Opium of the masses – part 2

Linked with Eric Walberg – Canada.

Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, part 2, by Eric Walberg, 29 May – June 04, 2008.

Read also part 1.

… Russia and the CSTO continue to confront US indifference to this nightmare, and have initiated an aid and military assistance programme for Afghanistan, which includes training Afghan anti- narcotic police. At the SCO summit in Kyrgyzstan last August, a draft plan was unveiled to work with the CSTO to create an “anti-narcotics belt” around Afghanistan.

Is all this part of some conspiracy by the US? From the Russians’ point of view, it certainly looks that way. US refusal to address the Russians’ complaints seriously just might be because Afghanistan’s opium requires secure routes to markets in Europe. A few conversations with US troops and/or mercenaries there strongly suggest they are not there for altruistic reasons. Cui bono?

No wonder Putin has reacted out more and more as Russia wakes up to the reality of what the US is up to. The Russians might have been wise to take their Soviet-era propaganda a bit more seriously before it was too late. “The Americans are working hard to keep narco business flourishing in both countries,” says Mikhail Khazin, president of the consultancy firm Niakon. “They consistently destroy the local infrastructure, pushing the local population to look for illegal means of subsistence. And the CIA provides protection to drug trafficking.” In March 2002, he told NewsMax.com, “the CIA did almost the identical thing during the Vietnam War, which had catastrophic consequences – the increase in the heroin trade in the US beginning in the 1970s is directly attributable to the CIA.”

While originally backing the Tajik Northern Alliance that the US used to oust the Taliban and install Hamid Karzai as president, Russia soon began to regret allowing it to secure such a strong political foothold in what is clearly its own geopolitical backyard. When US-inspired “colour revolutions” brought down governments in Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Ukraine, and as eastern Europe and the Baltics flocked to join NATO, the backlash against the US strengt heed.

So the Russians are in a very different position with respect to Afghanistan a quarter century on, a much, much worse one. One that they can with much justification point their finger at the US for causing. Yet while their cooperation with the US and NATO has soured considerably since 9/11, they are still leaving open the possibility of working together to stabilise Afghanistan and facilitate reconstruction — the Soviet debt was cancelled this year, leading the way for greater assistance, and at the NATO conference in Bucharest in April, Russia’s new ambassador to NATO, Dmitri Rogozin, offered to accelerate transport of materiel to Afghanistan from Europe.

Moscow-based political analyst Fred Weir told Al-Ahram Weekly, “Russia is eking out a niche in the world order as a kind of good cop to the US’s bad cop, as seen in its positions on Iran, North Korea and the Middle East.” However, its raison d’être is not just to placate the US, but to deal with its neighbours sensibly. It has been negotiating a rail route through Afghanistan to Iran and the Indian Ocean. President Dmitri Medvedev’s first official visit was to China.

Ambassador Kabulov warned in a BBC Persian language service interview: “we see the military presence of armed forces of the United States of America and NATO in Afghanistan just in the framework of our common campaign against terrorism. As long as this presence goes on for this end, we have no concern. But if the military presence is for other political or economic gains in Afghanistan and in the region, this certainly and definitely will cause special concerns”. (full text).

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