- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

Central Asia: Defying "Great Game" Expectations

Kathleen Collins and William C. Wohlforth

Although widely expected to spark a new round of competitive rivalry among the major powers, the insertion of U.S. forces into Central Asia after September 11, 2001 had the opposite effect—relations among the United States, Russia, and China both regionally and globally have improved dramatically.

This chapter addresses the question of whether this comparatively benign outcome is sustainable. It presents systematic evaluations of the outside powers’ chief interests, their actual behavior on the ground, and the Central Asian states’ responses. Contrary to the expectations generated by "great game" punditry on the region, we find that there are grounds for continued cooperation among the three large outside powers and that, with continued prudent management, their involvement in the region may foster rather than undermine stability.