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Russia Says Afghan Drug Trade Threatens World Peace

Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said Sunday Afghan drug trafficking should be classified as a threat to international peace and security. The Russian Deputy Prime Minster made his remarks at an Asia security conference in Singapore.

Speaking to defense officials and analysts at an annual Asia security summit in Singapore, Sergei Ivanov, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister, said the Taliban and other extremists groups that control most of Afghanistan are supported by the illegal drug trade.

"Large part of the population of Afghanistan is involved in the cultivation and production of opium and opium products such as heroin," he said. "Narcotics have become the important source of financial support for insurgency groups including the Taliban and not only to them."

Afghan farmers produce 90 percent of the world's heroin. The opiates are often smuggled north through Central Asia and Russia to Europe, Asia and America, and generate billions of dollars in revenue. In Russia, Ivanov has said that opium consumption is having a destabilizing effect and that 30,000 addicts die each year from narcotics like heroin. The Russian Deputy Prime Minister called for increased international efforts to stem the flow of Afghan opiates at the source.

"The whole international community and, first of all, those who took the responsibility for ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan, namely the International Security Assistance Force, should make a strong commitment to fight this drug threat," said Ivanov.

The Deputy Prime Minister's comments were seen by many at the conference as a criticism of the U.S.-led coalition of NATO states fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Ivanov said while the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s may have ultimately failed, it did succeed in cracking down on the drug trade by burning the fields and providing economic alternatives to local farmers. He said today the international community should follow the Soviet's example.

"The Soviet Union invested money in cultivating normal agriculture and then buy the products, the agricultural products at a price higher than the market," he said. "Of course in the Soviet Union the market price was quite relative.

Ivanov's criticism of the U.S.-led coalition's drug policy in Afghanistan is not new. And the coalition has been funding programs meant to encourage farmers to plant alternative crops, such as wheat and cotton.

But Ivanov says more effort is needed and Russia is willing to help. It already provides logistical, transport and intelligence support to international forces in the region. But he said with memories of the Soviet defeat there still strong, never again will Russian soldiers be sent to Afghanistan.