17 Mar. 2014
Policy Brief: Russia's International Approach to the Central Asian Drug Problem
Russia has a vested interest in combating the illegal drug trade. As there is neither political will nor an existing framework for decriminalization or legalization in international law, and as demand-side security has proven ineffective, a supply-side approach must be undertaken. With the United States' Afghanistan draw-down, their absence will both complicate and open up possibilities of combating the Central Asian drug market at its source. Russia must involve the international community, including the United States, if it is to be successful. This is contingent upon the domestic willingness of key Russian figures, such President Putin, Viktor Ivanov, and the whole of the Federal Drug Control Service of Russia
What can the Federal Drug Control Service (FDSC) of the Russian Federation do in Russia's “near abroad” to combat the illegal drug trade – and how can the international community be convinced to approve?
One of the most prevalent issues of destabilization in Central Asia is its illicit drug trade, the essential shadow economy of Central Asia. The illicit drug trade perpetuates corruption and may help fund terrorism – though certainly funds the ruling elites, weakening the state and negatively affecting legitimate growth.1 Of course, this also complicates reform. Still, repressing the illicit drug trade may be more politically tenable than other investments. The United States, Russia, and indeed the United Nations, has a public face of being highly dedicated to continuing the drug war with a prohibitionist stance. Drug use has been an enormous public health crisis in both Russia and Central Asia, along with creating issues of security through criminality.
The majority of drugs are trafficked through Turkmenistan and roughly half through Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. From Tajikistan, the drugs continue to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Through Uzbekistan, drugs are trafficked into Russia as well as the Caucasus via Kazakhstan. In recent years, Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan have moved from simply a transit country into a market for drugs from Afghanistan, as well as into its own production of opium, ephedra, and cannabis. It is estimated that 30% of Afghan-produced opiates find their way into Western Europe, with 60% moving into Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Afghanistan accounts for 88% of the world’s opium production.