Last week, the U.S. appointed its first ambassador to Turkmenistan in five years. In an email interview, Luca Anceschi, an expert in Turkmenistan's foreign policy at La Trobe University, discussed U.S.-Turkmenistan relations.
WPR: What is the recent background for U.S.-Turkmenistan ties?
Luca Anceschi: The recent appointment of a new U.S. ambassador to Turkmenistan represents a further step in the timid process of U.S.-Turkmen rapprochement that was initiated by the Obama administration in 2009. In the George W. Bush years, Turkmenistan went off the radar of U.S. policy in Central Asia, as Washington's attention was almost entirely devoted to military and strategic cooperation with Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The Obama administration re-prioritized U.S. targets in Central Asia, placing energy cooperation with the region's resource-rich states at the top of its regional agenda. Toward this end, the United States needed to strengthen its ties with Kazakhstan, Central Asia's largest producer and exporter of oil, and Turkmenistan, the region's largest producer and exporter of natural gas. Achievement of the energy policy target in Central Asia has so far encountered mixed success: While U.S.-Kazakh bilateral cooperation has intensified since Barack Obama's inauguration, the relationship with Turkmenistan is yet to take off.