Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest In Central Asia

The past quarter century has seen the emergence of a new "great game" in Central Asia echoing the fabled 19th struggle between Russia and Great Britain for control over the region. Not only is the region enmeshed in U.S. counter-terrorism efforts, but it sits between a newly aggressive Russia and resource-hungry China and alongside the most volatile areas in the world. At this roundtable, Alexander Cooley, author of Great Games, Local Rules, lays out the dynamics of the new competition for influence over the region since 9/11. He outlines strategies adopted by the United States, Russia, and China to build their influence towards the five former soviet republics and Afghanistan, ranging from basing rights, to natural resources to shoring up political influence. At the same time he addresses the role of Central Asian governments as critical agents in their own right, establishing local rules for external power involvement that serve to fend off external pressures and bolster their sovereign authority.

During the discussion, Cooley and other panelists also draw on recent Europe Central-Asia monitoring analysis comparing the European Union’s (EU) approach to that of China and Russia to assess how Brussels might respond. What role—if any—can the EU play in this competitive game? What are the parameters for EU cooperation with governments which are seeking to bolster their sovereign authority, yet whose legitimacy may be increasingly questioned? Which are the rules, old and new, that should matter to the EU, and how can the bloc secure its interests without disregarding its values?


  • Alexander Cooley, Professor at Barnard College, Columbia University in New York


  • Jos Boonstra, Head of Programme, EUCAM, Senior Researcher, FRIDE
  • Alain Délétroz, Vice President, Europe, International Crisis Group


  • Jacqueline Hale, Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society Foundations
Date: September 26, 2012
Time: 3:005:00 p.m.

Residence Palace, Maelbeek Room, Rue de la Loi 155, 1040 Brussels

Jos Boonstra, Alex Cooley, Alain Délétroz, and Jacqueline Hale