Not so long ago you met with NATO in Brussels to discuss the issues with drug traffic from Afghanistan. What was your impression? Is NATO ready to take real steps in fighting heroine production and trade?
NATO is a military organization, not a political one. They should be using their resources to destroy the plants containing narcotics. In Afghanistan, I spoke to the head of the NATO military council. He put it straight, as a military person – ‘as soon as the decision is made, we will start destroying the poppy fields.’ Precise, short and clear
Who doesn’t want to make the decision? Obama?
I am not informed about the hierarchy of decisions. There are NATO summits, meetings at the level of interior ministers, meetings of ambassadors, like the one I addressed in Brussels last week. I believe the decision should be made on a higher level than ambassadors. All the ambassadors whom I met, who participated in the discussion, seemed to be speaking from the same template.
Were they the same statements you heard in Kabul earlier this month. Then, the answer was that Afghanistan should decide its own drug policy?
Yes, all the same exact clichés, the general line somebody had composed and nothing else.
Did your opponents in Brussels agree with any solutions you suggested?
We did not go through the entire list. All spokesmen said that it would not be productive or reasonable to destroy the poppy fields. It sounded like a hint to the Afghan authority, that hey, it would not be democratic if you take away a chance from farmers to cultivate drugs.
This sounds like a conflict. Russia is telling NATO that thousands of people in Russia are dying from heroin, do something about that, and NATO says no.
It is not a conflict. Absolutely. We just make it clear that now we are going to talk about this. The Russian government analyzed the situation deeply. I am one of Russia’s power representatives. I am not acting alone. We discuss this issue with Russian leaders, with the Security Council, with the anti-drug committee that includes over 30 ministries and other authorities. A change has happened, as we have analyzed a huge number of letters and calls people made to us – that was what mobilized the government to confront this threat.
Did you see any progress after your meeting in Brussels?
NATO's information gathering has improved. For example, the discussion of Afghanistan's drugs traffic at the most recent Russian-American anti-drug gathering of officials in Washington was far more concrete than in the past.
My trip to Brussel indicated the EU deputies were not well informed about the Afghanistan drug threat. They are aware of some anti-drug trafficking measures, but they know little of whether the anti-drug struggle is productive or effective, or the scale of problems Russia and Central Asia face. In Europe, they realize their own problem with Afghan opiates has grown worse. According to my data, 10,000 E.U. citizens die from opiates every year – so this trouble is understandable to them, as these are their people, their children, dying. As for Taliban or terrorism, it seems to me that Europe is infinitely far from these subjects.
What do you think about Russian-American anti-drug dialogue?
I would say that in general the Russian-American work group has been productive. The U.S Ambassador, Mr. Beyrle, also recognized this group’s work as successful. Recently, we had a few telephone conversations with Richard Kerlikowske, the White House Drug Czar, as well as a meeting on May 3. Mr. Kerlikowske was visiting Stockholm, where he discussed measures against legalizing drugs in the presence of the Swedish royal family. We have full solidarity with the U.S.A. on this issue: the world has broken up into two parts, one wants to accept legalization, the other one wants to fight against it. I would have enjoyed participating in the Stockholm meeting, but wasn’t able to because I was scheduled to fly to Beijing on that day. Mr. Kerlikowske was nonetheless able to arrange a meeting in a Moscow airport.
Is it realistic that President Medvedev could play a leading roll in the global anti-drug coalition?
We say that all the world's governmental and non-governmental institutions should consolidate their efforts in the global struggle for the health of their societies, and create a global anti-drug coalition. You know, this idea is not totally new. The U.N. narcotics control is based on decisions by United Nations General Assembly. Everybody agrees that we should attract the attention of groups in civil society. That is exactly what we work on. We should be considering the global aspect of drug–traffic crossing territories of many states. The globalization process made it easy to instantly transfer big sums of money to different parts of the globe – that also involves global issues with money laundering.
Do you monitor the situation with money laundering in Russia?
Unfortunately, neither drug-curriers nor drug addicts report to us about their business. There are internationally accepted methods to evaluate and monitor money laundering. I used to be the head of commission that worked out national strategy for fighting money laundering in Russia.
Do you think that Russia, with this hard-won experience, could lead
the global fight against Afghanistan's drug-traffic?
Today Afghanistan produces nearly the world’s entire volume of opiates! This is a phenomenon! We invited participants to a Moscow forum to say that the world needs to take responsibility for the fate of Afghanistan; the decision was made to apply military force, so Afghanistan would become a free, democratic, developing state; but since that decision was made, the amount of heroine produced in Afghanistan has grown by 40 times. Obviously, something was wrong about that decision or about its fulfilment. The international community has miscalculated something here – these are the issues our president has brought up many times.
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