Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Russian War on Drugs and Afghanistan

The Af-Pak Channel had an article about a problem not well appreciated in the West, the dimensions of the Russian opiate problem. The use of drugs and the corrosive influence of corrupted law enforcement and judicial system should be familiar to any American watching our own "War on Drugs".

"Today the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released an alarming report, finding that since 2005 the number of Afghans addicted to opiate drugs like heroin and opium has doubled and that nearly million Afghans are steady users. But the problem of opiate addiction spreads far beyond Afghanistan. Last October, a UNODC report concluded that Afghanistan's poppy crop, refined into hard drugs such as heroin and opium, kills 100,000 people annually around the world. According to Russian authorities 30,000 to 40,000 of those killed are Russian citizens, a higher number than all the Russian soldiers who died during the Soviet war in Afghanistan during the 1980s. These figures make Afghan opiates the most deadly drug in the world, with Russians the leading victims."
.......The Russia government's Federal Drug Control Service estimates that more than 2 million Russians are now addicted to Afghan-supplied drugs, a higher figure than anywhere else in the world and one that continues to grow. Most of these addicts are between the ages of 18 and 39, depriving Russia of its most productive generation. And in addition to deaths from overdoses, the use of unclean needles for injecting heroin has resulted in more than 1 million Russians becoming infected with the HIV virus."

This sounds an awful lot like bio-chemical warfare as conducted by special services of various governments.
McClatchy goes further on the Russian take on this:

"The drugs usually reach Russia from Tajikistan and Kazakhstan in trucks or, in smaller amounts, tucked away in train compartments or nervous travelers' stomachs.

The trade is nothing new in Russia, but after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, it exploded. Afghan opium production climbed from 3,400 metric tons in 2002 to a record 8,200 metric tons in 2007, partly because U.S. and NATO-led troops put a low priority on curbing it. Heroin flooded into Central Asia, and on to Russia.

"When I heard the Americans were going to enter Afghanistan I thought they were going to solve the problem, to stop the drugs," said Yevgeny Roizman, who had connections with Russian organized crime before he became a member of parliament. He now runs an anti-drug organization in the city of Yekaterinburg, another big heroin-distribution hub north of Chelyabinsk.

"But in the period after they came, there was a big increase in the region . . . ," Roizman added. "It makes me think the Americans have done nothing to stop the drug trafficking."

Although it's an unintended consequence of the U.S. action in Afghanistan, some Russian officials trace the growing problem to an American plot.

Viktor Ivanov, the head of Russia's Federal Drug Control Service, the national drug enforcement agency, told parliament in May that it was reasonable to "call the flow of Afghan opiates the second edition of opium wars." He was referring to the 19th-century war between Britain and China sparked by exports of opium from British India to China.

Ivanov isn't alone.

"I can name you a lot of politicians in Russia who said that the Americans specially arranged the situation in Afghanistan so that we would receive a lot of drugs, and this is the real aim of their occupation," said Andrei Klimov, the deputy head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia's lower house of parliament. "I'm not sure this is true, but who knows."

The U.S. government takes no direct responsibility for fueling Russia's drug problem."

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