Russian criticism of the NATO operation in Afghanistan
In fact, from our point of view the problem lies in different area. In Russia more and more senior government officials are trying to cast doubt on the idea that NATO’s counterterrorism operation is consistent with the interests of our country. As early as March 2005, the annual report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime noted that Russia is the largest market for heroin in Europe. At the time, however, that fact drew little attention. As a result, over the last four years we have succeeded in establishing a world record. In 2009, Russia took the top spot among all countries of the world in the consumption of heroin.
Picture: Afghan heroin destinations around the globe.
It accounted for 21% of all heroin produced in the world, and 5% of all opium-containing drugs. The main cause of this disaster is the unprecedented growth in Afghan opiate production and a sharp price drop for the end product. Repeated appeals for the US leadership to somehow affect the situation and eradicate the crops remain unanswered.
Consequently, a growing number of politicians directly involved in the problem have begun asking the question: how do we benefit from supporting a regime, thanks to which, drugs just last year killed twice as many people in our country as were killed during the entire war in Afghanistan? Criticism on this issue has recently been heard from Federal Drug Control Service chief Viktor Ivanov and Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov. The majority of Russians also believe that NATO’s Afghanistan operation runs counter to Russia’s interests. Two thirds (64%) of those polled by the Public Opinion Foundation believe that the military operations initiated by the United States are dangerous for Russia. People with a higher education are more likely than others to hold this opinion (71%). Less than one quarter of those responding (23%) did not express such concerns.
For the first time, the cooperation between Russia and NATO in Afghanistan was suspended at a high level in August 2008 in retaliation for the support our “partners in the war on terrorism” accorded Georgia’s direct aggression against South Ossetia. At that time, a question about the differing views held by Moscow and Washington on the evolution of the situation in Afghanistan was raised for the first time. Now, in response to the continuing endless stream of drugs after warning bells about the disastrous situation with the level of heroin consumption in our country were sounded from the rostrum of the United Nations, Russia has formed a fundamentally new, independent position with regard to the NATO operation in Afghanistan and the growing production of drugs in that country. And no less importantly, our country is increasingly finding allies on this issue in the EU.
to be continued…
Alexander Sotnichenko is a Candidate of History, senior analyst of the Saint-Petersburg Modern Middle East Research Centre.