Expert Tells Congress He ‘Presumes’ Russia Has Biological Arms Program

Global Security Newswire Staff
See more stories about...
Global Security Newswire Staff
May 9, 2014, 9:24 a.m.

A U.S. re­search­er on Wed­nes­day told a House pan­el that he “pre­sumes” Rus­sia has an act­ive bio­lo­gic­al weapons pro­gram, Time magazine re­por­ted.

Milton Leiten­berg, a Uni­versity of Mary­land seni­or schol­ar fo­cus­ing on bio­lo­gic­al arms, told the House For­eign Af­fairs Sub­com­mit­tee on Europe that Rus­sia does not per­mit out­side in­spec­tions of three of its sci­entif­ic fa­cil­it­ies. As a res­ult, he said it is not pos­sible to know the cur­rent status of the coun­try’s bio­lo­gic­al weapons pro­gram.

“We don’t know what they’re do­ing,” the arms con­trol spe­cial­ist said. “They may or may not have an act­ive of­fens­ive pro­gram — I pre­sume they do.”

Leiten­berg noted that the U.S. gov­ern­ment does not as­sess Rus­sia to be “pro­du­cing and stock­pil­ing [bio­lo­gic­al] agent any more.”

With the fall of the So­viet Uni­on, Rus­sia as­sumed con­trol of much of its bio­lo­gic­al weapons-re­lated in­fra­struc­ture. Mo­scow says it does not re­tain a bio­lo­gic­al ar­sen­al and is not con­duct­ing any re­search in­to of­fens­ive uses for patho­gens. However, a 2012 es­say by Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin raised con­cerns that he fore­sees the de­vel­op­ment of a new class of bio­lo­gic­al arms made to be ex­tra po­tent through ge­net­ic modi­fic­a­tion.

Rus­sia’s re­cent in­cur­sion in­to Ukraine has caused ten­sions with the West to spike to their highest point since the end of the Cold War. With the up­tick in ten­sions, old wor­ries have re­turned about Rus­sia’s weapons of mass de­struc­tion cap­ab­il­it­ies.

Mo­scow is a mem­ber of the Bio­lo­gic­al Weapons Con­ven­tion. However the BWC ac­cord does not have a mech­an­ism for en­sur­ing that sig­nat­or­ies are in com­pli­ance with the treaty’s pro­hib­i­tion against the cre­ation, pro­duc­tion and pos­ses­sion of leth­al patho­gens — such as small­pox and an­thrax strains — that have been mod­i­fied so they can be dis­sem­in­ated on a large scale.

Amy Smith­son, a seni­or fel­low with the James Mar­tin Cen­ter for Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Stud­ies, said it is feas­ible to find out about a na­tion’s po­ten­tial bio­lo­gic­al weapon activ­it­ies even without an en­force­ment mech­an­ism in the treaty. She poin­ted to the ef­forts of U.N. weapon in­spect­ors in Ir­aq after the first Gulf War, which res­ul­ted in Bagh­dad be­ing forced to ac­know­ledge its work on chem­ic­al and bio­lo­gic­al arms.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
23 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.

Source:
×