Thursday, October 01, 2009

Russian Drug Czar calls for fumigation of poppies in Afghanistan

On September 24, during his visit to the US, Victor Ivanov, Director of Russia’s Federal Service for the Control of Narcotics (Russia's Drug Czar), gave a talk at The Nixon Center on "Drug Production in Afghanistan: A Threat to International Peace and Security." Ivanov discussed the effects of drug trafficking on Russia and the world and called for U.S.-Russian cooperation in eradicating the trade. His remarks can be read in their entirety here; a short summary of the event is also available.

Following the extracts from his speech below, is a press briefing from the White House showing that the US administration gave Ivanov short shrift.

In a speech that repeatedly calls for the liquidation and elimination of the Afghan poppy crop, Ivanov extolls the virtues of aerial fumigation. A plan which, to their credit, the Americans have opposed.

The speech is as revealing for what Ivanov doesn't say, as for what he does. Pointedly blaming the Afghans and Americans for the heroin being used in Russia, Ivanov refuses to acknowledge that the demand for heroin in Russia could have anything to do with Russia's domestic and foreign policy, either now, with regard to creating social conditions that drive their citizens into problematic drug use, or their previous interventions in Afghanistan itself.

History apparently began when the US went into Afghanistan in 2001 in order to achieve "Enduring Freedom"!

Well worth a read of the entire speech, Ivanov repeatedly refers to opium/heroin as a security threat. Failing to understand or publicly acknowledge that it is the prohibition that creates the threat, not the drug.

I have pulled out some quotes I think are worthy of specific comment:

Ivanov fails to see any irony in this statement:

"Along with that, being here, at the Nixon Center, is good reason to recall that the “War on Drugs” was declared exactly 40 years ago by President Richard Nixon. And that decision was certainly no coincidence."

Clearly Russia has had only peaceful and benign intent toward its neighbour over the millenia:

"Unfortunately, we have to acknowledge that the instability and military confrontation of the last eight years created in the long-suffering Afghanistan perfect conditions for the rise of a global Narco-State which alone is producing more opiates than the whole world did ten years ago."

Afghanistan takes the full blame for Russia's dreadful habit:

"For Russia the task of liquidation of Afghan drug production is an unrivaled priority as it is Russia that has today become the main victim of this phenomenon.
More than 90 per cent of drug-addicts in our country are consumers of Afghan opiates. Up to 30 thousand people die of heroin annually."

The drug, not the regime of prohibition gets the blame here:

"It must be admitted that heroin ruins young statehoods and kills democracy.
This situation can be rightfully considered a unique global historical phenomenon and qualified according to the UN Charter as a threat to international peace and security."

Some sense here:

"However, what lies behind the global Afghan drug production?
Its main cause is the ongoing geopolitical tension in Afghanistan, induced by the growing resentment of the population, especially Pashto peoples, against foreign military troops which inevitably creates numerous centers of resistance and micro-conflicts."

And the solution to this geopolitical problem?:

"But the clue to solving the problem of Afghanistan lies in the hands of the United States."

"Refusal to eliminate drug crops, declared by Mr. Richard Holbrooke in Trieste as the basis of the new strategy to fight Afghan drugs, is misguiding [misguided ed].
In this connection, the Afghan drug issue should be made one of the main topics and tracks of Russian-American relations."

Be great if it was.

But first some more history:

"Next year, the whole world will commemorate the 65th anniversary of the great Victory over Nazi Germany. The creation of a Russian-American Anti-Drug Coalition by that time would have not only pragmatic, but also a deep symbolical meaning.
After all, it was by virtue of the prompt creation of an anti-Hitler coalition in 1941, immediately after Nazi Germany’s aggression against the USSR, that the defeat of Nazism and militarism became possible in 1945."

Because drugs are like Nazis...but more evil. What would be really interesting would be a Russian-American Drug Coalition, set up by next year that took a global lead toward a peaceful resolution of the war on drugs; not anti-drug, but anti-war...

And again, wrong analysis leads Ivanov to assess opium/heroin as the threat to international peace and security, rather than the war on drugs:

"Our analysis shows that in order to achieve this objective it is necessary to raise the issue of Afghan drug-production to the level of a threat to international peace and security. This would make it possible to turn the campaign against Afghan drug-production into priority for the international community and put the instruments provided by the international law to full use."

However, despite Russian pressure, US resolve to maintain its opposition remains strong. Here is an excerpt from the White House press briefing for 23 September:

Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
September 23, 2009

QUESTION: Russia, and particularly its drug czar, is urging the U.S. to go back to poppy eradication by air. What's your response to that?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. We did take note of that. Of course, Russia is one of the major destination countries for Afghan heroin, and of course, because of that, has been long concerned about international counternarcotic efforts in Afghanistan. They've been active in the Paris pact, a consortium of nations committed to assist Afghanistan combat illicit drug production and trafficking.

As you note, Viktor Ivanov, who is the director of their anti-drug agency, is in Washington, and tomorrow will have meetings with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, with Director Kerlikowske, and here at State with David Johnson, who's our Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

In general, I think just to sort of lay out what our general policy has been, we believe that large-scale eradication efforts have not worked to reduce the funding to the Taliban. And we believe that it's also worked as a kind of a recruiting tool by driving farmers who have lost their livelihood into the hands of the insurgency. So we're supporting the Afghan Government's efforts to provide farmers with alternative means of supporting themselves.

And because of this new policy, we're reducing support for eradication. We do provide some targeted support for Afghan-led efforts where we think they will work on a case-by-case basis. But our assistance will focus on increased efforts for alternative crop development, and this is part of our overall strategy in Afghanistan of supporting the people and Government of Afghanistan to stand on their own.

1 comment:

thepoisongarden said...

When someone starts spouting numbers which seem to be widely out I sometimes have trouble getting it clear in my own mind.

Obviously, the fortyfold increase in production he talks about is arrived at by taking the aberrant figures for 2001 as the baseline but am I right in thinking he's confusing opium with heroin when he says there could be a stockpile of 7,000 tonnes of heroin?

He certainly is wrong when he claims there is a 50 year supply available.

It just occurs to me that, if there were a 50 year stockpile, eradication efforts would be a complete waste of time anyway.