Determined to make a fresh start in relations between the U.S. and Russia, Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev created, in July 2009, the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission. Its purpose is to improve coordination between the two countries, to advance our highest priority objectives and pursue joint projects and actions that strengthen strategic stability, international security, economic well-being, and the development of ties between the Russian and American people.
The Commission’s 18 working groups address areas where the U.S. and Russia face common challenges and share interests.
One area in which the Commission has realized unprecedented success is in counternarcotics. Illegal narcotics trafficking is a serious problem facing both countries. In the 1990s, drug syndicates began to operate on a global scale, finding new markets in Eastern Europe, Russia, and other Former Soviet Republics. These syndicates employed sophisticated technology and financial savvy, making international cooperation among law enforcement agencies even more crucial to effective drug enforcement.
To combat this growing threat, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, joined forces with a number of Russian agencies, such as the Russian Customs Service and the Russian Federal Drug Control Service, or FSKN. Working together during several large-scale operations, we have dismantled a cocaine drug smuggling channel from Florida to St. Petersburg and intercepted codeine tablets, cocaine, syringes, vials and other supplies smuggled from Vladivostok for distribution throughout the Florida-Louisiana region.
Our growing bilateral cooperation has also helped improve collaboration with other international partners. In October, the U.S and Russia supported Afghan-led efforts to seize over one ton of heroin in Afghanistan.
The DEA and the FSKN are also working jointly with their Central Asian counterparts to disrupt the smuggling of Afghan opiates through Central Asia. In particular, these agencies are focusing on targeting the financial aspects of drug trafficking.
To better share its know-how, in early 2010, the DEA hosted two workshops for Russian agents: one in Moscow and one in Florida and Louisiana, marking the first time that FSKN agents and DEA participated together in joint training activities.
"What we must do is not only interdict drugs at the source countries, [but] also interdict them as they attempt to come into our borders," said Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske. "This is a global issue."
And it is a threat, one that must be addressed through close cooperation.