In Harper's Magazine, Prof. Alexander Cooley answers questions about his new book, Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest in Central Asia. An excerpt:

"You suggest that the United States, Russia, and China each approaches the issue of counterterrorism in Central Asia in different ways. Why did the region become such a hub for extraordinary renditions by all three powers, and how have they justified their actions?

For me, on the human rights front, Central Asia represents a region of “norm regression,” where counterterrorism has been cynically and ruthlessly used by the regimes to push back on civil liberties and crack down on all kinds of political opposition—not just Islamic militants. The exact purposes and legal justifications of United States, China, and Russia in cooperating with Central Asian security services have differed."

Prof. Cooley also wrote an article for Foreign Affairs addressing similar topics related to his book. "In the last decade, the world has started taking more notice of Central Asia," he wrote. "For the United States and its allies, the region is a valuable supply hub for the Afghanistan war effort. For Russia, it is an arena in which to exert political influence. For China, it is a source of energy and a critical partner for stabilizing and developing the restive Xinjiang province in the Middle Kingdom's west."

Prof. Cooley is Tow Professor of Political Science at Barnard and a Faculty Member of Columbia’s Harriman Institute.  His research examines how external actors– including international organizations, aid donors, multinational companies, non-governmental organizations, and foreign military bases – have influenced the political and economic development of the former Soviet states, with a focus on Central Asia and the Caucasus.