Russia may not be in compliance with BWC

A biological weapons expert and annual government declarations have questioned if Russia is in compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention, which entered into force in 1975.

Milton Leitenberg, a senior research scholars with the Center for International Security Studies at the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy, posed the question of Russia's compliance in a recent book. Leitenberg co-wrote the book "The Soviet Biological Weapons Program, A History," with Raymond Zilinskas, Virtual Biosecurity Center reports.

In October, Leitenberg detailed the history of the Soviet Union's biological weapons program. Competition during the Cold War and leaders turning a blind eye to the problem kept the program running long after the U.S. destroyed its stockpiles in 1971 and 1972.

"From 1975 on the Soviet BW program existed in violation of the BWC. The USSR could maintain the violation only through decades of deception and blatant lying," Leitenberg said, according to Virtual Biosecurity Center. "The instrumental forces in the Soviet decision-making structure that were responsible for maintaining the program during this period were a small coterie of scientists at the senior level of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, the 15th Directorate of the General Staff and senior officials of the Military Industrial Commission. If, and when, the program was definitively closed down in the decades after the dissolution of the USSR remains unknown to this day."

Leitenberg said the U.S. is partly to blame for the biological weapons program conducted by the Soviet Union. The U.S. Department of Defense published technical details of BW submissions in 1962 and 1972 in unclassified or declassified reports, which were apparently copied by the Soviet Union. The U.S. also carried out a disinformation campaign starting in 1965 for biological and chemical weapons to mislead Soviet intelligence about how far the U.S. had progressed in their program. The false disinformation efforts weren't stopped until 1971.

Presidents Bush and Clinton both attempted to get the USSR in the 1980s and then Russia in the 1990s to shut down the biological weapons program to no avail.

More than 30 years after the Soviet Union signed the BWC, Leitenberg and the U.S. are still unsure if the country is in compliance with the convention.

"U.S. and EU assistance programs for the conversion of the Biopreparat and Ministry of Agriculture facilities eventually led to access and assurance that they were subsequently performing legitimate civilian research and commercial activities," Leitenberg said, according to Virtual Biosecurity Center. "In addition, no proliferation apparently took place from the Soviet BW program...However, official annual US government declarations continue to question Russian compliance with the BWC, and the three major Ministry of Defense facilities remain closed to this day."

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