The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is meeting in St. Petersburg. The organization numbers Russia and China as its key members and views itself as a counterweight to NATO.
According to China, the organization is committed to fighting the three evil forces of terrorism, religious extremism and separatism (problems common to most members). Howver, the organization has accorded observer status to Iran and Pakistan although they do not fit the definition of religious moderates.
The host of the conference, Russian prime minister and soon-to-be President Vladimir Putin, urged the member states to work together to make the group a leading force in the global economy and international security.
Putin took advantage of the Chinese presence to hold talks with China's president Hu Jin Tao on security and bilateral trade. It should be recalled that during Putin's visit to China a month ago, the mammoth gas deal between the two countries was not finalized.
At a time that Iran is in the news, Putin seconded the accusation made by Iran against "arrogant world powers" "It is really just like you said –these are arrogant world powers".
If for a brief period there was dissonance between Putin and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev over the intervention in Libya, Russia is again speaking with one voice - that of Putin. Putin condemned Western hypocrisy for first supporting the old North African regimes and then turning around to support the revolutions. Despite the agreement with Iran, the organization made no move to bump up Iran from observer to full status.
While most of the speeches so far have predictably called for strengthening ties and increasing cooperation, two matters of substance have come up.
Vladimir Putin called for assistance to the European Union via increasing contributions to the International Monetary Fund. If the IMF has greater resources, it will be able to render greater assistance in the crisis. Giving via the IMF rather than directly buttresses Putin's claim that there are no strings attached. Had Russia delivered the money directly to the European Union or in the form of purchasing European debt, it would have been accused of buying influence. Voting status in the IMF goes according to contribution and by raising the contributions, Russia and China will be entitled to a greater say.
The council also announced the setup of an electricity grid from SCO members Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, countries rich in hydroelectric power, to power-hungry Afghanistan and Pakistan who have observer status.