China Power

China, Russia Tackle Drugs

Concerned about the flow of Afghan narcotics, China and Russia are increasingly working together.

Following is a guest entry by Diplomat columnist Richard Weitz looking at co-operation between China and Russia on their counter-drug trafficking efforts.


I recently had the chance to speak with Viсtor P. Ivanov, director of the Russian Federal Drug Control Service, while he was in Washington for the most recent meeting of the Counter Narcotics Working Group of the US-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission. Ivanov had some interesting things to say about recent co-operation between Russia and China on tackling drug trafficking, a problem Hu Jintao in June equated to the ‘three evil forces’ of terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism that have traditionally preoccupied the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation.

The Commission promotes bilateral governmental cooperation on law enforcement, drug treatment and prevention, intelligence sharing and money laundering linked to drug trafficking activities. The working group is co-chaired by Ivanov and Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske.But Russia has also worked with China and Central Asian governments within the SCO to combat Asian drugs trafficking.

SCO member governments include China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, as well as four formally designated observer countries—India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan. In the annual SCO leadership summit in June, Hu joined the leaders of Russia and other Central Asian governments in making clear Beijing’s alarm about the Afghan narcotics problem.

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One reason that Russia has become increasingly supportive of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan is due to concerns regarding the export of Afghan narcotics into Russia and other countries. Some 90 percent of the world’s opium supply originates in Afghanistan, and although the flow of illicit Afghan drugs to Russia and European countries is well known, much of Afghanistan’s narcotics exports flow eastward to various Asian countries, including Iran and China.

During his main speech to the SCO, Hu called for enhanced intelligence sharing, stronger border controls, increased joint law enforcement efforts, and other cooperative measures to combat drug trafficking and other transnational crimes within Eurasia.

In response to the question, ‘How do you assess the cooperation between Russia and Central Asian countries with China in combating narcotics?’ Ivanov told me:

‘We’ve reached an agreement with China—with Meng Jianzhu, the Minister of Public Security—to meet annually at the highest level. In addition, at the deputy level we hold meetings on cross-border cooperation because, many synthetic drugs and psychoactive substances go from China to Russia.

‘Here our cooperation is quite specific. In addition, we’ve intensified our work on information sharing and collaboration in interdicting narcotics trafficking from Afghanistan into the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. As you know, separatist movements exist there. There were serious disturbances a year ago, during which many people perished.’

All this means that Russia and China will likely deepen their cooperation regarding Afghan narcotics in the coming years as NATO forces withdraw their combat forces from Central Asia.