Russia’s top drug enforcement official, Viktor Ivanov, will press the U.S. to step up efforts to destroy Afghan poppy cultivation, which he said was feeding a devastating drug problem in Russia, reports the New York Times. The request comes just as U.S. policymakers have swung sharply away from Bush-era programs to eradicate the opium poppy crop, which is used to produce heroin. The Obama administration's special envoy for Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, has said poppy eradication had alienated poor farmers and was “driving people into the hands of the Taliban.”
Ivanov, a trusted adviser to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, said yesterday that eradication programs had failed in Afghanistan because they were too weak, and that the U.S. should apply the more muscular methods it used recently in Colombia, where vast coca fields were sprayed aerially with the herbicide glyphosate. Afghanistan is seen as a crucial area of cooperation for the U.S. and Russia, in large part because of Russia's crippling heroin problem. An estimated 30,000 Russians die every year from drug use.