BRUSSELS, April 02. /ITAR-TASS/. NATO-Russia cooperation projects on Afghanistan have been suspended until June, as have other forms of interaction with the Russian Federation, a NATO leadership representative said on the sidelines of the NATO ministerial conference on Wednesday.
These include the cargo transit project for NATO forces through Russian territory and the training of drug police for Afghanistan and technicians for maintenance of the country's helicopter fleet which mostly comprises Soviet- and Russian-made equipment, the NATO official said.
He acknowledged that the suspension of cooperation with Russia made the alliance look for alternatives to the northern route of supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan, amid increased transportation of withdrawing troops due to end this year.
The official downplayed the measure saying it was not critical for the alliance which would use southern roads through Pakistan.
NATO will also consider options to provide a maintenance base for Afghan helicopters.
Different interpretations of the NATO Council's statement on Russia, published on Tuesday evening, appeared after NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen's news conference. The statement said the alliance was suspending "all practical civilian and military cooperation," yet political dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council could continue.
Rasmussen said he was hoping for continuing cooperation with Russia on Afghanistan, in which both sides were equally interested. NATO representatives and diplomats on Wednesday explained that Rasmussen had spoken in general sense, from the point of view of long-term prospects.
The foreign ministers of the 28 NATO states agreed on the next meeting in June to review relations with Russia in the context of the Ukrainian crisis. Russia has already made it clear that suspension of cooperation with NATO was disadvantageous to either side noting however that it will not impact Russia's security.
Training programs for Afghan drug police
On Wednesday, head of Russia’s Federal Service for Drug Circulation Viktor Ivanov said he believed that Russia would be able to train Afghan drug policemen without NATO.
“We have been proposing already for five years that an official of the Russian drug watchdog should work in the Russia-NATO Council to orchestrate the work. Our proposal is denied. Meanwhile, we want to co-operate. We [Russia] are training drug police in Afghanistan ourselves. But does this make sense to organize this work in Russia-NATO format? We do not need this logo,” Ivanov said on Wednesday.
Russia has repeatedly voiced concern over a drug threat coming from Afghanistan that had been growing for a decade of NATO command over the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the country. The Russian drug watchdog estimates drug transit supplies from Afghanistan at 80 billion dollars annually. According to the drug watchdog’s chief, Afghanistan produces 150 billion doses of heroin every year and other three thousand tonnes of pure heroin are stored at Russian borders. From the start of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 the United Nations Organisation has reported a skyrocketing growth of heroin production in Afghanistan by more than fortyfold. For the last year alone opium poppy crops went up by 36 percent to 209 thousand hectares. “The world and Russia face the heritage of worldwide drug production growing with the connivance of the United States and NATO,” Ivanov said.