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Diplomacy in Action

Overview of the U.S.-Russian Bilateral Presidential Commission's Counternarcotics Working Group

FPC Briefing
Gil Kerlikowske
Director, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy
Viktor Ivanov, Director, Federal Drug Control Service of the Russian Federation (FSKN)
Foreign Press
Washington, DC
October 21, 2010


Date: 10/21/2010 Description: Gil Kerlikowske (right), Director, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and Viktor Ivanov, Director, Federal Drug Control Service of the Russian Federation give an overview of the U.S. - Russian Bilateral Presidential Commission's Counternarcotics Working Group at the Washington Foreign Press Center. - State Dept Image

12:15 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Hello and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Today we have Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and Viktor Ivanov, director of the Federal Drug Control Service of the Russian Federation. They are here to discuss an overview of the U.S.-Russian Bilateral Presidential Commission’s Counternarcotics Working Group.

First, there will be a signing ceremony, then they will make remarks, and then it will be open to questions and answers. If you would like to ask any questions in Russian, I ask that you first present your question in English for the purpose of the transcript and then you can ask it again in Russian. Thank you.

MR. KERLIKOWSKE: Thank you. Let me just make a few very brief remarks about this commission that has gone on now for well over a year. It has been an important step forward, and as President Obama had very much agreed with President Medvedev on resetting relations. And an important component of resetting the relations has been in the area of drug trafficking. And very quickly, I think out of all of the different commissions that were put together as a result of our two presidents meeting, we moved the fastest. We organized, we understood the importance and gravity of the drug situation as it affects both of our countries. And we also very clearly recognize the importance of having a balanced approach when it came to dealing with the drug problem in both of our countries.

We understand very clearly that this is a global issue, and that the importance of what we must do is to not only interdict drugs at the source countries, to also interdict them as they attempt to come into our borders, that we have to work very closely together and cooperate on this global threat. We have to be in a position to use all of the legal resources to arrest the narcotics traffickers and the transporters to be able to go after their assets and attack the financiers. But also, very importantly, we recognize the importance of preventing young people in both of our countries from becoming involved in drugs. And that’s an important role and an important aspect that we both take very seriously and see the future of our countries being dependent on people who are well educated and not involved in drugs.

And we also recognize the importance that – for those people that have succumbed to drug addiction and drug use – that we have to have treatment programs. Treatment programs are not as costly as incarceration. And frankly, just incarcerating drug addicts is not helpful to them, it isn’t helpful to their families or communities, and we need to very much understand that rehabilitating a drug addict so that he or she can be back as a productive citizen taking care of their families and back in their community is of importance.

All of this means that we have worked very closely to develop a very comprehensive way of these two countries learning from each other and working together to combat this global drug threat in a way that is balanced and comprehensive and also provides a path forward for making progress in a problem that has been with us for many, many years, and has been very difficult to deal with. Thank you.

MR. IVANOV: (In Russian.)

MODERATOR: Okay. With that, we’ll open it up to questions. Please wait for the microphone and state your name and media organization.

QUESTION: Alexander Pakhomov, TASS News Agency.

MODERATOR: Please ask your question in English first.

QUESTION: In English, okay.

MODERATOR: You can repeat it in Russian after.

QUESTION: Okay. It is known that there are two different positions of Russia and American on eradication – on the problem of eradication of opium crops in Afghanistan. Did you manage after three meetings of your working groups to narrow somehow this difference?

Should I repeat in Russian?

MODERATOR: You can repeat in Russian if you prefer.

QUESTION: (In Russian.)

MODERATOR: Is your question to both the directors?

QUESTION: Yes, to both.

MODERATOR: Okay.

MR. KERLIKOWSKE: From the beginning, the reduction of opium being manufactured through the drug laboratories, the amount of poppy being grown in Afghanistan, has been a significant part of our discussion. And you’re absolutely correct; the eradication, the spraying issue, is one that has been discussed.

We have seen a reduction in poppy. We have seen a clear focus on going after the drug laboratories and also stopping the precursor chemicals. The position of the United States Government when it comes to spraying poppy fields is one in which that country, the country of Afghanistan, would make a decision about spraying. And so we do not unilaterally, either as the United States Government or as the ISAF forces, make that decision.

All that being said, reducing the amount of poppy, reducing it, going to alternative crops, reducing the laboratories, is an important issue for us. And we are very much, I believe, aligned on that goal.

MR. IVANOV: (In Russian.)

MODERATOR: Next question. Andrei, if you can ask your question in English first, and maybe the answer could also be translated.

QUESTION: I’ll try to do both. Andrei Sitov from TASS, the Russian news agency. I wanted to ask Mr. Kerlikowske to respond to this idea of listing the landlords and fighting the problem this way, but I also wanted to ask you, sir, if the two sides work together in any other third countries such as Kyrgyzstan, for instance. Does your office – does the U.S. DEA maybe have work – counterdrug work in Kyrgyzstan?

And for Mr. Ivanov, my question would be about, I guess, drug addicts anonymous or something in terms of treating the drug addiction. I understand Mr. Ivanov mentioned the cost of the issue, but I understand that in the U.S. the big way of approaching this is – costs nothing, it’s social movements, so to speak – the drug addictions.

(In Russian.)

MR. KERLIKOWSKE: So the first part is that in our discussions, we certainly talk about the other countries. The Drug Enforcement Administration, which is part of the Department of Justice, is our lead agency for that. They are the most forwardly deployed organization, American law enforcement organization, in the world. They have more agents overseas and more offices overseas than any other American law enforcement agency. And so I believe that the relationship between the DEA and the FSKN is fruitful and very productive.

And if you could help me remember what your first part about the landlords --

QUESTION: Landlords.

MR. KERLIKOWSKE: I think that we all agree that we have to choke off the money from the drug cartels, that seizing the assets – seizing the drugs and making the arrests is only one part of the problem. And so if going after the landlords would be productive in helping to choke off that money, I believe that would be helpful.

That said, I think we also have to clearly understand that recordkeeping about who owns land, et cetera, in Afghanistan is not as robust as in other countries.

QUESTION: And Kyrgyzstan? Does the U.S. (inaudible)?

MR. KERLIKOWSKE: Our relationship and talking about all of these countries and the work of the FSKN with the Drug Enforcement Administration certainly involves the other Asian countries also.

MR. IVANOV: (In Russian.)

MODERATOR: Okay, there’s time for one last question. We’ll go with Maria.

QUESTION: Maria Tabak, Ria Novosti News Agency. Mr. Ivanov, you used to say that the American idea of drug courts would be very interesting for Russia. Could you list any particular aspects that Russia will be especially interested in?

(In Russian.)

MR. IVANOV: (In Russian.)

MODERATOR: With that, this briefing is concluded. Thank you all for attending.