Strengthening Biological Weapons Convention requires constructive approach

Ambassador's view
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
© Fabrizio Bensch
Recently, the US Department of State has submitted to Congress its annual Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments.

Among other things, Washington has chosen Moscow as the target for unsubstantiated insinuations and lies on the issue of Russia’s compliance with the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (BWC). It is becoming ever more obvious that regular verbal attacks against Russia are used to distract attention from the unseemly role that the US plays within the BWC context.

The reality is that it is the US who seriously damaged the BWC regime by single-handedly ruining the long-lasting multilateral talks on the supplementary BWC protocol that were about to come to an end. The microbiological activity of the member states under the developed protocol would have been subject to on-site inspections by an independent authority. Having derailed the protocol, the US now complains of having no possibility to verify compliance with the BWC.

However, it has nobody to blame but itself for this, including the fact that it has blocked any constructive attempts to step up specific work within the framework of the BWC since 2001.
Against this background, the international community witnesses the Pentagon’s dangerous microbiological activities.

The US Department of Defense has been mailing live anthrax spores all over the world for years. Far from being accidental, this occurred on 195 occasions and reached 12 different countries. As a result, not only US citizens but also populations in other countries were exposed to lethal danger. Until now, the scale of these violations has not been revealed or explained, including the real purpose of the Defense Department’s spore-producing “industrial facilities” and the reason for distributing them to US military bases overseas.

For a further example, 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, a high-level bio-safety laboratory was built in Georgia, with Washington and Tbilisi making efforts to conceal the true content and focus of this military unit’s activities. The Pentagon is also trying to introduce similar undercover military medical-biological facilities to other CIS countries.

While accusing developing countries of a lack of progress in implementing the BWC at the national level, the US has consistently kept intact its own laws, which run counter to its international commitments. These include, in particular, reserving the right, in the 1925 Geneva Protocol, to retaliate with chemical or toxin weapons and presidential Executive Order 11850 enabling US armed forces to use “nonlethal” chemical or toxin weapons as warfare agents. Particularly flagrant is applying the 2001 Patriot Act to actually endorse the development of biological weapons with governmental assent.

In the meantime, Russia, along with a few other states, is busy trying to launch multilateral negotiations aimed at strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention as a tool of mutual security. Our US partners should constructively engage in these efforts, instead of judging others and making unsubstantiated allegations.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.