In recent years, Russia and NATO have run a school for Afghan antidrug police in the Moscow-region town of Domodedovo, turning out hundreds of graduates. But despite that cooperation, experts say Moscow is increasingly dubious about NATO's ability to impose order in Afghanistan, and may be seeking ways to expand its influence in Central Asia against the day the United States decides to leave. Some analysts suggest that the Kremlin's recent backing of a coup in Kyrgyzstan could be a sign of more assertive behavior to come.
"The former Soviet states of central Asia are our own backyard," says Tatiana Parkhalina, director of the independent Center for European Security in Moscow. "Moscow doesn't want to stand by while the Taliban and terrorist networks convert the financial resources from drug trafficking into arms and political influence... There is a practical alliance taking shape between drug traffickers and terrorists, and it is a very big threat."
More heroin addicts?
Ivanov says there are now at least 2 million heroin addicts in Russia, but other experts claim the number is higher. "The inflow of drugs from Afghanistan via Central Asia into Russia is increasing exponentially, as is consumption," says Stanislav Belkovsky, president of the Kremlin-connected Institute of National Strategy. "The only thing Ivanov exaggerates is the will and ability of the state to struggle against this threat."