers of Congress would prohibit the President from using the “Armed Forces of the United States to conduct a first-use nuclear strike unless such strike is conducted pursuant to a declaration of war by Congress that expressly authorizes such strike.” His memorandum will reach the U.S. SOA within 3-5 min. After that the USA can deliver first nuclear strike within 3-12 min.

In this context it should be reminded that dropping nuclear bombs versus Japan in 1945 the USA has planned to use nuclear weapons seven times in five regional conflicts and two great power confrontations.

The USA has violated the INF Treaty 93 times from 2001 till now by using medium and shorter-range dummy missiles prohibited by it during BMDS tests. Russia has not breached the INF Treaty at all.


There are some non-nuclear factors in contemporary and future world


First. The global strategic stability will be radically undermined if the ratio between the U.S. BMD interceptors and the remaining strategic nuclear arms possessed by the PRC and Russia reach the formula 2:1 and even 3:1. In several years’ time the number of the U.S. BMDS interceptors will reach the level of 1538 of strategic BMD land-based and sea-based interceptors directly controlled by the Pentagon, excluding the Patriot PAC-2/PAC-3 AAD/BMD missiles.

These figures include: a) 104 GBI or Ground Based Interceptors fielded on the continental USA: from totally 44 interceptors emplaced by the end of 2017 in Alaska and California, that will be gradually increased to 104 GBI; plus 48 BMD SM-3 interceptors deployed in Romania and to be fielded at the end of current year in Redzikovo, Poland; b) there are 1050 sea-based BMD interceptors, including 450 on board of 15 U.S. Navy Aegis-capable ships sailing in the Atlantic and 600 interceptors on board of 20 such naval platforms operating in the Pacific; by 2041-2042 the total number of Aegis-capable ships in the U.S. Navy may reach the level of 86 or 94 vessels; and c) there are 624 THAAD interceptors, including 336 interceptors on the continental USA and 288 interceptors in Kuwait, South Korea, UAE and Japan.

So, the number of such interceptors directly controlled by the USA will surpass the number of 700 operationally deployed Russian SOA delivery vehicles by 2.19 times (104+48+1050+336=1538:700), while the overall quantity of such strategically-designated interceptors deployed by the USA and its allies will overweigh the number of 700 operationally deployed Russian SOA delivery vehicles by 2.6 times (1538+288=1826:700).

If such proportion is reached, involving more hi-tech SM-3 Block IIA that have recently finalized the R&D stage, there will be the collapse of global strategic stability, because after delivering a massive first nuclear blow on the Russian Federation and the PRC the attacker can self-protect itself by a multilayered BMD infrastructure which with every passing year is becoming stronger in the absence of political and legal restrictions. SM-3 Block IIA will have a more sensitive ‘seeker’ and software algorithms designed to enable the interceptor to detect targets much father into space.

Second. The newly emerged ‘Chicago Triad’ – a strategic mix of nuclear, missile defense and conventional weapons hammered out in May 2012 at the NATO Summit in Chicago – is a challenge to national security and territorial integrity of many nations all over the world, especially from the forward-based areas where such weapons are fielded. For this purpose the new U.S. National Defense Strategy clearly underlines the need to ‘prioritize preparedness for war’ and ‘to build a more lethal force’.

Third. Unfortunately, the USA has actually turned down 20 positive proposals preventing to make outer space as the weaponized area.

Washington refused to support the most promising and widely supported joint Russo-Chinese draft treaty tabled in 2008 and revised in 2014 that banned the deployment of weapons in space. U.S. defense and intelligent communities will continue to rely on space systems for military operations, intelligence collection, and related activities; they openly stress the need to use space in crisis and conflict.

The U.S. National Security Strategy signed by President Donald Trump December 18, 2017 has openly proclaimed the ‘leadership’ and ‘freedom of action’ of the USA in space. To meet this goal the USA has re-established National Space Council with the mandate to review America’s long-range space goals. The Department of Defense has been tasked to develop new operational concepts and capabilities to win, inter alia, in space. In 2018 NPR the task has been articulated to improve intelligence and communication assets in space to enhance nuclear deterrence.

The recently enacted U.S. National Defense Strategy says that the Department of Defense will prioritize investments in resilience, reconstitution, and operations to assure the U.S. space capabilities.


So, the challenges the SCO faces are very broad and multifaceted. Unfortunately, in the long run they will be multiplied and diversified


The SCO has very broad and multifaceted opportunities to overcome these and other imminent challenges. Preserving the unity and cohesion inside the SCO is a crucial factor to go down this road. The interoperability between carefully crafted ideas and solutions has to be encouraged and circulated on an equal footing of all its participants.


Practical suggestions


Without converting the SCO into a military alliance, there should be a frank and friendly discussion of the current global developments in military-political sphere and in the arms control domain at a specially convened meeting at the level of the SCO Defense and Foreign Ministers. Despite a strong resistance to no-first-use of nuclear weapons (NFU) in the 2018 NPR, a proposal on mutual commitment on NFU of nuclear weapons has to be tabled to the USA from Russia and the PRC. An idea to take up the same NFU pledge should be offered to the USA and North Korea. This is the most relevant and simple action – the easiest to make in the present-day environment, instead of nuclear sabre rattling.

Russia is still committed to transfer the Regional Anti-terrorist Structure into the Center for Combatting New Challenges and Threats. Optionally, the Security Cooperation Coordination Committee might be brought about with the mandate to coordinate military and military-technical cooperation in the SCO framework. In order to enhance regional security the SCO Peacekeeping Units has to be created on ad hoc basis to react to some extraordinary developments in the area of the SCO member states.

It is expedient to set up a Special National Military Advisers’ Group inside the SCO with the mandate to elaborate recommendations in the security domain.

Moscow is in favor of the implementation of the Chinese notion to create the New Security Issues Prognosis Center.

The great asset of the SCO is that all its members are independent nations. The SCO does not have any leading nation or any back-bencher state. They have their own opinion to share individually and together as the organization. Their voices have already been heard everywhere.


No doubt, the multiplied and amplified voice of the SCO in military-political domain will be more effective, if it is delivered openly and straightforwardly to the world community on behalf of its organization


Their special stance as to how to avoid potential blundering into a disaster in military sphere on the global scale should be delivered at this crucial juncture.



[1] All three new U.S. military strategies have been assessed by the author in the separate articles published in: «Старая новая агрессивная стратегия США»//Центр военно-политических исследований МГИМО. 2017. 19 декабря//; «Вашингтон вновь примеряется к «ядерной дубинке» Об этом свидетельствуют сообщения о новой ядерной стратегии США// Красная звезда. 2018. 15 января //; «The Unacceptable Risks of Trump’s Nuclear Strategy» //Oriental Review. 2018. January 17//; «Ещё одна стратегия доминирования США. Новая концепция Пентагона пронизана духом агрессивности и воинственности» //Красная звезда. 2018. 21 января; «Key Unresolved Issues in the WMD Sphere» //New Defence Order Strategy. 2018, No. 1. PP. 28-31 //; «С «ядерной дубинкой» наперевес. Новая доктрина Трампа ведёт к подрыву стратегической стабильности»//Красная звезда. 2018. 5 февраля//; «Trump’s Nuclear Doctrine Is A Threat To Strategic Stability»//Oriental Review. 2018. February 8 //; «О нарушениях Договора РСМД: 93:0 с перевесом США» //сайт ЦВПИ МГИМО. 2018. 21 февраля


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