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    Afghan opium in Russia

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    At the 53rd session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna, Russia is trying, albeit belatedly, to raise global awareness of the need to counter the Afghan drug trade

    At the 53rd session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna, Russia is trying, albeit belatedly, to raise global awareness of the need to counter the Afghan drug trade.

    According to the report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Russia is second only to Europe in opiate use, including heroin, and first among individual countries.

    While still in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden vowed that "they will die from our drugs". By "they" he meant Russia, which was actively supporting Ahmad Shah Masood, bin Laden's and Mullah Omar's greatest enemy at that time.

    Bin Laden kept his word. He made this statement in 1999. Over the following 10-11 years, the number of drug addicts in Russia increased 10 times. In a single year, we use between 75 and 80 tons of Afghan heroin. The UNODC report cites these figures repeatedly. It also contains some lesser known statistics. There are between 30 and 40 thousand drug-related deaths in Russia each year. By comparison, the Soviet Union lost 15 thousand soldiers during its ten-year presence in Afghanistan.

    Europe is much better off. Excluding Russia and Turkey, it consumes 19% of the drugs originating in Afghanistan. We consume 15%, while China and India - with their massive populations - consume just 12% and 7% respectively. Why are these Afghan weapons of mass destruction aimed at Russia?

    Let's return to the UNODC report. Even UN experts were surprised by the dramatic increase in the demand for Afghan heroin in Russia, noting that the "country has now become more of a destination than a transit area." The flow of heroin from Russia to Europe is very limited, which, the UN experts believe, means that the Russian government's anti-drug efforts are ineffective. Despite being the largest national market for heroin, Russia seizes a meager 4% of the drugs trafficked on its territory. The Afghan security services catch even less - a mere 2% of the total.

    The logic of the Afghan authorities is understandable. Why destroy now what you could have nipped in the bud before?

    It is clear that the international community is not taking any measures to counter Afghan drug trafficking. The United State has backed off of plans to destroy opium fields for the umpteenth time now, this time citing the limited effectiveness of the campaign. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is fighting side by side with U.S. troops in Afghanistan, does not have any plans or ideas for countering drug trafficking. As for NATO - which is not, legally speaking, in Afghanistan - we can hardly expect the parliaments of European countries to worry about our problems, especially considering that their citizens use much fewer opiates than we do. On seeing the first coffin of a soldier killed during the destruction of an opiate field, these parliaments will demand the immediate withdrawal of their troops from Afghanistan. The Netherlands offers a striking example of this attitude.

    With each new report, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and UNODC - which are the only official anti-drug agencies - reaffirm their inability to do anything about drug trafficking. Here's a case in point. In its latest report, the CND stated that while the area sown with poppy plants in Afghanistan fell by almost a quarter, the production of opium fell by a mere 10%, and in 2009 Afghanistan produced almost a near record 7,000 tons.

    Two percent or 140 tons of opium are seized in Afghanistan. What happens with the remaining 6,860 tons? Antonio Maria Costa, UNODC executive director, said: "The perfect storm of drugs, crime and insurgency that has swirled around the Afghanistan-Pakistan border for years is heading for Central Asia." He added, "If quick preventive measures are not put into place, a big chunk of Eurasia could be lost." According to Mr. Maria Costa governments can tackle the transnational threat of Afghan opium only "by addressing all links in the chain." We have heard similar words for many years now, and yet opium production in Afghanistan has not declined by a single poppy. Now we are pinning our hopes on the 53rd CND session, but what can it produce except a new report?

    The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

    MOSCOW. (Pyotr Goncharov for RIA Novosti)

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