Central Asia is strategically important to the West because of its neighbours, but not immediately, because it is not a “hot spot” on the world stage. Western governments are ambivalent about the region because of its poor record on human rights and governance. It presents the classic choice: ideology or realpolitik. But Western policy in Central Asia does not have to be one or the other — it can be both. Western nations can engage strongly to support humanist values in Central Asia through quiet and appropriate behind-the-scenes work with government officials who understand and have similar concerns — and they most certainly do exist and can produce results. Western governments need to engage in Central Asia precisely to ensure that it does not become a hot spot and instead becomes, over time, ever more firmly embedded in the community of responsible nations. Strategic engagement by the West is essential, and it will pay off.