At an Asia security conference in Singapore, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov told delegates that narcotics from Afghanistan are a threat to Europe, Asia, and the United States and urged NATO forces in Afghanistan to step up the campaign to eradicate opium poppy cultivation there.
"We are not happy with what the world community is doing in the antidrug war" in Afghanistan, Ivanov told delegates on June 6 at the summit, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.
Ivanov said the blame for the continued production of opium in Afghanistan and the export of the heroin made from Afghan opium rests on "those who took responsibility for ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan."
Ivanov said it's time for foreign military forces in Afghanistan -- the UN-mandated and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) -- to step up efforts to eradicate opium-poppy cultivation and heroin production.
"Next year, I think that ISAF will break the Soviet record of the duration of stay in Afghanistan," Ivanov said, claiming that during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979-1989, "the problem of narcotics practically did not exist."
'A Lot Should Be Done'
The UN estimates that some 90 percent of the world's current heroin supply originates in Afghanistan. Ivanov said despite the conflict in the 1980s, the Soviet-supported government during that period kept attention fixed "on the social and economic needs of the Afghan people."
Ivanov made a similar recommendation to governments trying to help Afghanistan today.
"A lot should be done in just starting very primitive social-economic life in Afghanistan," he said. "If we don’t do that, any military presence would be in vain."
Ivanov said that for every poppy plantation that is burned, investments must be made in conventional agriculture. In the meantime, he said, Russia is prepared to work with international partners to impose several "drug rings" around the country to intercept narcotics being exported.
Ivanov said Russia has been aiding international efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan. But Ivanov said there is a limit to how much help the international community can expect from Russia,
"We are already helping a lot in ISAF operations in Afghanistan, providing logistic support, transport support, intelligence support -- whatever," he said. "Except one thing: Never again a Russian soldier would enter Afghanistan."
Up to 14,000 Soviet troops were killed during the decade the Soviet Union was in Afghanistan.
Ivanov noted that the narcotics problem is not limited to Afghanistan. He also mentioned the narcotics cultivation problem in the so-called "Golden Triangle" -- Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand -- and in the southern Philippines.
Ivanov also spoke about the importance of "establishing governance in uncontrolled territories" and pointed to "Russia's active participation in the processes of political settlement in the South Caucasus."
Ivanov said the situations in Georgia's breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia "proved the unacceptability of use of radical military means to settle a conflict and demonstrated the importance of dialogue and the search for solutions that meet the needs of all sides."
with agency reports