The SCO was founded in 2001, ostensibly to collectively oppose extremism and enhance border security. But its real reason for being is larger. Putin sees it in a broad context, as a counterweight to NATO (a position that the SCO doesn't deny, by the way). Its official stance may be to pledge nonalignment, nonconfrontation, and noninterference in other countries' affairs, but—pointedly—the members do conduct joint military exercises. Why should we care about this meeting in the middle of nowhere? Well, obviously, anything that Russia and China propose to do together warrants our attention. But there's a whole lot more to the story.