“RUSSIA REMAINS A LARGE COUNTRY to be reckoned with, even though the Soviet Union’s disintegration diminished its international weight. With the larger part of the Soviet Union’s western regions becoming independent states, Russia’s eastern regions and the eastern vector of its foreign policies acquired much more importance.
Today, Russia should pay particular attention to Central Asia and the southern sector from which strategic threats emanate. The Russian Federation has no serious enemies among the largest states (a unique situation!) wishing to destroy it or, at least, undermine its might. If certain, not quite adequate, rulers of neighboring states (still fighting “Soviet expansionism”) develop similar ambitions they will soon discover that this is beyond their power.
This should not be taken to mean that there are no serious threats to Russia’s security or even its continued existence; today, these threats come not from states but from transnatioanl movements, ideologies and organizations which preach them. The most dangerious of them are born in the south, in the AfPak knot: terrorism fed by radical Islamism, huge flows of drugs which (according to sources) have already turned about 5 million Russians into drug addicts. In some regions of Russia the ideology of radical Islamism stimulates the majority (but not all) terrorist groups and inspires extremist and separatist movements.
On the whole, the ISAF’s continued presence in Afghanistan suits Russia’s interests: Afghanistan is the main source of threats, terrorism and drugs in the first place. According to the Frederal Drug Control Service of the RF, Afghanistan produces 800 tons of heroin every year, 35% of which is used in Russia, where the number of drug addicts is great and continues to grow. A victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan will create a serious threat of radical Islamism spreading to Central Asia and further on to Russia.
In ten years of the anti-Taliban operation, the areas under opium poppy increased by about 40 times. This happened not because the U.S. plans to channel drugs to Russia to capitalize on the results (another myth popular among “patriots”) but because the ISAF prefers to act cautiously. Afghan peasants live on opium poppy which means that once deprived of the only sources of subsistence they will side with the Taliban. This explains Russia’s policy: while insisting that the struggle against drugs should become more resolute it helps in many ways (exept direct military assistance) the counterterrorist coalition. The ills of Afghanistan (drug trafficking being one of them) can be cured by concerted efforts needed to raise the standard of living; the peasants should be offered alternative sources of subsistence while the Afghan leaders should be helped in their efforts to build up an effective state system. ……