Russia Questions Peaceful Nature of US Biological Research

Russia Questions Peaceful Nature of US Biological Research

On September 1, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke in front of the students of Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), an academic institution run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia. Dubbed the «Harvard of Russia» by Henry Kissinger, it is widely considered the most elite university in the country, which educates Russia's political, economic, and intellectual elite.

In his remarks Lavrov said Russia is concerned over the US refusal to negotiate monitoring of biological weapons. According to him, the refusal leads to the conclusion that the US may be involved in biological research for military purposes. This is not the first time Russia expressed its concern over the US covert activities conducted in violation of international law.

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction, commonly known as the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) or Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), opened for signature in 1972 and entered into force in 1975.

The Convention effectively prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, retention, stockpiling and use of biological and toxin weapons and is a key element in the international community’s efforts to address the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The BWC has 175 States Parties as of September 2016.

The BWC does not currently have compliance details as none were included when it was formulated during the Cold War. Since then, nations have been negotiating to agree on a way to implement the Convention ban. Negotiations towards an internationally binding verification protocol to the BWC took place between 1995 and 2001 in a forum known as the Ad Hoc Group. The microbiological activity of the member states under the developed protocol would have been subject to on-site inspections by an independent authority. In 2001, the US refused to sign up. It has not changed its stance since then. Due to the refusal of the US to approve the verification mechanisms, the effectiveness of the BWC is questioned.

Recent developments have raised concerns that the US may be pursuing research that is outlawed by the BWC. Such concerns are expressed in the Russian Federation’s National Security Strategy. The document lists biological weapons as primary threats to Russia.

In February, 2008, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released report GAO-08-366 titled, «Chemical and Biological Defense, DOD and VA Need to Improve Efforts to Identify and Notify Individuals Potentially Exposed during Chemical and Biological Tests».

The report stated that tens of thousands of military personnel and civilians may have been exposed to biological and chemical substances through DOD tests. In 2004, the DOD reported it had identified 5,842 military personnel and estimated 350 civilians as being potentially exposed during the testing known as Project 112.

Many reports from different sources keep on saying the US is developing a new generation of weapons that undermine and possibly violate international treaties on biological and chemical warfare. 

The Defense Department has been continuously expanding worldwide its military biological infrastructure. These facilities have sprung up in many countries, and in recent years they are being created increasingly closer to Russian borders. For instance, the US Richard G. Lugar Public Health Research Center in Tbilisi is actually a high level biological research laboratory overseen by the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

The Central reference Laboratory near Almaty, Kazakhstan, is to become operational this month according to the Cooperative Biological Engagement Program led by the US Department of Defense. There is another smaller US-controlled lab at a military base in the town of Otar in western Kazakhstan on the Caspian Sea.

In 2013 a Chinese Air Force officer accused the US government of creating the new strain of bird flu now afflicting parts of China as a biological warfare attack. People’s Liberation Army Senior Colonel Dai Xu said the United States released the H7N9 bird flu virus into China in an act of biological warfare.

«At that time, America was fighting in Iraq and feared that China would take advantage of the opportunity to take other actions», he said.

«This is why they used bio-psychological weapons against China. All of China fell into turmoil and that was exactly what the United States wanted. Now, the United States is using the same old trick. China should have learned its lesson and should calmly deal with the problem».

Ukraine is of particular interest to the US military. The Mechnikov Anti-Plague Research Institute in Odessa. In 2013 alone, US-sponsored biolaboratories were opened in Vinnitsa, Ternopil, Uzhhorod, Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, Simferopol in Crimea, Kherson, Lviv and Lugansk.

In April 2011, a Central Reference Laboratory supported by the US Department of Defense Cooperative Biological Engagement Program (CBEP) was inaugurated in Azerbaijan.

The practice of using such facilities in other countries shows they operate outside of national control. The secrecy is tight and quite often the laboratories are managed by former military or special services officials.

The illegal biological research activities is part of the process aimed arms control erosion. It began with the United States withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. It has not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) 20 years after it was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996. The United States is in violation of the 2000 Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA).

Russia and the US agreed to transparently dispose of weapons-grade plutonium, thereby preventing it from being reused for military purposes.

The US Congress is debating the possibility to kill the Open Skies Treaty.

The United States is in clear violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) by deploying in Romania and Poland Mk-41 Aegis Ashore launchers capable of firing ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs).

The violation of the BSW is just part of the picture. With the US taking one step after another to undermine the arms control regime puts into jeopardy the entire system of international security. Hopefully, a new US president will be wise enough to realize it’s time to turn the tide before it’s too late.