Belarus Joins So-Called “Anti-NATO” SCO

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On July 3, Belarus acceded to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional organization helmed by China and Russia, at its annual summit as a full member after officially applying in September 2022.

This move would increase the number of member states in the bloc to ten.

As Statista’s Florian Zandt shows in the chart below, expansion of the SCO has picked up over the past decade.

You will find more infographics at Statista

While the number of member states stood at six from the founding of the SCO until 2017, the group admitted India and Pakistan in 2017. However, India’s role in the SCO is questionable due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking closer ties to the West and a long-held animosity between India and Pakistan, according to CNN reporting.

In 2023, Iran was awarded full membership in the SCO after becoming an observer in 2005 and launching an unsuccessful membership bid in 2008.

The SCO’s predecessor, the so-called Shanghai Five, was founded in 1996. Back then it consisted of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. On June 15, 2001, Uzbekistan joined and the alliance was renamed SCO. According to the official website of the group, its aims are “strengthening mutual confidence and good-neighbourly relations among the member countries; promoting effective cooperation […]; making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region”.

The latter part, in particular, earned the SCO comparisons to NATO, although the SCO’s joint activities are not limited to security. It’s also different due to its member states are situated on one continent rather than spread across multiple geographic regions. As is often the case, SCO’s member countries are part of a variety of other organizations like the Economic Cooperation Organization, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or the Commonwealth of Independent States.


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