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The Diplomat's Katie Putz discusses Uzbekistan buzz in Washington

Katie Putz, managing editor of The Diplomat magazine, talks to VOA's Navbahor Imamova, Washington, February 7, 2020
Katie Putz, managing editor of The Diplomat magazine, talks to VOA's Navbahor Imamova, Washington, February 7, 2020

VOA's Navbahor Imamova talks to Katie Putz, managing editor of The Diplomat magazine, about why and how Uzbekistan has become a hot topic in today's Washington. Full transcript.

VOA's Navbahor Imamova talks to Katie Putz, managing editor of The Diplomat magazine, about why and how Uzbekistan has become a hot topic in today's Washington. Full transcript.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Hello from Washington! I'm Navbahor Imamova and you're watching the Voice of America. There is relatively more talk and discussion about Central Asia in the US capital nowadays, and most of it is focused on Uzbekistan. So what's creating that buzz and what kind of a buzz is that? To discuss that, those Uzbekistan-focused debates in Washington, we have Katie Putz with us. Thank you so much for joining us.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Happy to join you, thank you.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Katie is the managing editor of The Diplomat magazine which, nowadays, offers more coverage of Central Asia. Because of you, I think, Katie. Thank you.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Maybe a little.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: We follow your content, we follow your work.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Thank you.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Tell me, is my assessment right when I say, Uzbekistan is exciting Washington now. Washington is kind of hyped up about it more than ever. Why is that? Why is there so much interest about what's happening in that country now?

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: So I think the sort of energized debate about Uzbekistan and conversations about Uzbekistan roots back to 2016 and sort of the passing of Islam Karimov have enabled sort of the United States to have a partner that was receptive to its attention. And so I think because of changes in Uzbekistan, Uzbekistan's energy for reform, and to engage the United States is interested in having those partners. And so I think American interest has followed sort of opportunities and there are more opportunities to engage with Uzbekistan, and so the United States is talking more about it.

I think we also can't really discount the location of Uzbekistan. Sort of the United States' involvement in Afghanistan we're in year 18 and for the pre-2016 period Uzbekistan was less interested in helping engage in Afghanistan. There's a lot more activity on that now. And so because there's that energy, the United States is following that energy.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: And it's also the kind of a moment that everybody had hoped for a long time, right? Some kind of a positive sign.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Yeah. I mean the interests themselves haven't changed. The availability of a partner that is happy to engage on these things that's what's changed. If you look at sort of American strategy, and I'm sure we'll talk about that, you have US interests in the region, pretty stable. And Afghanistan is a big one, and Uzbekistan has done a lot in the last three years in comparison to what it had done in sort of the post 2005 period that has been really useful for the United States to sort of get more bang for its buck in the region. We're not that close, but we have serious interests there. So how do you bridge that sort of gap? That's with having regional partners that you can work with.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: And the word we hear is reliable... Especially when it comes to Uzbekistan: We have a reliable partner. They used to say this before because, we've been covering this for a long time, but now it seems more genuine. And when we talk to the US officials, they seem to be expecting a lot. Each time they praise there is a pressure, right? There is increased pressure on the Uzbek government.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Yeah. And I imagine that can be a little bit frustrating. I can put my head in sort of the space of an Uzbek official and, "Okay, we fixed these things and you still want more. You always want more." But that's the reality is that there's low hanging fruit in terms of reforms and Uzbekistan, I think, has done a lot of good work in taking those. But the hill doesn't stop, there's still more work to go, and that sort of progress just has to continue. And the United States knows that it sort of has a role to play in encouraging that progress and helping reward that progress where you see it, but also offering assistance to deal with the other issues that are still lingering. The United States has a lot to offer in those areas.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo steps from a plane upon arrival in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Feb. 2, 2020
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo steps from a plane upon arrival in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Feb. 2, 2020

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: So we looked at the updated US strategy. You and I were at the same event, recently when the White House officials and the State Department officials unveiled this new document. And we heard from them specifically and personally that, well, the basics have not changed. The same goals, the same mission, the same vision, but they were stressing on continuity and consistency. Those were two things that kind of stood out. What is standing out for you in that strategy?

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Yeah, that was certainly a big part of what stood out is that the strategy itself ... so the last US strategy was approved in 2015 and so since then there have been, in particular in Uzbekistan, big changes that change the environment in which that strategy is enacted. And so, if the sort of core of the strategy remains the same and sort of the Holy Trinity, is what Ambassador Wells called it, that was independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, or sort of that's the mantra that they've always used for Central Asia. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, we want these states to be independent, sovereign and sort of have territorial integrity. And these are comments, arguably, that are directed at Russia and China in saying, the United States wants these things for you, maybe your other partners don't. And that's what the US has to offer.

But the environment in which the United States has to put that strategy into play is different. You have a partner that is interested in regional engagement. And you just have to look at a map, if Uzbekistan wants to be a problem in the region, then it's a problem in the region. If it wants to open borders, and sort of deal more equitably with its partners, and sort of allow trade and commerce, which is what it's doing now, then those things can flourish. And so I think the United States had long been like, "Regional cooperation you should do this, you should do this." And it's now starting to happen.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: And you finally have that conversation taking place in the region. And it's true. When the US officials see that it's remarkable that the leaders in the region can now gather without anybody's assistance, or without anybody in between. And they are also expecting a lot there because, as we heard, regional economy, and regional security they're all at the hands of the governments themselves and US wants to assist but not necessarily be the connector, right? Is that what you're getting from those explanations?

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Yeah. I think the United States thinks that, certainly, the C5+1 format has been really useful. And that started in 2015, that was a part of the previous strategy actually. But it's been able to piggyback off of the energy within the region for regional cooperation to make it more useful for the United States. But really it's useful for those states, and the sort of gathering of regional leaders is something that is important. These are countries that have a lot of shared interests, and a lot of shared concerns, and a lot of shared history. And so why shouldn't they all get together without anybody else in the room?

And I think that's really powerful and it's really good for the people of Central Asia. We talk about sort of big deal political issues and all of that, but things like border crossings, and trade and transit, and tourism within the region that's the kind of stuff that they've made measurable progress on in those formats.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Absolutely. And all of these issues have always been discussed in various think tanks, research centers in Washington. And we've been watching those conversations, we've been a part of those conversations, as journalists. What is the level of real interest in some of the think tanks that have always worked with the region? Do you see any change there?

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: I've, certainly, seen more Central Asia focused events in the last couple of years. A lot of the think tanks in Washington have Russia and Eurasia centers, and they've sort of naturally always covered Central Asia as a like post-Soviet space. And they still do. A lot of these really good events still happened within Russia/Eurasia programs by people who primarily cover Russia. So, the number of real Central Asia experts in Washington is fairly modest. But when they do have some of these events there's some really interesting conversations that happen. And I think there's been a lot more attention to the region in its own right. But also, that interest has always existed.

Katie Putz, managing editor of The Diplomat magazine, talks to VOA's Navbahor Imamova, Washington, February 7, 2020
Katie Putz, managing editor of The Diplomat magazine, talks to VOA's Navbahor Imamova, Washington, February 7, 2020

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Do you also notice more input and participation from Central Asians in these conversations now than ever?

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Yeah, I've seen a number of folks from Kazak think tanks or Uzbek ministries coming to Washington. And when they're here there are sort of think tanks and various institutions that are interested in getting them together with an audience. I think a GW Central Asia program does this fairly frequently. They're probably the best in town. They're not a think tank, but they do spend a lot of time paying attention to contemporary issues. And so when people come through, they have events that are open to the public. Carnegie has a really good Eurasia program that also brings a number of interesting people for both sort of private conversations and then larger public ones.

And I think those are valuable because a lot of folks in Washington, their understanding of Central Asia is very, very, very linked to the Cold War and to Russia, and the Soviet Union. And so having people from the region who can talk about Uzbekistan, which has been an independent country for 28 years, in its own right I think is really valuable to adding nuance to those conversations. Instead of kind of being tethered to this historical legacy, which is important. It's not that it's not important, it's not that it's not a facet, but I think sort of diversifying the voices that come to Washington is really useful.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: A young Uzbek who just attended this latest event on Central Asia at the Heritage Foundation seemed incredibly frustrated at the end of the event. He came up to me and said, "Why there is so much conversation about Afghanistan every time they talk about Central Asia? Why don't they pay attention to other issues? And why aren't American media here to be covering this?" And my response to him was, "They're not interested in this." This is why you have the Voice of America and the Diplomat covering these issues because we specifically focus on the region, but your mainstream American media don't think of any of it as newsworthy, right?

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Yeah. I mean the coverage of Central Asia in the United States at large is tied to Afghanistan, Russia, China dynamics and terrorism. Those are the three times I've ever seen Central Asia mentioned on CNN, for example. And I get that that's frustrating, especially for Uzbeks because there's a real imbalance. News in Uzbekistan about the world has a lot about what's going on in the United States in sort of a disproportionate fashion. The United States doesn't care as much. The United States, general public doesn't care as much about domestic dynamics in Uzbekistan, which are extremely important, but that's because of American interests in the region are Afghanistan.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: But they do though in the relevant circles, right?

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: I mean, every time I hear the Uzbeks or Kazaks or other Central Asians saying, "Oh, Americans don't know about us." I want to say: "Well, some of them know better than you do..."

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Yeah. It depends on where you look, right? There are a number of good English language publications that cover Central Asia really, really well. I'd like to think The Diplomat's one of them, Eurasianet does an excellent job. GW puts out a number of publications every year in English-

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Analytical pieces.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Analytical pieces about Central Asia.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: They have several projects there.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: So sometimes the answer is you're looking in the wrong places, right? I can watch CNN and I don't see some things that I think are really important because it's not...

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: About the United States.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: About the United States. So I get the frustration but there isn't going to be a special in the local on Uzbekistan, but there are publications and people here who are paying a lot of attention, and who do care, and are really focused on this place.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Absolutely. We have to make peace with the fact that there will always be a great level of frustration about everything, right. But the region, specifically Uzbekistan, is trying to connect though. I mean, we see that and the Uzbek journalism has changed quite a bit. As you know, you were just in the region, you were in Uzbekistan, covering the December parliamentary and local council elections. And you saw the current level of dynamism in the Uzbek media And UzReport, TV a channel that, actually, this interview is being watched on now. Hello to Tashkent! Salom from us to you! They have a brand new channel which now runs 24/7 English language content. And their goal is, again, to connect with the world, to reach out to the rest of the planet basically, and not only cover Uzbekistan, but also bring the world into Uzbekistan. Do these efforts matter as we sit in Washington?

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: I think so. I think that's especially the language kind of aspect. And that's one of the difficult parts in sort of connecting Uzbekistan and the United States is there's a language barrier either in Uzbek or Russian and English. And so I think programs like that sound valuable in terms of bringing news from outside in and also, exposing people to English language. If you could watch a news report both in Uzbek and in English, that's part of a learning process that leads to, at this point it will be like, trilingualism and I think that's going to be really valuable for Uzbekistan. And yeah, like that sounds pretty exciting.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: And, at least, people like you and other Uzbekistan focused, Central Asia focused people will also be following their content online, right?

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Yeah...

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: There's value.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: There is value and I like to sort of read news from the region by people in the region. That's where I get a lot of my information. And then I go and talk to other people and try to figure out what's really going on. But that's a valuable part of that is I can't read the news in Uzbek. I wish I could, but I can read it in other languages and so if it's presented in those languages then it's a little bit easier to access. And if it's easier to access then you might spark some interest.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Whenever we talk to the experts and policymakers and major figures in the region. We hear something about a US based think tank... American think tanks excite people. They think of them as powerful entities, as very effective ways to influence policy, to influence Washington. Are they really effective? Do these think tanks, let's say now, who do Central Asia have a role in determining policy or, at least, contribute to the current policy, or to be able to change the policy?

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: I think they would like to think that they really, really do. I formerly worked at a think tank, so I feel like I have a little bit of an inside look at how that that process works it, but it's a dynamic process. Think tanks respond to the kinds of information that government officials they deal with say that they want more information on. So, if a government official's like, "I'm really interested in Uzbekistan," they're like, "We can do an event on Uzbekistan." And that's one of the ways that that works. So it's, it's sort of a symbiotic relationship in that think tanks don't necessarily drive the policy conversation, but they have an ability to help direct it and to frame it. But it's not as powerful as if think tank A has an event on this and this is the message that comes out of it, US government's going to enact that policy. It's not that direct.

It's more of a learning experience for sort of everyone involved in a convening ability. The ability of sort of think tanks to bring experts from regions and government officials from different regions, and put them in a room with diplomats who are here in Washington and government officials here in Washington. And that sort of makes connections and has conversations. It's not as all powerful as maybe think tanks would like this, but it's not necessarily how it works.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: It's a great networking opportunity for us.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: It's a really good networking opportunity for everybody involved and an exchange of ideas, certainly, happens in those. And so I'm always happy to see more Central Asia focused events because that's more interest in Washington, and more conversation. And I'm happy with with the people who get put in that room is also pretty important.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: How much interest is there or need do you see from the US government, or from the relevant parts of the US government in these events that you and I go to? In all these nerdy discussions about the region? We know that they follow our content. I mean, the government, people who work in the government, and the responsible people for Central Asia, they follow Central Asia content, obviously. So they follow media. But do they read these long reports about...-

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: I'm sure somebody does. I'm sure somebody in their departments do. I know they know that I do and then I'll write about it, and they'll read what I've written, what you write, what you, what you broadcast. And so, I think it's valuable. It all has to go to the right ears, which is sometimes hard to identify. But I think they see that conversation as valuable. They can see sort of what sparks the interest among that community.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: The reason I'm asking, Katie, is that both in Tashkent and Bishkek, actually in all capitals in Central Asia there are so many young experts who want to be published here by various think tanks and that's their dream. And also, policymakers, they think that if they could get these messages through the think tanks out in Washington it could help. It could help to drive their message.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Yeah. And that's evident because you see sort of different officials come to events, and you can kind of sense what message they are coming with. As for sort of younger analysts, I find that really exciting, and I know it's frustrating to try to get published, and try to get your analysis, and your thoughts, and what you've got to offer out in the public is sort of a frustrating process. But I think there are opportunities to do that, certainly, at my publication, other publications. Connecting with think tanks can be maybe difficult sometimes if you're not a well known name, but there are opportunities for that still. When we go to an event, you've talked to the people afterwards. It's a networking exercise. And a number of these think tanks, even in Washington, they'll have occasional events in Central Asia. And so when they go to Nur-Sultan, or they go to Almaty, or they go to Bishkek showing up at those events and talking to those people is sort of a first step in getting hooked into that network.

I have a full faith that the creatives and the really smart young people across Central Asia can find ways to get their voices out. And the world is more open than ever. The internet is a wonderful thing.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Yeah, to connect.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: To connect, you can write, you can tweet, you can telegram. There's a lot of opportunities to put your ideas and analysis out. And sort of mapping how that gets into the greater consciousness is beyond my abilities, but I'm always looking for that, right? I know you're always looking for that.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Yeah, totally, constantly...

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: And I can't predict where it's going to come from, but you just got to keep pushing.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: I mean, your coverage, as I mentioned, has gotten richer and richer because of the contributions from the experts in the region, right?

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Yeah...

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: You've worked with them.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: The Diplomat. So, my publishers in Tokyo, we cover Asia news and so yes, we publish a lot of people who are here in Washington, but that's not our main focus, and it's not our main audience. And I love getting pitches from people in Central Asia and because we work with a lot of people whose first language isn't English we know how to do editing pretty well to bring things up to the standard because that's sometimes can be the barrier to getting published. It's not that the idea is bad, sometimes the language needs help. And so that can be a rough part. But that's something I'm experienced in dealing with and editing through. And so, pitch me pitch.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Pitch Katie.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Pitch Katie, I'm on the internet.

A voter reads election candidates posters during parliamentary election in Tashkent, Uzbekistan December 22, 2019
A voter reads election candidates posters during parliamentary election in Tashkent, Uzbekistan December 22, 2019

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: So, as I said, in December you were in Uzbekistan. You spent about 10 days, right? Observing the election campaign, covering it. And as I looked at your coverage, it did smell of skepticism, and lots of questions, cautiousness about the level of change. Rightly so, of course. I mean we have to question why, who is this or that person, what do they want. What does the government ultimately want of all of this? What is your overall assessment of where Uzbekistan is now?

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: I'm going to use a phrase that I know that my friends in the Uzbek government are always annoyed that I use, but I'm cautiously optimistic. I think there's reason to be optimistic about Uzbekistan right now. And those are pretty clear. I think it's also fair to remain cautious. I think one of the sort of mantras coming from the Uzbek government is that all these reforms are irreversible. And that kind of makes me twitch a little bit because nothing in this universe is irreversible. And so, the progress is real, but it has to be maintained and that takes consistent effort. And I understand why that's the phrasing that's used, it's a message of hope and intention as to where these things are going, and that this is going to be lasting change. But I know the history of this region and I know how reform programs in other countries have worked and sometimes there are setbacks. And so we have to sort of understand that those are part of that process.

Go two steps forward, you got one step back. Sometimes, sometimes you go three steps back and then you have five steps forward. It's not linear. And even once you've achieved progress, and I think you see this in a lot of even Western countries these days, that progress has to be maintained and defended. And sort of that takes energy. You don't sort of arrive at we've reformed and everything's fine. You arrive, we've reformed, everything's fine. And we're going to maintain the institutions it takes to keep these wins. And so my assessment of Uzbekistan, if I said it in a sentence, is I'm really hopeful for a lot of the energy that's coming from the government. And also, most importantly, from the people that change is possible, and that this can be a better state for its people. Forget everybody else, Uzbekistan should take care of Uzbekistan. And I think it's doing a lot of good work, particularly in the neighborhood in sort of connecting with the region better and making Uzbekistan the center of Central Asia, which it is, and it should be. And so I'm really hopeful.

I remain skeptical because that's, that's my job.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Yeah, we have to ask questions.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: My job is to ask questions and to question motives and I don't know why people do things. And so when I write articles I will offer a couple of options as to why this thing might've happened. And some are more cynical than others and I don't know the answer. I would love to know the answer too. I would love to know everybody's true motivations, but you can only see the results. So when you're judging from the results, you have to be aware that the answer's complicated.

Katie Putz, managing editor of The Diplomat magazine, talks to VOA's Navbahor Imamova, Washington, February 7, 2020
Katie Putz, managing editor of The Diplomat magazine, talks to VOA's Navbahor Imamova, Washington, February 7, 2020

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: And as you said, things are constantly evolving.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Things are always evolving. Things are changing. It depends on who you talk to. In some areas there's a lot more progress. In some areas there's not because there are human beings involved and human beings have egos and personalities. And you see that in terms of you will have a top level reform offered up, you should be doing this. And then you have someone who doesn't like that.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: So you were not only in Tashkent, you also went to the regions... You went to Bukhara, right? And did you go to Samarkand?

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: In 2017, I was in Samarkand. This time I did not make it.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: You have attended some major events in Uzbekistan. And they love forums and conferences. We were just talking about it. Were there any moments when you were in Uzbekistan where, you kind of stopped and thought, "You know what? This is something that I've never looked at"? Moments of surprise, moments of sort of exploring, discovering something completely new, new angles of Uzbekistan? Because it's not like, as you just said, journalists don't know everything. We don't know everything.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: We ask questions.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Yeah, exactly. And our job is constantly searching for new things, for new angles. What kind of new angles have you discovered about Uzbekistan that you didn't know before?

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: I think, and I think part of me was kind of aware of this, but I had a conversation with a pensioner, it was on election day. I'd asked him, did you go vote? What did you think about this process? And I asked him, what are you expecting of the new parliament? And he's like, "I would really like them to fix this, there's a pedestrian crossing outside of my house that needs like a stop light. And people had been telling me for years that they'd put this in." I'm like, "I don't think that's what parliament does." So, what that woke up to me is I don't know that the Uzbek people are necessarily really well versed in what their institution should actually be doing.

And that that's an important aspect of improving those institutions because until people demand the right things from the right bodies ... parliament doesn't decide where the stop lights are. I'm sure that's a local government issue, but I didn't know. And so kind of discovering the like, "Oh, I don't know that answer. He doesn't know that answer." And that's part of that education process. And I think that's something when we talk about sort of political reform in Uzbekistan, we talk about the big pieces the people are the biggest piece of that. And I don't think we do enough to focus on both what their understanding of these processes are, and then the understanding of the institutions of what people actually want and need. I think the Uzbek government has gotten by for a long time on a very paternalistic, we know best, this is the thing we're going to do for you because this is what you need. And then you talk to people and they're like, "No, that's not what I need."

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Yeah, the expectations from the government... It's amazing how we like to talk about the separation of powers, right? It's a very sophisticated conversation about how things should be really different, but Uzbeks have never seen that. So, they have no experience with that. This is why I love my conversations with them too. In a recent interview, a young TV journalist told me that, "You know, the will of the people, what is that? We don't know what the will of the people because the government, the leadership in the country has never cared about what people really want. And people don't care in this country about what they want. We're used to our leaders to determine everything for us."

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Saying a lack of understanding comes off wrong. It's more it's a lack of awareness and this is just a product of the environment that Uzbeks have grown up in, but doesn't mean that's how it has to be. And so, I think if people become more interested in how their government works, and how it doesn't work, and they can start pushing for those things because there is this moment and this opening for pushing. And I think if people seize that opportunity then us analysts will one, find out if these reforms are real. Because once the government gets some pushing, how does it respond to that pushing? My sort of big question and big question mark for Uzbekistan is when a moment of crisis comes, how does the government act? Does it revert to form, or does it sort of embrace the opening that it's gone under? And that all states reach their point of crisis.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: How different will it act than before?

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: How different will it act from before? And I obviously don't wish any crises on Uzbekistan, but they come for us all. And so, how it reacts in that, but I think people have a lot of power in this process. And now is the time for them to try to push for what they want from their state.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: As you get more and more serious about the reforms and into the process the challenges become bigger. For the longest time, in Washington, US officials would tell us, "We want the region to change, but we want the changes to come from within. We're not going to go impose." At least that in Uzbekistan, "So we'll wait for when people would want the change themselves." And now we hear, US officials say that that moment has come. Now we see Uzbekistan changing from within. Do you agree with that? Do you see Uzbekistan changing from within?

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: I do. I see some of that. And you're right, the United States has sort of not wanted to push too hard. And I think the US government has rightly been criticized sometimes for not pushing when it has the opportunity to push. But it hasn't in the sense that it's waiting for the right moment, a very slow, cautious approach. But that opportunity is there and the United States has expertise to offer, certainly, in some of the areas that Uzbekistan, in particular, but all of Central Asia could use improvement on. Rule of law, different governance issues. The United States has expertise in how to set up a sometimes functioning bureaucracy, but it works. I mean the United States does have institutions...

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: They do a little bit of that, but not as much.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: But I think there is opportunity to share best practices in how you set up something. And the United States is there to offer that. That's the message I hear from government officials is that they are offering this, there are a number of NGOs that are trying to get back into Uzbekistan, and trying to do that work. And if Uzbekistan can accept that help then they're happy to offer it.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Absolutely... So much to talk and we haven't even got into the other parts of Central Asia - Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan are big stories there too. And, unfortunately, with all this ... and fortunately, let's just say that because the focus is mainly on Uzbekistan. We don't really get to hear much about the rest of the region. I mean, things haven't really improved in Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan has a lot of issues, and Turkmenistan, nobody ever knows what's really happening inside that country. So I hope you come back and we continue these conversations. I really enjoy talking to you.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: It's always a pleasure.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: And it's a privilege, you just told me that this is your first TV interview, right?

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: This is my first TV interview.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: This is great. You're wonderful, Katie.

Katie Putz, The Diplomat: Thank you so much for having me.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Yes, we hope to see you again... We've been talking to Katie Putz, the managing editor of The Diplomat magazine. Follow our content on Central Asia at voanews/ We have a lot there, including the transcripts of our interviews with various U.S. officials and experts. We try to offer you as much of the big picture from here in Washington as we can. And, of course, the focus is on Uzbekistan, on where things seem to be getting more and more interesting. I'm Navbahor Imamova at the Voice of America. Thank you for watching us.

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    Navbahor Imamova

    Navbahor Imamova - "Amerika Ovozi" teleradiosining yetakchi multimedia jurnalisti. "Amerika Manzaralari" turkumidagi teledasturlar muallifi. Ko'rsatuvlar taqdim etish bilan birga prodyuser, muxbir va muharrir. O'zbekistonda akkreditatsiyadan o'tgan yagona amerikalik jurnalist. "Amerika Ovozi"da 2002-yildan beri ishlaydi. Jurnalistik faoliyatini 1996-yilda O'zbekiston radiosining "Xalqaro hayot" redaksiyasida boshlagan. Jahon Tillar Universiteti Xalqaro jurnalistika fakultetida dars bergan. Ommaviy axborot vositalari bo'yicha bakalavrlikni Hindistonning Maysur Universitetidan (University of Mysore), magistrlikni esa AQShning Bol Davlat Universitetidan (Ball State University) olgan. Shuningdek, Garvard Universitetidan (Harvard University) davlat boshqaruvi va liderlik bo'yicha magistrlik diplomiga ega. Jurnalistik va ilmiy materiallari qator xalqaro manbalarda chop etilgan. Amerikaning nufuzli universitetlari va tahlil markazlarida so'zlab, ma'ruzalar o'qib keladi. "Amerika Ovozi" oltin medali sohibi. Tashkilotda gender va jurnalistika bo'yicha kengash raisi. Toshkent viloyati Bo'stonliq tumani Qo'shqo'rg'on qishlog'ida ziyoli oilasida ulg'aygan.

    Navbahor Imamova is a prominent Uzbek journalist at the Voice of America. As anchor, reporter, multimedia editor and producer, she has covered Central Asia and the U.S. for more than 20 years on TV, radio and online. Since 2018, she has also been reporting from inside Uzbekistan as the first-ever U.S.-based accredited correspondent in the country. During 2016-2017, she was a prestigious Edward S. Mason Fellow in public policy and management, while earning her Mid-Career Master in Public Administration at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Navbahor played a pivotal role in the launch of Uzbek television programming at VOA in 2003, and has since presented more than 1000 editions of the flagship weekly show, “Amerika Manzaralari” (Exploring America), which covers American foreign policy focusing on Washington’s relations with Central Asia, as well as life and politics in the U.S. She speaks frequently on regional issues in Central Asia, as well as Uzbek politics and society, for policy, academic, and popular audiences. Her analytical pieces have been published in leading academic and news outlets including Foreign Policy, The National Interest, and the Atlantic. Navbahor also is the founding President of the VOA Women’s Caucus. She began her career at Uzbekistan’s state broadcasting company in Tashkent. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mysore, India and a Master of Arts in journalism from Ball State University, Indiana.

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