Despite the most recent tensions in the bilateral relationship between Russia and the United States, cooperation on counternarcotics has endured, developing slowly but steadily. The EastWest Institute’s report Afghan Narcotrafficking: A Joint Threat Assessment focuses on the serious threats these two countries face from the flow of drugs from Afghanistan and its corrosive impact on Afghanistan itself. The contributors to the report point out that preventing an explosion in this opium trade is a prerequisite for improving the security of Afghanistan and its neighbors after the withdrawal of foreign troops next year.
Afghan Narcotrafficking: A Joint Threat Assessment is a product of the Russian and American experts who participated in a working group convened by EWI. Leaders in this field from both countries, including representatives of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Russian Federal Drug Control Service, provided briefings and other assistance to the group.
According to EWI Senior Associate Jacqueline McLaren Miller, the project’s main coordinator, “This report demonstrates that cooperation between Russia and the United States is still possible when both countries are willing to focus on a common challenge.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov echoed the same sentiments at the February 2, 2013 Munich Security Conference when he stated the need for “closer cooperation with the U.S. on Afghanistan.” There are about 30,000 heroin-related deaths in Russia every year, and most of the heroin comes from Afghanistan.
Cooperation between the two countries is necessary to stem predicted growth of opium production in a post-2014 Afghanistan. The report includes a clear warning: “As NATO and U.S. troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan, which is still struggling with a highly volatile security situation, weak governance, and major social and economic problems, the size of the opium economy and opiate trafficking are likely to increase and pose an even greater challenge to regional and international security.”
This paper will be followed shortly by a Joint Policy Assessment report, which will offer specific policy suggestions for both Russia and the United States to curtail the flow of opiates from Afghanistan.