Alexander Cooley

Director, Harriman Institute
414 Lehman Hall Barnard College
+1 212-854-9544


Alexander Cooley is Director of the Harriman Institute of Columbia University in New York City. He is also a Faculty Member and Ph.D. Advisor in Columbia University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The Harriman InstituteSaltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies and also teaches at the School of International and Public Affairs. Professor Cooley’s research examines how external actors– including international organizations, multinational companies, non-governmental organizations, and foreign military bases – have influenced the development and sovereignty of the former Soviet states, with a focus on Central Asia and the Caucasus. His first book–Logics of Hierarchy (Cornell University Press 2005)– examined the enduring legacies of Soviet rule in Eurasia and was awarded the 2006 Marshall Shulman Prize by the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (co-winner).

Professor Cooley also conducts research on the politics surrounding US and Russian military bases abroad. His second book– Base Politics­: Democratic Change and the US Military Overseas (Cornell University Press 2008)– examines the politics surrounding US military bases in East Asia, Southern Europe and Central Asia. He is also co-author, with Hendrik Spruyt, of Contracting States: Sovereign Transfers in International Relations (Princeton University Press 2009). Cooley has just completed a new book on the politics of US-Russia-China competition for influence in Central Asia, titled Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest for Central Asia (forthcoming Oxford University Press, 2012)

In addition to his academic research, Professor Cooley serves on the Board of Advisors of the Central Eurasia Project of the Open Society Foundations, the Advisory Committee of the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch and the International Advisory Board of Central Asian Survey; he also has testified as an expert witness in front of the United States Congress about the politics surrounding the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan and allegations of corruption in fuel contracting practices. Cooley has contributed policy-related articles and opinion pieces to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy 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.

Academic Focus: 

External actors and regional relations in Eurasia and Central Asia

Comparative semi-sovereign relations and client states

Politics of United States and Russian overseas military bases

Politics of International Rankings and Ratings 

Western values advocacy in a multipolar world


You will find selected syllabi published on-line.

POLS V 1601 International Politics

POLS V 3615 Globalization and International Politics

POLS BC 3761 Senior Research Seminar in International Politics

POLS BC 3805 Colloquium on International Organization

INAF U 6570 Challenging Sovereignty in the Post-Communist States
                       (A graduate lecture course)

Awards & Honors: 
  • Tow Professor for Distinguished Scholars and Practitioners, Barnard College, 2011-2013. 
  • Open Society Foundations, Global Fellow, 2009-2010
  • Gladys Brooks Foundation "Junior Faculty Excellence in Teaching" Award, 2006-07
  • Smith Richardson Foundation, International Security Grant, "The Global Defence Posture Review: Will New Bases Create Old Political Dilemmas?," 2007
  • Marshall Shulman Prize Cowinner, 2006
  • German Marshall Fund of the United States, Transatlantic Fellow, 2004-05
  • 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)
Presentations / Recent Lectures: 

Upcoming Public Lectures and Presentations

  • August 24, 2012. "Book Talk: Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest for Central Asia." New York: Mid-Manhattan Library of the New York Public Library (6:30-8:00pm).
  • June 26, 2012. "Book Launch: Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest for Central Asia." New York: Open Society Foundations.
  • May 9, 2012. "Great Power Relations in Central Asia." Washington DC: Kennan Institute (3:30pm).
  • May 2, 2012. "The Price of Influence: Geopolitics and Human Rights in Central Asia, 2001-2011." London: University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (6:00pm-8:00pm).
  • April 21, 2012. "Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest for Central Asia." New York: Association for the Study of Nationalities annual meeting.
  • April 20, 2012. Roundtable on Eric McGlinchey's Chaos, Violence, Dynasty. New York: Association for the Study of Nationalities convention.
  • April 17, 2012. "Eurasian Energy: What Does it Offer?" New York: Harriman Institute's Eurasian Pipeline Conference (9:00-10:30).
  • April 1, 2012.  "We are All Georgians Now: Symbolic Capital, Trust and Authority Under Hierarchy." San Diego: International Studies Association annual meeting. with Daniel Nexon, Georgetown University.
  • March 31, 2012. "The Bases of Sovereignty: Decolonization and Basing Rights in Comprative Perspective." San Diego: International Studies annual meeting.

Selected Recent Lectures and Presentations

  • November 16, 2011. "Externally-Sponsored Security Service Reform in Central Asia: Lessons Learned for EU Engagement." Prepared for Presentation to "Europe's Human Security Concerns in Central Asia." Berlin: Fride and Central Eurasia Project conference. 
  • September 9, 2011. "Counterterrorism and Human Rights: US, Russia and China Compared." Institute of War and Peace Studies Commemorative Panel- 10 Years Later: 9/11, the US and the WorldInternational Affairs Building 1501, Columbia University.
  • July 11, 2011. "US Security Needs and Cooperative Arrangements in Central Asia." 10 Year Anniversary Shanghai Cooperation Organization Conference. Shanghai: Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
  • June 15, 2011. "The Osh Crisis and the Failure of Central Asia's Regional Security Organizations" PONARS Eurasia and American University in Central Asia Special Public Conference. Bishkek: American University in Central Asia.
  • May 4, 2011. "Western Views of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization." 10 years of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Center for Strategic Studies, Washington DC (12pm-2:00pm). Audio-link
  • April 14, 2011. “Geopolitical Competition and Political Stability: The Case of Kyrgyzstan.”  New York: Association for the Study of Nationalities Annual Conference.
  • April 13, 2011. “Resetting the Reset: The Next Steps.”  New York: National Committee on Amercian Foreign Policy.  The Union Club.
  • March 23, 2011. "The Rise of the SCO as a Regional Organization: Western." Carnegie Moscow. Moscow. Summary and Audio-link.

Recent Media Appearances and Quotes

Professor Cooley's discussion of US-Russia-China competition in Central Asia, for The Agenda with Steve Paikan, October 5, 2010:

Professor Cooley's prepared Congressional testimony on allegations of corruption in fuel contracts at the US air base in Manas Kyrgyzstan. April 22, 2010:


     Selected Recent Publications


"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.

"Basing Headaches: Why US Overseas Deployments are Becoming Increasingly Contentious," The Will and the Wallet, Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense, July 20, 2010.

"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.)

“Principles in the Pipeline: Managing Transatlantic Values and Interests in Central Asia," International Affairs. Vol. 84, No. 6 (November 2008), pp. 1174-1188.

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).


Contracting States Base Politics Logics of Hierarchy


Tel +1 212.854.9544
Fax +1 212.854.3024
[email protected]

[email protected]

twitter: CooleyOnEurasia

Office Hours: 

Fall     Spring

414 Lehman Hall


MA, MPhil, PhD, Columbia University

B.A., Swarthmore College

In the News


In The Washington Post, political science professor explains critical role of Uzbekistan in transporting U.S. war suppies.