Russia accuses NATO soldiers of narcotrafficking
The Russian drug czar Victor Ivanov has accused NATO soldiers of drug trafficking according to the Islamic Republic News Agency. Mr Ivanov was quoted as saying that although there was “no centralized NATO structure to head the drug trade, there could be perhaps individual cases.” The comments were reportedly made in Berlin on Friday as Russia and NATO continue to disagree about how best to tackle the problem of heroin production in Afghanistan. In another recent meeting of UN ambassadors in Brussels Ivanov again pressed for NATO to focus on eradicating Afghanistan's poppy crop, which according to him provides the heroin that kills up to 30,000 Russians a year.
NATO leaders have increasingly taken the view that eradicating poppy crops without giving farmers an alternative income is not improving the situation in Afghanistan, currently the second poorest country in the world. US General Stanley McChrystal has criticised earlier efforts to eradicate poppy crops in the region as only providing more support for the Taliban. General McChrystal wants to instead win the general support of the population by turning a blind eye to poppy farming.
Afghanistan now provides up to 94% of the world’s opiates and Russia blames the increase in production on the US led invasion in 2001. Russia’s ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin has said that the American government is being hypocritical as it diverts a large amount of funds to eradication programs in Colombia which supplies the majority of cocaine to the US. Russia's stance on this issue has been firm and last year in a presentation given by Mr Ivanov, the flow of opiates into Russia was referred to as “the second edition of opium wars". In 2008 Russian state TV made accusations that US soldiers were involved in drug trafficking and that the British army loses a battalion a year due to drug abuse amongst its ranks.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union heroin use has soared in Russia, where in many regions drug treatment facilities are inefficient and Opiate Substitute Therapy (OST) such as the distribution of Methadone is illegal. Some of the first heroin addicts in Russia were Soviet soldiers who became hooked on the drug in the Soviet Union’s disastrous ten year occupation of Afghanistan. According to NATO the Taliban now have enough heroin stockpiled to provide for the next two years without cultivating more.