Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest in Central Asia
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The struggle between Russia and Great Britain over Central Asia in the nineteenth century was the original "great game." But in the past quarter century, a new "great game" has emerged, pitting America against a newly aggressive Russia and a resource-hungry China, all struggling for influence over the same region, now one of the most volatile areas in the world: the long border region stretching from Iran through Pakistan to Kashmir.
In Great Games, Local Rules, Alexander Cooley, one of America's most respected international relations scholars, explores the dynamics of the new competition for control of the region since 9/11. All three great powers have crafted strategies to increase their power in the area, which includes Afghanistan and the former Soviet republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. Each nation is pursuing important goals: basing rights for the US, access to natural resources for the Chinese, and increased political influence for the Russians.
However, overlooked in all of the talk about this new great game is fact that the Central Asian governments have proven themselves critical agents in their own right, establishing local rules for external power involvement that serve to fend off foreign interest. As a result, despite a decade of intense interest from the United States, Russia, and China, Central Asia remains a collection of segmented states, and the external competition has merely reinforced the sovereign authority of the individual Central Asian governments. A careful and surprising analysis of how small states interact with great powers in a vital region, Great Games, Local Rules greatly advances our understanding of how global politics actually works in the contemporary era.
(Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008). 55. Andrew E. Kramer, “Kyrgyzstan Opens an Inquiry into Fuel Sales to a U.S. Base,” New York Times, May 4, 2010. 56. Roston, “Fueling the Afghan War.” 57. “Otunbayeva Pledges to End Corrupt Fuel Deliveries to Transit Center,” Interfax, January 24, 2011. 58. Scott Horton, “Base Politics and Fuel Contracts: The United States-Kyrgyzstan Relationship in Flux.” Prepared remarks for the conference “How Central Is Central Asia?” Third Annual
776, “India Looks to Revive Silk Road Heritage, Not Great Game.” U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe, April 26, 2006, http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/04/06DUSHANBE776.html. 19. See Archis Mohan, “Tajik Cold Water on Base Space,” The Calcutta Telegraph, January 2, 2011. For analysis, see Roman Muzalevsky, “India Fails to Gain a Military Foothold in Tajikistan,” CACI Analyst, February 2, 2011. 20. For the new command’s mission statement, objectives and activities, see
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were rendered to the security services of states in the Middle East and Central Asia with scant consideration given to whether their lives or freedoms would be threatened.36 According to Dick Marty, special investigator of the European Council, the CIA operated a global “spider’s web” of renditions, involving at least 1,245 flights throughout European airspace.37 From the very onset of the War on Terror, Uzbekistan seemed like a natural candidate for the application of what Vice President Cheney
the politics of a target state necessarily entails a loss of influence for the other. But the dynamics of a strategic triangle, and a multipolar world more broadly, are far less clear than those of the bipolar Cold War. A regional gain for China, such as the opening of a new pipeline that will transport Central Asian gas eastward, is not necessarily a loss for the United States and Russia, especially if it alleviates regional supply pressures and energy competition elsewhere. The opening of a