Narcotics use is wreaking havoc in Russia, responsible for 30,000 annual deaths and 200 new HIV infections every day. But Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin is letting knee-jerk hostility toward the United States cloud its response to the drug-trafficking crisis. Not only is Russia reluctant to go along with a Washington-designed anti-trafficking blueprint, Moscow is believed to be leaning on Central Asian states not to cooperate either.
Back in July 2011, Washington unveiled its so-called Central Asia Counter-narcotics Initiative (CACI) to battle drug traffickers throughout the region and reduce the volume of drugs being exported out of Afghanistan. The plan would specifically promote the sharing of information, while striving to build up the capacity of indigenous Central Asian anti-drug agencies. For the past 18 months the initiative hasn’t been able to gain traction, although American officials insist the offer is still on the table and no country has refused to participate outright.
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Chris Rickleton is a Bishkek-based journalist.