U.S. and Russia Experts Team Up to Battle Afghan Narcotrafficking

A discussion among meeting participants.Doug Wankel, managing partner, International Programs, SGI Global; Enayat Qasimi, partner, Whiteford, Taylor & Preston LLP; Ekaterina Stepanova , head, Peace and Conflict Studies Unit, Institute of the World Economy and International Relations.The full working group on Day One. Konstantin Sorokin, adviser, Department of Education and Science, International Training and Methodology Centre for Financial Monitoring Yuri Tsarik, head of Supervisory Board (GR Director) at Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies, BelarusIvan Safranchuk, associate professor, Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO); David Firestein, Perot Fellow and vice president, Strategic Trust-Building Initiative and Track 2 Diplomacy, EastWest InstituteSenyo Agbohlah, project coordinator, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Country Office for Afghanistan;  David Mansfield, independent socio-economist, advisor on policy and operational issues with regard to illicit drugs in Afghanistan.

Early in October an unprecedented meeting took place in Moscow as a direct result of Carnegie Corporation’s grant to the EastWest Institute for its work on narcotrafficking in Afghanistan.  What distinguishes this grant is the fact that it is a U.S.-Russia working group with full bilateral representation as well as the first five-way meeting between sitting officials from the United States, Russia, Afghanistan, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The group agreed that the U.S.-Russia bilateral format has proven very effective and necessary during this challenging time in U.S.-Russia relations.

During the three-day meeting, the working group discussed ways the United States, Russia and other key stakeholders can combat financial flows generated by the Afghan narcotics trade. For the first time in history, the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and the Federal Drug Control Service of the Russian Federation (FSKN) met bilaterally on the topic of demand reduction, and the EastWest Institute facilitated side discussions between the two agencies about possible future cooperation, including in multilateral settings. The group also formulated a consensus report and policy assessment that will lay out members’ joint outlook on U.S.-Russia relations and the Afghan narcotics situation in the current international context.  

Working group members devoted time to reflecting on the journey they have taken to build consensus over the past four years on the threats posed by Afghan narcotrafficking, measures for better securing and managing Afghanistan’s borders, and the impact of the 2014 ISAF troop withdrawal on the security and stability of Afghanistan. They agreed that the consensus-building process has become smoother with each report as members strengthened internal rapport, trust, and understanding. There was also general agreement that the group’s potential for impact is high at this time when the rupture in U.S.-Russia relations is significant enough to benefit from the involvement of backchannel, non-government communications but not so complete that cooperation or communication is impossible.