Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The world has been suffering from the black cloud of heroin for a very long time. It seems like every day a new story comes to light regarding the problem of heroin throughout the world. It turns out that Russia has now found themselves in the grips of a heroin epidemic which is fueled by the vast poppy fields in Afghanistan. Viktor P. Ivanov, the top drug enforcement official in Russia, has been pleading for American support with this problem, especially since the Obama administration has decided to pull back on Poppy eradication in Afghanistan. Bush had begun the manual eradication process with very little success, shortly after the war started. Obama would like to interdict opium supplies and show them how to cultivate alternative crops, but, unfortunately there has been very little progress made. Russia believes that the Afghan heroin is a global security risk that needs to be addressed jointly by the two super powers.
Ivanov is the head of the federal drug control service and a trusted adviser to Prime Minister Putin. His belief, according to the New York Times, is that, "eradication programs had failed in Afghanistan because they were too weak, and that the United States should apply the more muscular methods it used recently in Colombia, where vast coca fields were sprayed aerially with the herbicide glyphosate". Aerial herbicides are certainly the most effective way to eradicate a crop, but, there are many critics who say that this tactic will put many farmers out of work and force them towards terrorist organizations. Ironically, it is those same poppy fields that fund most of those organizations that the U.S. is at war with; which is the lesser of two evils, strength in numbers or strength in funding? "Afghanistan is seen as a crucial area of cooperation for the United States and Russia, in large part because of Russia’s crippling heroin problem. The authorities here estimate that 30,000 young Russians die every year from drug use. Mr. Ivanov said that 90 percent of Russian addicts used Afghan heroin, which flows into the country freely over the "virtual borders” it shares with central Asian neighbors", reports the NYT. Ivanov's proposal is that the United States eradicate the poppy fields, then channel some of their anti-drug campaign money to plant wheat in the Afghan fields.
I find myself sympathetic towards Ivanov's cause and I believe that this is a global problem which needs a global answer. Afghanistan has very little control of their country as is evident by the Taliban stronghold; furthermore, they have no control over the production of Opium and many countries are suffering as a result. Afghanistan needed the worlds help to remove the insurgencies, it stands to reason they will need help eradicating this very serious heroin problem. It's a real "Catch 22"! We cannot ignore this anymore than Russia can and I believe cooperation is necessary if a solution is going to be found. Neither, Afghanistan, nor the United States agree with aerial eradication at this point in time; they believe the effects will cripple the country more than it will help. While Afghanistan worries about where it would be without Poppys, the world is trying to figure out how to keep heroin out of their own countries.