Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to partake in a virtual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) this week, his first multilateral summit since an armed rebellion in Russia.
The SCO, a security grouping established by Russia and China as a counter to Western alliances, brings together leaders from East Asia to the Indian Ocean and has been an arena for deepening security and economic cooperation, countering terrorism, drug trafficking, climate change, and managing the aftermath of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. The summit, hosted by India this year, provides a powerful global platform for Putin to project strength and credibility.
Michael Kugelman, director of the Wilson Center’s South Asia Institute, said, “This SCO meeting is one of the few opportunities globally that Putin will have to project strength and credibility.” The lack of condemnation of Russia by member countries in U.N. resolutions, coupled with China’s mediation efforts and India’s calls for a peaceful resolution of the Russian conflict, further highlights the SCO’s relevance for Moscow.
For Putin, this summit also serves as a platform to regain control and demonstrate leadership following the brief rebellion led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner mercenary group. Tanvi Madan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, emphasized the importance of this meeting for Putin, saying, “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.”
From the Indian perspective, this summit represents a delicate balancing act between maintaining ties with both East and West and a chance to deepen engagement with Central Asia. Despite its robust relationship with Moscow, India has been assiduously courted by the U.S. and its allies, who view India as a counterweight to China’s growing ambitions.
According to Derek Grossman, an Indo-Pacific analyst at the RAND Corporation, “India glorifies in this type of foreign policy where it’s wheeling and dealing with everybody at the same time.”