At the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, President Dmitry Medvedev renewed the offer to make Russian rail lines available for the transportation of non-military material from Europe to Afghanistan and vice versa.

On 5 April 2012, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, soon to become Russian Ambassador to NATO, said in an interview with Ria Novosti that the cargo will be governed by a new protocol. Under this agreement, it will be subject to searches by Russian drug control services.

Afghan heroin use has become a major public health problem in Europe, in general, and Russia, in particular. This country has become the world’s largest consumer. To date, two million Russians between the ages of 18 and 39 years are regular users. The drug causes over 30,000 deaths per year and promotes the spread of HIV at a rate the country has never seen before, according to a UNODC report [1].

In the past, top Russian officials in the fight against drug trafficking explicitly pointed the finger at NATO’s responsibility in the heroin trade from Afghanistan, having gone so far as to take the matter to the UN Security Council [2].

Alexander Grushko’s announcement and his appointment as Permanent Representative to NATO mark Vladimir Putin’s official return to the helm. The President-elect considers that Russian is the target of a true "heroin aggression" and has included the fight against this scourge among the priorities of his new presidential term.

At the time the rail transportation agreement was signed, officials close to Putin had indicated off microphone that in exchange for the right of passage for NATO cargoes, Medvedev was being paid a bribe of 1 billion dollars per year, financed with money from Afghan drugs.

See also : “Afghanistan: Opium, the CIA and the Karzai Aministration”, by Peter Dale Scott, Voltaire Network}, 13 December 2010.

[1"UNODC reveals devastating impact of Afghan opium," by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 21 October 2009.

[2"Poppy cultivation: Russia lambastes NATO”, Voltaire Network, 5 March 2010.