Global Insights: Russia’s ‘New Thinking’ on Afghan Narcotics

Global Insights: Russia’s ‘New Thinking’ on Afghan Narcotics

In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington last Friday, Viktor Ivanov, the director of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN), laid out an ambitious agenda for increased Russia-U.S. cooperation in several counternarcotics areas, characterized by “new thinking” on a variety of issues.

Ivanov, who stopped in Washington after attending the fifth meeting of the Counternarcotics Working Group of the U.S.-Russia Presidential Commission in Chicago, proposed creating an integrated command for counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan that would include representatives from the FSKN, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Ivanov argued that such an arrangement would address the problems that had impeded what last fall appeared to be a promising new Russian-U.S. initiative. In October 2010, drug enforcement personnel from both countries conducted a joint counternarcotics raid in Afghanistan that destroyed drug-producing laboratories. From December 2010 to February 2011, four additional Russian-U.S. counternarcotics raids took place against Afghan narcotics laboratories.

Ivanov said that the time needed to plan and secure military support for these joint operations sometimes took months. By the time all the bureaucratic hurdles in Russia, the United States, Afghanistan and within NATO had been surmounted, the intelligence had grown stale. The new joint command would presumably make it easier to break through these bureaucratic obstacles by accelerating the staff work and clearance procedures. Furthermore, Ivanov indicated that the precarious security situation in Afghanistan required the use of military assets for counternarcotics operations.

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