Jörg-Dietrich Nackmayr


Actually the term Great Game is old, but it has emerged again in specialized literature in order to put a new light on the events in the “Deep South of Central Asia”. 100 years ago the Great Game stood for the Russian-British struggle for dominance over Central Asia during the fight for India. Today, however, a much more complex reality is brought down to a denominator with it. Meanwhile an own debate has started on the question whether the term Great Game describes the struggles and conflicts of the 21st century in the Hindukush appropriately or not. Nevertheless, one must not forget that China and India are in the geographic environment of Central Asia, the two countries with the most inhabitants, and they have awoken from their political-economic hibernation. Like the petals of a flower, the Central-Asian neighbours Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, Pakistan in the south and east, and Iran in the west, are grouped around Afghanistan, representing further focuses of international relationships. Furthermore, there are the USA and Russia with their own forces and interests present in that area, each considering it their sphere of influence. The European countries are present as well, but at the moment they act as objects rather than as subjects of their own strategic considerations. All this goes hand in hand with an economic dynamic force in the region, which has become a factor of the 21st century, not only due to its raw materials deposits. Old political knowledge, excellent cultural depth, and both business and scientific achievements represent a solid foundation. Additionally, there is the strategically relevant position as a transit region for the exchange of raw materials and goods between East and West as well as North and South on the Eurasian continent. Thus, one can find the term “Asian Century” already in literature more and more often. On the scale of the world Asia is returning to the standing it had held already once, from the Ancient World up to Renaissance, and because of its position Afghanistan plays a “central” part. Today it looks like Afghanistan might be able to live up to its reputation as the “cemetery of the superpowers” in the 21st century as well. Maybe it will be important to remain present in this region. Today we cannot foresee which powers will fail and which will stay, which alliances will arise or vanish, and surprises are included. Nevertheless the gain in knowledge caused by the facts at hand in 2014 will help to examine the concepts of realistic international relationships critically, first and foremost the Theses of the Great Game. If the USA withdraw from Afghanistan and leave a vacuum in Iraq, this will affect the system of international relationships as well as the establishing of theories and the schools of thought. Thus, the real conduct of the USA towards Afghanistan will become the acid test for the quality of geopolitical theories altogether, and for the USA as a world power.