Given the wars in the Middle East, the muscle-flexing of China towards its neighbors, the strategic challenges to NATO and its allies posed by Russia, and the serious drug wars on the southern border of the United States, attention in Washington is clearly—and understandably—divided. However, a significant challenge to U.S. national security is looming in Eurasia and appears to be receiving limited attention from the U.S. government: Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative and its plan to connect China with Western Europe through overland routes across Central Asia.
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Today, with combat operations in Afghanistan winding down, U.S. policy toward the states of Central Asia is transitioning to a new era. The United States now has an opportunity to refashion its approach to the region. In doing so, it should capitalize on trends already underway, in particular the expansion of trade and transit linkages, to help integrate Central Asia more firmly into the global economy, while also working to overcome tensions both within the region itself and among the major neighboring powers with interests in Central Asia.