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Russia will preside over a special UN Security Council session dealing with the current drug threat, which emanates from Afghanistan, in New York on June 17.

Moscow, June 17. /Russian Information Agency NOVOSTI/. Russia will preside over a special UN Security Council session dealing with the current drug threat which emanates from Afghanistan, in New York on June 17.

According to the UN data, Afghanistan had turned into the biggest opium producer throughout the 1990s, also offering its derivative, i.e. heroin. As of 2002, Afghanistan had accounted for 75 percent of all global opium production. Most Afghan drugs are being exported.

As of 2002, Afghan opium-poppy "crops" had covered an area of 69,000-79,000 hectares; this exceeds 2001-vintage "crop-lands" almost ten-fold. As of 2002, one hectare had yielded 46 kilograms, on the average, whereas the 2001-vintage area was 24 kg per hectare. One kg of Afghan opium had cost an average of $350 in early 2002. Meanwhile one kilo of opium cost $540 by late 2002, despite a sizeable production rise.

Western Europe gets the bulk of all Afghan drugs. The latest statistics show that the United States, Japan and Australia also tend to consume more Afghan drugs than before. Consequently, this global problem doesn't boil down to drug addiction alone.

The world's drug barons annually get $25 billion as a result of illicit drug trade, UN experts estimate. Russia is worried about the disbursement of such monies. Talking to RIA NOVOSTI, official Russian experts stressed that many terrorist acts in Russia, Asia, the United States and elsewhere were being financed with the help of drug-trade proceeds. According to our information, part of these monies are used to prop up terrorist organizations, including mercenaries, who operate on Chechen territory.

Russian experts note the fact that US counter-terrorist operations on Afghan territory aim to flush out Al-Qaida cells, first and foremost. US presence in Afghanistan is not motivated by drug trafficking alone. At the same time, Washington understands perfectly well that there exists a link between drugs, terrorism, drug-sale proceeds and the financing of terrorist organizations. There are ongoing discussions between Russia and the United States focused on solving this problem.

For its own part, Hamid Karzai's interim Afghan administration is doing most it can to counter illegal drug - heroin above all - production. A special decree, which bans drug production, was issued January 17, 2003. However, the enforcement of specific laws is the most serious problem, official Russian experts note.

Drug-crop growing, as well as drug production, is the only source of income for most Afghans. The international community will therefore have to exert every effort for the sake of helping the government of Karzai to reorient the Afghan economy. Quite a few economic, political and social measures will have to be implemented for this purpose, Moscow notes.

In 2002 Russia had suggested drafting an international strategy for coping with the Afghan drug threat under UN auspices. According to this document's provisions, all measures aiming to fight drug production on Afghan territory should be complemented by other measures outside Afghanistan. First of all, such measures should apply to the external Afghan perimeter. Incidentally, Russia has already made a rather impressive contribution to accomplishing this objective. Russian border guards had impounded more than 2.3 tons of heroin, as well as some 1.5 tons of raw opium, along the Afghan-Tajik border last year. It goes without saying that the confiscation of drug batches along the Afghan border costs dozens of times less than the confiscation of such batches from end consumers in European countries and their subsequent destruction. Unfortunately, Russian soldiers are being killed time and again as they try to stem the drug flow.

Russia had voluntarily contributed $500,000 to the UN drug-and-crime office for the first time last year. Of that amount, $490,000 has been spent on beefing up the anti-drug potential of Central Asian countries.

Moreover, a special intra-CIS anti-drug program was elaborated with active Russian involvement. It was decided to chart new anti-drug measures during the latest summits of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

At the same time, the problem of liquidating Afghan drug exports transcends Russian national boundaries. Most Afghan drugs are being exported along the so-called northern route, i.e. Central Asia and Russia, subsequently reaching Western Europe, which is the main market for drugs from Afghanistan. For example, Afghan opium and heroin make up for 90 percent of all drugs being used by British addicts. Russian experts believe that efforts to cope with the drug demand in the West should be a top-priority aspect of this problem.

It should be mentioned in this connection that the international community comprehends the topical nature of this problem. In April 2003 Vienna hosted yet another session of the UN drug-and-crime office, which focused on the Afghan drug threat. A conference dealing with drug-export routes (from Central Asia to Europe) was organized in Paris late this May. Conference delegates passed the so-called Paris declaration, which notes the trans-border nature of the Afghan drug threat.

Today (June 17), Afghan drug trafficking will be discussed by the UNSC.

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