This paper argues that the major powers have played a central role in fomenting a logic of regional rivalry that has prevented Central Eurasia from developing the critical foundations of co-operation that are necessary to produce the kind of post-Soviet stability one finds in Europe. While the paper does not dismiss the many internal causes of instability, it chooses to focus on the significance of the region to outside powers and the role those powers have played, both on the ground and in the symbolic realm. It does so by tracing the involvement of major powers in three particularly rich areas of instability - Karabakh, Ferghana and Afghanistan. Each case illustrates divergences between rhetorical policy and actual interests, and shows how the former have hindered the latter.
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