NATO has rejected an appeal made by Russia for eradication of opium fields in Afghanistan, arguing that the sole source of income in the region cannot be removed.
Addressing a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on Wednesday, head of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Agency (FSKN) Victor Ivanov said “Afghan opiates led to the death of 1 million people by overdose in the last 10 years, and that is United Nations data. Is that not a threat to world peace and security?”
The Russian official tasked NATO forces with “normalizing the situation in Afghanistan” which includes “the elimination of drug production.”
Meanwhile, NATO spokesman James Appathurai voiced understanding for Russian concerns, given the country’s estimated 200,000 heroin and morphine addicts and the tens of thousands dying each year as a result of their addiction.
However, he went on to say that the Afghan drug problem had to be handled carefully in an effort to avoid alienating local residents.
“We share the view that it has to be tackled,” the spokesman said. “But there is a slight difference of views,” Appathurai added.
“We cannot be in a situation where we remove the only source of income for people who live in the second poorest country in the world without being able to provide them an alternative. That is simply not possible,” the NATO official explained.
According to statistics provided by Ivanov, Russia was the single largest consumer of heroin in 2008. Moscow blames NATO for the surge in heroin trafficking from Afghanistan to Russia.
The production of opium in Afghanistan has skyrocketing since the US-led invasion of the country in 2001.