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Alexander Cooley

Professor of Political Science and Chair

International Relations

Department Chair

Alexander Cooley is Professor of Political Science at Barnard College. At Columbia University, he is also Deputy Director for Social Sciences Programming at the Harriman Institute, a Doctoral Dissertation Sponsor in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences,  Member of Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies, and teaches at the School of International and Public Affairs. Professor Cooley’s research examines how external actors– including international organizations, multinational companies, NGOs, and foreign military bases – have influenced the development and sovereignty of the former Soviet states, with a focus on Central Asia and the Caucasus.

Cooley is the author of four academic books: Logics of Hierarchy: The Organization of Empires, States and Military Occupations (Cornell 2005; cowinner of the 2006 Marshall Shulman Prize); Base Politics­: Democratic Change and the US Military Overseas (Cornell 2008, Reviews: JFQ, APSR, PSQ, and Military Review); and Contracting States: Sovereign Transfers in International Relations (Princeton 2009), co-authored with Hendrik Spruyt of Northwestern University.

Cooley's latest book examines the multipolar politics of US-Russia-China competition for influence in Central Asia-  Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest for Central Asia (Oxford 2012); Reviews: NYRB, International Affairs (p. 1363), Foreign Affairs, Survival, LSE Review of Books.

He is currently working on a new monograph on Central Asia's ties with offshore international financial and legal networks (Yale University Press, 2015).

In addition to his academic research, Professor Cooley serves on several international advisory and policy committees (see below); he also has testified for the United States Congress about the politics surrounding the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan and allegations of corruption in fuel contracting practices. Cooley's opinion pieces have appeared New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs and The Washington Quarterly and he regularly provides commentary to international media outlets on Eurasia-related topics. His research has been supported by fellowships and grants from the Open Society Foundations, Carnegie Corporation, Smith Richardson Foundation and the German Marshall Fund of the United States, among others. Cooley earned both his M.A. (1995) and Ph.D. (1999) from Columbia University. Cooley is a Faculty Representative to Barnard College's Board of Trustees.

Recent Media Appearances and Quotes

Author's interviews for Harpers, Foreign Affairs in Focus, Radio Free Liberty/Radio Europe, The Atlantic, World Politics Review, and  Hollings Center.

Professor Cooley's discussion of US-Russia-China competition in Central Asia, for The Agenda with Steve Paikan, October 5, 2010: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5QCfIE0Poo

Professor Cooley's prepared Congressional testimony on allegations of corruption in fuel contracts at the US air base in Manas Kyrgyzstan. April 22, 2010: http://democrats.oversight.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=v...

Academic Focus: 

External actors and regional relations in Eurasia and Central Asia

International Sovereignty and Limited Sovereignty

Politics of United States and Russian overseas military bases

Politics of International Rankings and Ratings 

Post-Western International Relations and Governance

Western Values Advocacy in a Multipolar world


You will find selected syllabi published on-line.

POLS V 3615 Globalization and International Politics

POLS BC 3805 Colloquium on International Organization

POLS W 4820 International Relations of a Post-Western World

INAF U 6570 Challenging Sovereignty in the Post-Communist States

Awards & Honors: 
  • Tow Professor for Distinguished Scholars and Practitioners, Barnard College, 2011-2013
  • Open Society Foundations, Global Fellow, 2009-2010
  • Marshall Shulman Prize 2006 (Cowinner) for Logics of Hierarchy. Awarded by the ASEES for the Best Book in Foreign Policy and International Relations of the Former Communist Countries.
  • German Marshall Fund of the United States, Transatlantic Fellow, 2004-05
  • Smith Richardson Foundation, International Security Grant, "The Global Defence Posture Review: Will New Bases Create Old Political Dilemmas?," 2007.
  • Gladys Brooks Foundation "Junior Faculty Excellence in Teaching" Award, 2006-07
  • Carnegie Corporation Project Grant, Co-investigator, The New United States Imperialism? Intervention and Self-Determination (Grant No. B 7142R01), 2003-05 (with Kimberly Zisk Marten)
Professional Affiliations: 

International Advisory and Committee Appointments (Standing)

Academic Affiliations and Governance

  • Chair, Department of Political Science, Barnard College. 2012-2015.
  • Deputy Director (for Social Sciences Programming), Harriman Institute, Columbia University, 2013-. Executive Committee Member since 2009.
  • Faculty Representative to the Barnard College Board of Trustees, 2013-2015.
  • PONARS Eurasia, since 2006. Executive Commitee Member, 2008-2010.
  • Associate, George Washington University, Central Asia Program. 2012-

Project Advisory Appointments

Presentations / Recent Lectures: 

Upcoming Public Lectures and Presentations

Selected Recent Lectures and Presentations

  • March 13, 2014. "Post-American Central Asia." AUCA-Bard Graduate Center. New York.
  • February 27, 2014. "Central Asia's Changing Regional Security Dynamics: 2014 and Beyond." 2014 CSEES Student Choice Speaker. Ohio State University.
  • February 24, 2014. "The Emerging Poltiics of International Rankings." Intl Law & Intl Relations Seminar. Cornell University.
  • December 6, 2013. "Afghanistan: A Regional Way Forward." University of Pittsburgh, GSPIA.
  • October 24, 2013. "Turkey and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization." Koc University. Istanbul, Turkey. 4:45-6:30pm.
  • October 23, 2013. "Central Asia's New Mutipolar Politics." Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey. Time TBA
  • October 3, 2013. "Central Asia's lessons for a Multipolar World." Reischauer Center, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Washington DC. 4:30-6:00pm.
  • September 10, 2013. "The Rising Powers in Central Asia." SaferWorld and Chatham House Conference. London.
  • June 6, 2013. "Central Asia and the Problems of Cooperation in a Multipolar Order." Davis Center and Kennan Institute Conference on Islam and Eurasia. Washington DC.
  • April 16, 2013. "American and European Policies in Central Asia: Similarities and Divergence." George Washington University. Washington DC.
  • April 10, 2013. "A King in Every Corner: Negotiating Regional Collective Security," 51st Annual Lewis and Clark College International Affairs Symposium. Portland.
  • March 23, 2013. "Autocrats Beyond Borders: Central Asia's New Authoritarian Networks." Keynote Address for the 2013 Annual Soyuz Symposium, New York.
  • February 28, 2013. "The Emerging Politics of International Rankings and Ratings." Columbia University International Politics Seminar (CUIPS), New York.
  • February 16, 2013. "Great Games, Local Rules: Central Asia's New Multipolar Politics." KIMEP, Almaty, Kazakhstan.
  • December 17, 2012. "The Influence of Russian and Chinese Patronage on Eurasian Democratization." Roundtable at the National Endowment for Democracy, Washington DC.
  • December 5, 2012. "The Price of Access: Transnational Corruption Networks and Central Asia" Watson Institute's Colloquium on Comrpative Research, Brown University.
  • November 29, 2012. "NATO's Withdrawal from Afghanistan and Central Asian Regional Dynamics" EUCAM conference on "Security, Supply Lines and Sustainable Development: Afghanistan and Central Asia towards 2014 and Beyond." Berlin.
  • November 11, 2012. "Afghanistan and NATO's Drawdown of Forces: Regional Dynamics and their impact on security." NATO Parliamentary Assembly Annual Meeting, Defense and Security Committee, Prague.
  • October 22, 2012. Book presentation: Great Games, Local Rules for "In Print," with James Hoge. New York University's Center for Global Affairs. Woolworth Bulding (Opposite City Hall) 6:30-7:45pm.

 Selected Recent Publications

"Russian Rule-Breaking as Power Politics." Opinio Juris Ukraine Insta-Symposium. March 7, 2014.

"'The Empire Will Compensate You': The Structural Dynamics of the US Overseas Basing Network" Persepctives on Politics Vol. 11, No. 4 (December 2013): 1035-1050. Copyright: Cambridge University Press.

"Vote of the Living Dead" [Azerbaijan's Ghost Election Monitors] with Christopher Walker Foreign Policy October 31, 2013.

"The Elusive Quest for Political Stability in Central Asia and Beyond" DAG-3QD Quarterly Peace and Justice Symposium September 19, 2013. Responses by Pavel Baev and David Lewis.

Book Review Roundtable of Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest for Central Asia, featured in Asia Policy 16 (July 2013). Author's response: "Can We Change the Rules? External Actors and Central Asia Beyond 2014."

"Revolutions, Corruption and Intrigue," Review of Restless Valley, by Philip Shishkin. Quartz May 16, 2013.

"The League of Authoritarian Gentleman," Foreign Policy January 30, 2013.

Review of Guantánamo: An American History, by Michael Hansen. American Historical Review. Vol. 117 (5): December 2012.

"Good Days for Oil Generals, Bad Days for Russia," Review of Wheel of Fortune: The Battle for Oil and Power in Russia, by Thane Gustafson. Quartz November 7, 2012.

"After Afghanistan, A New Great Game," New York Times August 22, 2012.

"The New Great Game in Central Asia: Geopoltiics in a Post-Western World," Foreign Affairs online August 7, 2012.

"In Central Asia, Public Cooperation and Private Rivalry." New York Times June 8, 2012.

"Afghanistan's Other Regional Causualty," Oxford University Press blog post. May 23, 2012 Republished on Eurasianet.org May 23, 2012.

“US Military Involvement and its Impact on US-Central Asian Relations.” Central Asia Policy Forum. Washington DC: George Washington University. April 2012. Roundtable with Stephen Blank, Alexander Cooley, Andrew Kuchins and Joshua Kucera.

"Roadblocks on the Silk Road: the Challenges of Externally Promoting Economic Cooperation in Central Asia." EUCAM Watch No. 11, February 2012.

"A Counterproductive Disdain [Abkhazia's Elections]" with Lincoln Mitchell. New York Times August 31, 2011.

"Great Games, Local Rules," ​Cairo Review of Global Affairs Vol. 1, no. 2 (Summer 2011).

"Bahrain's Base Politics: The Arab Spring and America's Military Bases," with Daniel Nexon. Foreign Affairs online. April 5, 2011.

   - Reprinted in ​The New Arab Revolt: What Happened, What it Means and What Comes Next. New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2011, 221-228.

"Engagement without Recognition: A New Policy Towards Abkhazia and Eurasia's Unrecognized States," with Lincoln Mitchell. The Washington Quarterly Vol. 33, No. 4 (October 2010), 59-73.

"Base Closings: The Rise and Decline of the US Military Bases Issue in Spain 1975-2005," with Jonathan Hopkin. International Political Science Review Vol. 31, No. 4 (September 2010), 494-513.

"Abkhazia on Three Wheels," with Lincoln Mitchell. World Policy Journal. Vol. 27, No. 2 (Summer 2010), 73-81.

After the August War: A New Strategy for US Engagement with Georgia. New York: Harriman Institute of Columbia University, 2010. Also published as a special issue of the Harriman Review Vol. 17, Nos. 3-4 (May 2010).

"Manas Hysteria: Why the United States can't keep buying off Kyrgyz leaders to keep its vital air base open," Foreign Policy. April 12, 2010.

"Russia and the Recent Evolution of the SCO: Issues and Challenges for US Policy," in TImothy Frye, TImothy Colton and Robert Legvold Eds. The Policy World Meets Academia: Designing US Policy towards Russia. Cambridge, Mass: American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 2010, 8-19

"Cooperation gets Shanghaied: China, Russia, and the SCO," Foreign Affairs online. December 14, 2009.

"No Way to Treat Our Friends: Recasting Recent US-Georgian Relations," with Lincoln Mitchell. The Washington Quarterly Vol. 32, No. 1 (January 2009), 27-41.

Contracting States: Sovereign Transfers in International Politics, with Hendrik Spruyt  (Princeton University Press, June 2009.)

Base Politics: Democratic Change and the U.S. Military Overseas (Cornell University Press, 2008).

Logics of Hierarchy: The Organization of Empires, States and Military Occupations (Cornell University Press, 2005).



Tel +1 212.854.9544
Fax +1 212.854.3024


twitter: CooleyOnEurasia

Office Hours: 

Spring 2014:

Mondays and Tuesdays, 10:00 - 11:00 a.m.

& by appointment

414 Lehman Hall


MA, MPhil, PhD, Columbia University

B.A., Swarthmore College