Source: ISN Security Watch
1 Apr 2010
By Sergei Blagov in Moscow for ISN Security Watch
Russia has been increasing its verbal attacks at what the Kremlin apparently viewed as western indifference, if not complicity, with Afghanistan’s drug dealers, Sergei Blagov comments for ISN Security Watch.
Against the backdrop of new terrorist attacks in Russia, the Kremlin has urged increased collective security efforts and renewed Russia attempts to beef up a regional security alliance centered on opposition to Afghanistan’s narco-trafficking.
The Russia-led security alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), is intended to face security challenges in Central Eurasia. On 29 March, CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha said that terrorist attacks in Moscow highlighted the need to strengthen collective security not only regionally, but in Afghanistan as well.
Meanwhile, Russia is accusing the US-led international coalition of tolerating Afghanistan’s drug producers by refusing to destroy opium crops. This stance contradicts the decisions on Afghan drug problems within the UN. These apparent attempts to tolerate Taliban-controlled drug dealers are destined to fail, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a 25 March statement.
Earlier in March, Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the Security Council that US and NATO commanders should continue to eradicate opium poppy fields. On 25 March, Viktor Ivanov, head of the Russian Federal Drugs Control Service, said NATO’s stance on the drug trade in Afghanistan contradicted the UN General Assembly’s decision that all nations have a duty to combat plantations of illegal drugs.
Subsequently, Russian officials repeatedly sought contacts with NATO on Afghanistan. On 24 March, Russian representatives held discussions with NATO officials in Brussels on the problem, but NATO rejected the criticism, reluctant to cooperate with Russia and the CSTO in fighting the continued outflow of drugs from Afghanistan.
As Moscow suspected the West of plotting to shut Russia out of Afghanistan and let drug production increase there, the Russia-led security grouping is attempting to move ahead on its own. On 28 March, the CSTO announced plans to hold a military drill, “Frontier-2010,” in Tajikistan later in April to counter possible infiltration of terrorists and drug dealers from neighboring Afghanistan.
Moscow has plenty of reasons to voice its concerns. Russian officials have estimated that the country’s drug addiction rates have increased several fold since the US-led invasion and the offensive against the Taliban’s in 2002, which was followed by hikes in Afghan opium production. Russia is now the largest heroin consumer in the world, with an estimated 5 million addicts.
Facing what it perceives as western willingness to allow opium production to flourish in Afghanistan, Russia’s top officials have described the situation as “narco-aggression” against Russia and a new “opium war.” They also suggest that the international alliance undertake aerial spraying against Afghanistan’s poppy fields.
The Russian press has been even less diplomatic, claiming that US and NATO forces were directly involved in the drug trade. Russian media outlets allege that the bulk of the drugs produced in Afghanistan’s southern and western provinces are shipped abroad on US planes.
Not surprisingly, Russia regards with resentment NATO’s liberal approach toward the Afghan drug industry and the alliance’s reluctance to cooperate in fighting the drug trade. Continued NATO inaction on the drug issue could potentially undermine Russia’s security cooperation with the West on crucial matters such as strategic arms reduction and non-proliferation.
Sergei Blagov is a Moscow-based correspondent for ISN Security Watch.Republish