Russia remains the key guarantor of security in Central Asia, but the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), of which Russia and China are the leading members, may have the potential eventually to assume this role. However, a number of serious issues will hamper continued cooperation. First, there is a lack of common values among the SCO member states. In particular Russia and China are developing in radically different ways. As long as Russia continues to nurture its new-found democratic tradition, and China maintains its one-party rule, the two political traditions will find increasingly little common ground. Fundamental differences in approach to complex political issues will mean that the two great powers in the future will only be able to cooperate within the traditional bounds of Realpolitik. Second, the lack of available energy (in particular natural gas) in sufficient volumes, at least within the next two decades or so, will hamper cooperation. Russia will not squander its ability to diversify its energy exports merely to satisfy China, from Russia’s perspective a country which although friendly today might turn out to be an enemy tomorrow.
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