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The head of Russia’s drug control service (FSKN) Viktor Ivanov recently slammed the Central European countries as well as NATO for their failure to effectively address the explosion of drug-trafficking and drug related crime since 2001. Mr Ivanov trace the source of the problem back to Afghanistan and their poppy farmers who produce 90% of the pure heroin worldwide. A UN resolution has previously described the narcotics flow from the Central Asian country as a threat to international peace and stability, according to the Russian news channel RT.
Mr Ivanov was outspoken about the Russian impatience with the international community in what he categorized as a lack of “an appropriate reaction” from NATO whom he holds responsible for controlling the war-torn country’s heroin situation. The reason for Russia’s fury can be found in the dramatic surge in heroin related deaths in their country since US forces invaded Afghanistan almost 10 years ago. In October last year, the head of FSKN explained to the Carnegie Moscow Center that although the amount of opium harvested in 2010 was half the amount produces the previous year, it is still twenty times higher than it was before the invasion. The decline in last years production, Ivanov attributes to ‘climate factors’ and crop disease rather than the eradication efforts. He based his conclusion on the fact that the number of acres planted had not changed since the previous year, according to RT.
The consequences of the heavy production in Afghanistan has been unprecedented for Russia. According to FSKN, 549 tons of heroin is consumed in Russia – compared to 212 tons in North America and 711 tons in Europe which have nearly four and over five times as big a population respectively. Mr Ivanov revealed that “at least 30.000 young Russian lives” are lost each year to heroin addiction and it is estimated that an annually 100.000 people worldwide die from consuming the Afghan opiates.
On top of this, Ivanov is gravely concerned about the rapid expansion of the Central Asian drug cartels who consider Russia a vast market for drug-trafficking. The Russian war on drugs have revealed a ‘mafia structure’ in the cartels which uses simplified visa rules and cargo deliveries for Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) citizens. Ivanov blames poor migration control as one of the main factors hampering the fight against drug trafficking inside of Russia. But his main critique is that the root cause of Russia’s national problem is far from being addressed adequately internationally.
One of the points is that farmers are expected to join the Taliban if efforts are made to destroy poppy crops. Mr Ivanov rejects this explanation. “When the US says you can’t deprive farmers of their livelihood, it actually sends a message to the Afghan leadership as well, saying they shouldn’t do it because, first, this will destroy people’s livelihoods and, second, you push farmers into the hands of the Taliban,” Ivanov told RT in an interview. “I think this is merely an excuse.”
The Russian frustration with NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan is also aimed at the coalition members. “The taxpayers of the coalition countries invested more than $300 billion into resolving the Afghan problem,” Ivanov argues. “In exchange, they received 5,000 tons of heroin, half of which landed in their stomachs, while global criminal and terrorist networks earned $1 trillion.”
In response to Russia’s criticism, Afghan Counter Narcotics Minister Zazar Ahmad Osmani told the RT “Afghanistan only produces opium, but you need additives, or precursors, to turn it into heroin, up to 1300 tons. Afghanistan does not produce them. Where do they come from? Obviously, there’s an international network trafficking these precursors. That’s why we say that the drug problem is not localized in Afghanistan – it’s international. When we say that millions of Russians die from drugs… 960,000 Afghans are addicted too.”