By Sarah McPhee
Considering the controversy surrounding some recent ambassadorial appointments, it is encouraging to see that UW alumnus Allan Mustard has become the new Ambassador to Turkmenistan. A native of Brady, Washington, Mustard earned B.A. in political science and Slavic languages and literature in 1978 from the University of Washington. Of Ambassador Mustard’s 29 years in the Foreign Service, 20 of those years were spent at U.S. missions abroad. He began his foreign service career as a member of the Foreign Agricultural Service through the USDA. He speaks Russian, German, and basic Spanish.
In his confirmation hearing, Ambassador Mustard demonstrated his unique understanding of the region, stating that “Central Asia stands at the crossroads of the New Silk Road, connecting Asian and European markets.” Despite well-known human rights issues, he lauded Turkmenistan’s leadership in Central Asia, noting that the Turkmen government had provided Afghanistan with “discounted electricity, housing, hospitals, and other forms of humanitarian aid.” He insisted that Turkmenistan’s support has been vital to rebuilding infrastructure in Afghanistan. Ambassador Mustard further outlined the importance of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India, or “TAPI,” pipeline to strengthening economic ties between Central and South Asia.
Despite extending an invitation to Jennifer Lopez, Turkmenistan is known as one of the most closed societies in the world, with a high public perception of corruption. Still, Mustard intends to encourage openness and reform, and hopes to persuade Turkmenistan to join the WTO. He reminded the Senate that Boeing, General Electric, and many other western companies have been successful operating in Turkmenistan. Ambassador Mustard’s experience in the Soviet Union, Turkey, Russia, India, and Mexico will be extremely helpful to him in supporting these goals at his new post.