Monday, August 29, 2016


Russia Said To Block U.S. Drug Plan Amid Wariness Over Central Asian Influence

Opium poppy farmers score poppies during a harvest in Sistani, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Opium poppy farmers score poppies during a harvest in Sistani, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
By Richard Solash
WASHINGTON -- Russia has reportedly blocked a U.S. plan designed to help stem the flow of drugs from Afghanistan through Central Asia in a sign of Moscow's continued wariness about Washington's intentions in a region often thought of as "Russia's backyard."

A delegation of U.S. officials led by Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and William Brownfield, the assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, presented the plan at a February 16 meeting in Vienna of the Paris Pact countries, which works to counter trafficking in Afghan opiates.

Washington's proposed Central Asia Counternarcotics Initiative (CACI) would create task forces in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan that would coordinate with similar entities in Afghanistan and Russia.

Each task force would be comprised of some 25 people from their country's drug-control agency who would be mentored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The groups would share information, improve coordination on joint and cross-border operations, and build cases against traffickers.

Afghanistan is the world’s primary source of opium, which fuels the heroin trade and funds extremist groups. The region's problem with drug addiction is enormous.

Brownfield visited Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Russia last spring to preview the initiative and this week, Washington was hoping to gain official backing for the plan in Vienna.

William Brownfield, the U.S. assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law EnforcementWilliam Brownfield, the U.S. assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement
William Brownfield, the U.S. assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement
William Brownfield, the U.S. assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement
Before that could happen, however, members of Moscow's delegation conducted an "explanatory campaign" with their Central Asian counterparts, according to the Russian newspaper "Kommersant." They reportedly "described all the risks that could exist for them if the U.S. plan were adopted."

A U.S. official familiar with the matter confirmed that Washington's delegation was unable to reach a final agreement at the meeting but said the plan has not been rejected.

Still, the official described the outcome as "a big surprise."

Susan Pittman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, told RFE/RL that bilateral consultations with the Central Asian states would continue.

"We continue to discuss with Central Asian officials the establishment of vetted units and other types of counternarcotics assistance that the U.S. is prepared to provide," she said.

U.S. 'Infiltration'

"Kommersant" quoted an unnamed Russian official in Vienna as saying, "Why create something new if Collective Security Treaty Organization [CSTO] structures are already in force in these countries? Why does [the United States] insist on bilateral dialogues with the Central Asian republics, demonstratively ignoring Russia's interests in the region?"

The CSTO is a regional security alliance that includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, but is dominated by Russia. Analysts say the United States and NATO are hesitant to work solely through the body due to that controlling influence.

The newspaper said another unnamed Russian official called the U.S. plan "a new tool of infiltration into Central Asia [and] a method of strengthening the military-political influence of the United States in the region."

In July 2011 Brownfield told RFE/RL that the proposal was meant to supplement existing regional structures, not replace them.

He said he expected the plan to “rise above” any perceived battle for influence between Washington and Moscow in the region, especially amid concern that the flow of drugs will worsen after U.S. combat troops leave Afghanistan in 2014.

Brownfield also said the initiative “does not require massive presence by either the United States or the Russian Federation to support or pursue the idea."

Those arguments apparently didn't convince Russia.

Parviz Mulojonov, a Dushanbe-based analyst, told RFE/RL's Tajik Service, "We have to cooperate with the United States, but we should keep in mind that Russia has tools to impact events in the region and could negatively influence the events in Tajikistan. The U.S. has no such tools for impact. This means we have to cooperate, but keep in mind the interests of Russia."

Richard Weitz, the director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute in a Washington, said Russia's apparent opposition indicates the depth of its mistrust of any U.S. role in the region.

"It's indicative of Russia still being uncomfortable with the United States having an active presence in Central Asia beyond the war in Afghanistan. What's odd about this is that Russia has been the most vocal country complaining about the U.S. and ISAF's failure to deal with the Afghan drug problem," he said.

A 2010 UN study identified Russia as having the world's highest per capita heroin use, contributing to 30,000 to 40,000 drug-related deaths in the country annually.

With contributions from RFE/RL's Tajik Service
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
February 18, 2012 02:31
Is there any coordination of policies in DC? I'm not an expert, but why should the US get involved in monitoring drug traffic in this region? A cut of the proceeds? A super business model. First, we allow heroin production to peak while we supposedly kill terrorists and rebuild the country. Then we depart, leaving the country in shambles, and now want to cash in on some of the drug sales. Suggest that these DEA agents be relocated to the US-Mexican border.

by: Jack from: US
February 18, 2012 03:43
Russians are aware that US government is not out there to stop drugs. US government is the main drug cartel in the world, which controls Mexican and Colombian drug trade. There are no drug cartels in Venezuela or Bolivia because those countries defied US government. Now US government wants to make peace with Taliban and share profits from Afghan heroin trade. One reason US government was allied with Muslim Albanians against Christians in Kosovo is because Albanians are the main drug traffickers in Europe. Now US government controls drug traficking in Europe via its Kosovo Albanian proxies.

by: William from: Aragon
February 21, 2012 04:17
Before the US invaded Afghanistan, the Taliban had the output of opium reduced to 128 tonnes. The latest UN report shows that after more than 10 years of US control of the country, the output is 5,000 tonnes. This volume is not being exported over the Central Asian mountains by donkey - what does this tell you?
In Response

by: Sasa
February 22, 2012 20:41
It tells us that the USA is doing the same thing to Russia, Russia does to the USA in Latin America with her communist drug lords.
You know you sell my kids drugs, I will sell your kids drugs as revenge.
In Response

by: Ilya
February 23, 2012 04:37
You're right William. It's not just being moved via donkeys. From wikileaks:

6. (S) Rahmonov said, "I want to tell you a secret why I insisted that the Russian Border Guards had to leave Tajikistan. You know they're part of the KGB. I had credible information they and (jailed General Gaffor) Mirzoyev were plotting a coup against me. That's why I pushed Mirzoyev out of the Presidential Guard, disbanded the Presidential Guard, and told Putin forcefully his Border Guards had to go. This had been building for a long time, and I had frequently discussed it with Putin, but he wouldn't do anything about it. Only after I moved

against Mirzoyev did Putin finally understand that their game was up. To make amends, he agreed that his Border Guards would leave. You know who helped me with this? (Federal Service on Control of Narcotics Chairman Victor) Cherkesov. He was here at that time studying our Drug Control Agency, and he realized that the Russian Border Guards were more involved in trafficking heroin than in stopping it. He went to Putin on my behalf."

7. (S) Having warmed to this issue, Rahmonov said, "This constant propaganda in the Russian media about how Tajikistan is failing to control its borders now that the Russians have left - you know where that comes from? From the Russian generals who want to come back here with their mafia buddies. Look what they got here - they put in two-year tours, and then went back to Moscow and bought Mercedes 600s and elite apartments. You think they did that on their salaries? Why do you think the generals lined up in Moscow all the way across Red Square and paid enormous bribes to be assigned here - just so they could do their patriotic duty?"

8. (S) "And another thing," Rahmonov continued heatedly, "why do you think I got rid of the 50 Russian generals who used to be advisers in our Ministry of Defense. They never did anything for us. They never helped us build a professional military, never gave us any military-technical assistance, because they wanted to keep us weak so their buddies could play games and make fortunes dealing drugs. I got fed up, said thanks but now it's time for you to go home. That's one reason they eventually came up with the plot to overthrow me."
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
February 23, 2012 22:57
Thanks Ilya, I was not aware of this. The media here in Australia chooses what, and what not, to report based on the political persuasions of its editors. Generally it is a free press, but sometimes I am very surprised by what I can read in the UK media about events in my own country. Your comment demonstrates the power of the web and how we can share knowledge. It is not just the "Arab Spring" - there is a new world rising.

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