Russia, the home of the world’s largest population of addicts, has vented loud and long at the flow of Afghan heroin reaching Russian veins, and placed blame squarely on the United States and NATO and their war in Afghanistan. Russia wants the US to eradicate the Afghan crop; the US and NATO refuse to do so, on the belief that this would strengthen the Taliban.
The US has proposed instead to create task forces in the former Soviet ‘Stans that would coordinate with local authorities to attempt to stem the flow of heroin using law enforcement means. The Russians have blocked this initiative. The reason? In brief, the Russians view the ‘Stans as theirs and theirs alone, and don’t want any Americans mucking about:
“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.”
So when push comes to shove, a few hundred Americans interacting directly with governments in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan trumps the “30,000 to 40,000 drug-related deaths in the country annually.”
Very revealing about priorities, no? Duly noted.