SOAS University of London

Centre of Contemporary Central Asia & the Caucasus

The Price of Influence: Geopolitics and Human Rights in Central Asia, 2001-2011

Professor Alexander Cooley (Barnard College, Columbia University)

Date: 2 May 2012Time: 6:00 PM

Finishes: 2 May 2012Time: 8:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B101

Type of Event: Seminar


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 one of the volatile areas in the world. In Great Games, Local Rules, Alexander Cooley, one of America's most respected Central Asia experts, explores the dynamics of the new competition over the region since 9/11. All three great powers are pursuing important goals: basing rights and security cooperation for the US, access to energy for the Chinese, and increased political influence for the Russians. But Central Asian governments have proven themselves powerful forces in their own right, establishing local rules that serve to fend off foreign demands and pare down external conditions, enrich themselves and reinforce their sovereign authority. Cooley's careful and surprising explanation of how small states interact with great powers in this vital region greatly advances our understanding of how world politics actually works in this contemporary era of diminishing Western influence and rising new regional powers.

Speaker Biography

Alexander Cooley is the Tow Professor for Distinguished Scholars and Practitioners in Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University in New York. Professor Cooley's research examines how external actors have shaped the sovereignty and political development of the post-Communist states, with a focus on post-Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus. He is the author of dozens of articles and four academic books- the most recent, Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest in Central Asia examines US-Russia-China relations in the region from 2001-2011 and will be published in July 2012 by Oxford University Press. In addition to his academic work, Cooley's policy-related articles and opinion pieces have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs and he is regularly quoted in international media outlets on Central Asia-related topics.

In addition to his academic work, Professor Cooley currently serves on the Board of Advisors of the Open Society Foundations’ Central Eurasia Project, the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch, Division of Europe and Central Asia, and has testified before the US Congress about the politics surrounding the Manas base in Kyrgyzstan. His work has been supported by grants and fellowships with the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation and the Open Society Foundations, among others.

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