US National Interests: Getting Beyond the Hype
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US relations with the countries of the Caspian Basin are only a decade old, dating to their emergence as independent states following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.1 The Clinton administration conducted American foreign policy towards the region during eight of those years. Indeed, in a very real sense, Clinton’s is the only US policy that the countries of the Caspian Basin have known. The advent of a new administration in Washington in 2001, therefore, marks an important point in US relations with the region. How the Bush administration approaches the Caspian Basin — either by continuing Clinton policies, altering them in part, or making a decisive break with them — will have an important impact, not just on the region, but on US relations with states neighboring it, most notably Russia, now under the firm and less accommodating hand of President Vladimir Putin. It is clearly time for a reassessment of US policy towards the region, within the new administration and outside it.
KeywordsForeign Policy National Interest Bush Administration Caspian Region Caspian Basin
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- 2.See Ian Bremmer’s “Oil Politics: America and the Riches of the Caspian Basin”, World Policy Journal, Spring 1998 for a good summary of US policy towards the region since 1991; less analytic, but fact-filled, is Jim Nichol’s Central Asia’s New States: Political Developments and Implications for US Interests (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, IB93108, 2000).Google Scholar
- 5.By 2000, there was some evidence that academic and media interest in the region may have peaked. There were a number of pieces that argued that the importance of the Caspian Basin had been exaggerated. An earlier version of this essay, published by the Baker Institute for Public Policy in 1998, is only one example. Also see Anatol Lieven’s “The (Not So) Great Game,” in The National Interest, Winter 1999/2000; andGoogle Scholar
- Robert Ebel and Rajan Menon’s (eds) introduction to Energy and Conflict in Central Asia and the Caucasus, (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000), pp. 1–20. Michael Lelyveld in “Caspian Gridlock: Failures of Policy and the Press” argues that there was also a sharp decline in American press interest in the region. His piece may be found in Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Succession and Long-term Stability in the Caspian Region (Cambridge, MA: BCSIA, 2000).Google Scholar
- 11.See Freedom House’s Country Ratings for 1999–2000 (Washington, DC: Freedom House, 2000).Google Scholar
- 22.See Carol R. Saivetz’s Putin’s Caspian Policy (Cambridge, MA: BSCIA, 2000).Google Scholar
- 28.See Richard Sokolsky and Tanya Charlick-Paley’s NATO and Caspian Security: A Mission Too Far (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1999).Google Scholar
- 40.“Don’t Let Them Spook You,” by Robert G. Kaiser, The Washington Post, February 25, 2001.Google Scholar