The EastWest Institute recently convened the second meeting of its Joint U.S.-Russia Working Group on Afghan Narcotrafficking. Given NATO’s 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan, the United States’ planned troop drawdown, and persistent tensions in the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship, the meeting was a timely opportunity for the experts to consider constructive ways for the United States and Russia to work together to tackle the production and trafficking of opium and heroin in and from Afghanistan.
The working group is drawn from U.S.- and Russia-based experts who are producing a joint threat assessment (JTA) on the wide range of challenges posed to both states by narcotrafficking from Afghanistan. The JTA will be followed by a Joint Policy Assessment suggesting cooperative measures that the United States and Russia can undertake to tackle the dangers posed by Afghan narcotrafficking. This working group is addressing a key security concern to both the United States and Russia and thus aims to aid in the “reset” of U.S.-Russia relations by delivering positive momentum, confidence-building, and policy impact. As the U.S.-Russia relationship faces increased strains and tensions from difficult and increasingly divisive issues like ballistic missile defense and Syria, the need to promote dialogue where there are common interests intensifies.
The working group members met in June at EWI’s Brussels office for three days of discussions. Initial sessions were held with senior officials from the European Union, NATO, and the Russian Mission to NATO on actions, interests, and challenges in Afghanistan. The experts then devoted two days to assessing the key threats that both Russia and the United States face and possible scenarios for these threats after 2014. The discussions touched on economic development, insurgency and criminal groups in trafficking, state capacity, the Afghan national forces, corruption, border management, the role of eradication in counternarcotics strategy, and the function of international organizations in the region.
There was a widespread expectation that in the immediate aftermath of NATO’s withdrawal and a reduced U.S. troop presence, there will be an increase in the amount of poppy produced and the role of opium—already significant—in Afghanistan’s economy. Both the willingness and ability of the Afghan national forces to take on a significant counternarcotics role was also discussed.
Although the supply side of counternarcotics strategy dominated the conversations, the experts discussed how Russia and the United States could do more work on the demand side of counternarcotics strategy, which is fertile ground for continued collaboration. How to reinforce and expand already successful cooperation, such as the already robust Drug Enforcement Agency(DEA)-Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN) ties, was also discussed.
The JTA, which should be finalized by September, will include assessments of the following areas:
- the threats that Afghan narcotrafficking poses specifically to Russia and the U.S. and the shared concerns between these two countries
- the opium economy in Afghanistan
- the transnational trade in Afghan opiates and money laundering
- effects of narcotrafficking on state-building in Afghanistan
Working group members are scheduled to convene in New York in the fall to finalize the joint policy assessment.
Members of the Joint U.S.-Russia Working Group on Afghan Narcotrafficking:
Ilnur Batyrshin, Head of the Scientific Research Center of FSKN
Viktor Korgun, Head of the Afghanistan department, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences
Yuri Kroupnov, Director, Institute for Demography, Migration, and Regional Development; Advisor to the Director of Federal Drug Control Service of the Russian Federation (FSKN)
Aman Saliev, Senior Expert, Institute of Strategic Analysis and Planning, Kyrgyz-Russian University of the Kyrgyz Republic
Konstantin Sorokin, Project Manager, Department of Training and Methodology and Research Projects, International Training and Methodology Centre for Financial Monitoring (ITMCFM)
Ekaterina Stepanova, Head of the Peace and Conflict Studies Unit of IMEMO
Georgi Zazulin, Professor at the Chair of Conflictology, St. Petersburg University, specializing on narcoconflictology and anti-narcotics policies in Russia and Europe; Russian representative of the International Organization European Cities Against Drugs
Andrew Kuchins, Director, Russia and Eurasia Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies
George Gavrilis, Executive Director, The Hollings Center for International Dialogue
David T. Johnson, Senior Advisor, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS); Senior Advisor, Avascent International; former Assistant Secretary of State for Narcotics and Law Enforcement
John “Jack” Lawn, former Administrator, Drug Enforcement Agency
David Mansfield, Visiting Fellow, The Feinstein International Centre, Tufts University
Kimberly Marten, Professor, Department of Political Science, Barnard College
Gretchen Peters, author, Seeds of Terror: How Drugs, Thugs and Crime Have Reshaped the Afghan War; Consultant, Researcher and Advisor of Transnational Crime Issues
Cory Welt, Associate Director, Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs; Adjunct Fellow, Center for American Progress