News | November 22, 2011

A Russian View of Drug Trafficking and the Financial Crisis

The EastWest Institute hosted Russia’s top drug enforcement officer on November 18 in cooperation with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Viktor Ivanov, director of the Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN) of the Russian Federation, discussed the global drug trade and the key role of poppy production in Afghanistan with a diverse audience representing numerous U.S. federal agencies, uniformed and civilian military officials, civil society, industry and diplomatic missions.

Ivanov argued that the global drug trade is closely tied to the world financial system, where drug money represents a “at least half” of global criminal flows. These funds, he said, in some cases provide much-needed liquidity in the financial system at a time of crisis.

“In order to develop adequate solutions, we need to have a better picture of global drug flows,” Ivanov said. He added, “Two obvious drug flows are Latin American cocaine and Afghan heroin.”

Ivanov was in the United States for meetings in Chicago of the U.S.–Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission's Drug Trafficking Working Group, of which he is co-chair. FSKN and EWI, as part of an ongoing collaboration, worked with the Chicago Tribune to produce an infographic and interview with Ivanov exploring the complex dynamics of "Afghanistan’s heroin pipeline" (PDF).

Speaking with the Tribune, Ivanov underlined the role of international civil society in confronting the issue of drug production in Afghanistan during a time of conflict.

“[O]ur group and I personally are engaged in extensive cooperation with leading U.S. think tanks, especially the EastWest Institute, and also such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Nixon Center (now the Center for the National Interest), the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation,” and others, Ivanov told the Tribune.

Ivanov noted that drug production is a consistent source of income for some, and said fundamental changes in the economy of Afghanistan are necessary to undermine the rationale for cultivation.

“The key way to liquidate global drug trafficking is to reformat the existing economy and to shift to the economy that excludes criminal money and provides reproduction of net liquid assets, [that is], to the economy of development, where decisions are based on development projects and special-purpose credits,” Ivanov said.