187 STC 11 E rev. 1 final - COUNTERING BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL THREATS: THE WAY FORWARD
DAVID SCOTT (UNITED STATES), GENERAL RAPPORTEUR
II. THE INTERNATIONAL GOVERNANCE FRAMEWORK FOR BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL WEAPONS
III. THE CURRENT STATE OF ARMS CONTROL, DISARMAMENT AND NONPROLIFERATION EFFORTS
IV. CRISIS RESPONSES TO BIOLOGICAL OR CHEMICAL INCIDENTS
V. CONCLUSION: SOME TENTATIVE WAYS FORWARD
1. In recent years, international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation efforts regarding weapons of mass destruction (WMD) have once again gained momentum. NATO, for its part, reiterated its commitment to these efforts in the new Strategic Concept adopted in Lisbon in November 2010. Seeking security at the lowest possible level of forces, “[a]rms control, disarmament and non-proliferation contribute to peace, security and stability, and should ensure undiminished security for all Alliance members.” NATO will thus “continue to play [its] part in reinforcing arms control and in promoting disarmament of both conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction, as well as non-proliferation efforts.”
2. Most of the renewed attention has focused on nuclear and radiological threats. However important this agenda is, it has somewhat diminished interest in the other two categories of WMD: biological and chemical weapons. With concern high over the nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea, this is certainly understandable. Nevertheless, further arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation steps concerning biological and chemical weapons must be taken, in particular because the likelihood of biological and chemical agents falling into the hands of terrorist groups is arguably higher. Indeed, international, national and private-sector measures aimed at stemming proliferation of such materials struggle to keep up with the rapid advances in the life sciences. This year’s Seventh Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) in December 2011 marks an especially important opportunity to rethink and reinforce the international regime governing biological agents.
3. In modern warfare, chemical weapons were deployed for the first time in World War I, and biological weapons just before World War II. Today, the possession and use of these weapons is highly regulated under international law. The Geneva Protocol of 1925 prohibits the use of either in warfare, and possession is further regulated by the 1972 BWC and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). While there is near-universal adherence to the CWC, the BWC is unfortunately less widely accepted. Several key nations including Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, North Korea and Syria have either not signed or not yet brought both treaties fully into force.
4. Generally, chemical weapons are the easiest type of WMD to produce or acquire, but since they dissipate fairly quickly, they are potentially less catastrophic, depending on circumstances, than biological, nuclear and radiological weapons. They proliferated widely in the 20th century and were deployed in a number of conflicts, from World War I to the North Yemen Civil War of the 1960s to the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. Eradication efforts after the Cold War have been a success story, but many experts argue that the CWC must still be adapted to cope with the dynamic challenges of nonproliferation once existing stockpiles have been destroyed. While Russia and the United States are committed to destroying the world’s two largest stockpiles and have made major progress, the destruction is behind schedule and their stockpiles remain significant.
6. For states that cannot compete with regional or global rivals by way of conventional or nuclear weapons, biological and chemical weapons can be seen as asymmetric deterrents. Some countries, including China, Egypt, Israel, North Korea and Syria, are suspected to retain stockpiles or offensive programmes. Others have the capability to move forward quickly with programmes if they so choose. However, the greater danger of use arguably originates from non-state actors, such as terrorist groups. For example, according to US intelligence sources, 15 terrorist groups have demonstrated an interest in biological weapons, although only three have shown commitment to acquiring them for use.1
7. Al-Qaeda has thus far been largely unsuccessful at developing such weapons, despite significant efforts and funds. Still, the threat is very real. For example, according to recent confidential US intelligence assessments and officials, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, operating in Yemen, has over the last year tried to acquire precursor material to produce ricin, a highly lethal toxin. The United States has reportedly followed these developments very closely, but has not received indications of specific plans for an attack.2 However, chemical and biological attacks have taken place in the last two decades, even though the difficulty of producing and using these weapons efficiently meant that relatively few people have been killed. The most lethal chemical attack happened when the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo killed 13 people when it released the chemical agent sarin on the Tokyo subway in 1995. The most lethal biological attack occurred when anthrax spores were sent via mail in the United States in late 2001. This attack only killed five people, but the cost of handling the attack has been estimated at USD 6 billion.3 Also, the threat of terrorists using biological or chemical agents to target agricultural production or food and water supplies should be closely monitored.
8. Given these potential risks to homeland and international security, this General Report thus catalogues the current frameworks governing biological and chemical threats, discusses their potential weaknesses and suggests some ways forward to strengthen the relevant disarmament and non-proliferation regimes. It also turns to the question of crisis response in case of a WMDrelated incident, whether intentional or accidental. Particular attention throughout the report is paid to the interaction between the private and government sectors, as most of the science and technology that would have to be used in the production of biological and chemical weapons is of dual-use nature.
9. This report has been prepared for the Science and Technology Committee (STC) as its 2011 General Report, for the NATO PA Annual Session in Bucharest, Romania. It continues the STC’s undiminished focus on WMD arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation efforts. The report is intended to inform the ongoing debate on such efforts in the STC and the NATO PA as a whole. This also allows members of the Assembly to feed these discussions back into their own national debates. This report has been updated to reflect discussions in the committee meeting at the NATO PA 2011 Spring Session in Varna, Bulgaria as well as relevant developments since then.
II. THE INTERNATIONAL GOVERNANCE FRAMEWORK FOR BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL WEAPONS
10. Biological and chemical weapons date back centuries, albeit in less sophisticated forms, and have been regulated under international law for a long time. Although already prohibited by the 1899 Hague Convention, the use of poisonous gas was widespread in World War I. As a result, the international community came together to sign the Geneva Protocol in 1925. It banned the use in war of asphyxiating or poisonous gas, liquids, materials and devices as well as bacteriological methods of warfare and obligated parties to the protocol to promote universal membership. However, the possession, stockpiling and deploying of weapons were not prohibited. During World War II, the only country to use biological weapons was Japan, dropping ceramic bombs filled with plague agents on Chinese soil. Still, many countries conducted research and built up stockpiles during and after the war. Chemical weapons were not used during World War II, even though a number of countries possessed, developed or researched them.
11. Biological and chemical weapons are, in the main, regulated by the BWC and CWC respectively, but also by additional international measures. The following section lays out these governing frameworks.
A. BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS
12. The 1972 BWC, which entered into force in 1975, bans member countries from developing, acquiring, producing, or stockpiling biological weapons. While the CWC and the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty have near-universality, 33 states have not ratified the BWC, although 13 of those have signed it. Under the convention, countries are still allowed to maintain defence programmes against biological attacks. It must be noted, however, that the knowledge gained and the technology developed in such programmes could potentially be used for malicious purposes.
13. Weaponised biological agents can be divided into several groups. Anti-personnel agents, such as anthrax bacteria, are designed to kill humans. Even though anti-animal agents, such as the recently eradicated cattle plague, usually target livestock, and anti-agriculture agents, such as Agent Orange, are designed to destroy crops, these agents can often also harm humans. Agents can be delivered with advanced technologies such as missiles, but also as simply as powder in a mailed envelope. Aerosol delivery is the most effective method of delivery so far, as most agents – toxins are an exception – are living organisms and are vulnerable to environmental stress. However, this method is also the most complicated and difficult to master. For example, it is difficult to efficiently reduce and separate particles and spores, and, even if released most efficiently, the spread and persistence of biological agents is highly dependent upon weather conditions. Missiles and other warfare munitions are generally ineffective for delivering a biological weapon because the heat of the blast normally kills the organism.
14. There are four types of biological weapons, whose usefulness as weapons vary by virulence, infectiousness, stability and ease of production;
* Bacterial agents, such as those that cause anthrax, can be very resistant in spore form and can thus be effective weapons;
16. The review conferences have led to limited institutionalisation. Since the 1986 Review Conference, politically-binding annual confidence-building measures have been promoted. Seven categories of confidence-building measures exist: exchanges of data and information on a) research centres and laboratories, b) national biological defence research and development programmes as well as c) outbreaks of infectious diseases and similar occurrences caused by toxins; d) active promotion of contacts; declarations of e) legislation, regulations and other measures, f) past activities in offensive and/or defensive biological research and development programmes as well as g) vaccine production facilities. More than 100 countries have submitted measures. Not all, however, do so on an annual basis. Encouragingly, 2010 saw a record-high participation rate, with 70 of the 163 member states submitting measures.
17. The 2006 Review Conference established an Implementation Support Unit at the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs in Geneva. Consisting of a staff of three, it provides support for confidence-building measures, national implementation, efforts to obtain universality as well as administrative support.
18. In the 1990s, states parties began to negotiate a stronger verification mechanism, an integral element for most arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation treaties. However, the US withdrawal of support for a draft protocol in 2001 dealt a major blow to such efforts. At the time, the United States argued that an enforcement mechanism would be counter to US business and biodefence interests and that it would not prevent the proliferation of biological agents suitable for weapons. Still, it is not clear whether a protocol would have been feasible even if the United States did support the protocol, given a host of other problems, such as the dual-use nature of many biotechnologies, i.e. the fact that scientific research and development can be used for both good and malicious purposes, and the wariness of certain states to share information on technology.
19. Despite the absence of strong verification measures, states parties may request formal consultative meetings to address compliance concerns, a mechanism developed during the review conferences. This has been used once in 1996 by Cuba, in order to address its allegation that a US crop-dusting aircraft, on its way to Columbia on a narcotics crop eradication mission, released an insect pest over Cuban territory. Eleven third-party countries submitted written observations: eight concluded that no causal link existed between the flight and the infestation; two concluded that there was not enough evidence; and North Korea found the United States culpable.
20. Western countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and France, destroyed their biological weapon stockpiles several decades ago. However, many countries are in possession of highly contagious biological organisms. They are intended for research purposes, but many could be weaponised and used for malicious purposes if proper safeguards are not in place. Notably, the United States and Russia have delayed destroying their last samples of smallpox after a highly successful worldwide eradication effort. In May 2011, the World Health Organization agreed to postpone destruction until 2014.6 Even though many experts have called for their immediate destruction, proponents of keeping the samples for a longer time argue that they could help researchers in creating vaccines in case smallpox re-emerges and in case it is used as a biological weapon. The United States, for example, vaccinated more than 640,000 soldiers as well as military and civilian health personnel against smallpox in 2002 and 2003 ahead of Operation Iraqi Freedom.7
21. Open-source information on national biological weapons programmes is limited, especially for countries not party to the Convention. At this time, North Korea, a party to the BWC, is thought to possibly have an active offensive biological weapons programme. Israel has not signed the BWC, and while Arab states have charged that Israel has a biological weapons programme, it may only have a passive, defensive programme, given the suspected former and current programmes by states in its neighbourhood. The United States has in the past alleged that China has a smallscale offensive programme and applied non-proliferation sanctions. The United States also considers that Russia has not satisfactorily documented the destruction of its inherited Soviet biological weapons. Countries such as China, Iran, Russia and the United States conduct biological defence programmes which have dual-use potential.8 In the past, the United States, has argued that Cuba may have had a biological weapons programme, although in more recent estimates it has judged Cuba to be compliant with its treaty obligations. However, Cuba is one example of a country that has a sophisticated biotechnology industry that could be used to create offensive weapons if political leaders decided to do so.
22. The successful development of biological weapons by states parties after the entry into force of the BWC highlights the fragility of the current treaty framework. The Soviet Union developed an extensive biological weapons programme in the 1970s and 1980s, despite being party to the Convention, as did apartheid South Africa and Iraq under Saddam Hussein. The BWC has therefore not been as successful as it was hoped for or as successful as the more recent CWC.
B. CHEMICAL WEAPONS
23. The state of the CWC is stronger than that of the BWC. Its accomplishment is great, as chemical weapons, which are the category of mass casualty weapons that was most used in warfare and terrorism in the 20th century and spread to the greatest number of countries, from Albania to Australia, has been eradicated in most of the nations that once held stockpiles.
24. The CWC was signed in 1993. When it entered into force in 1997, this started a process in which countries declared their holdings of chemical weapons and began destroying arsenals and production facilities. Today, it has achieved near-universality with 188 members, out of a possible 196. A further two have signed, but not yet ratified the Convention. Unlike the BWC, the CWC has an implementing body in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The OPCW has a permanent international secretariat in The Hague, led by a Director-General.
25. As mandated by the CWC, states parties have established national authorities to implement the treaty. The treaty also created a detailed verification scheme. The OPCW inspects both facilities that produce chemicals that have previously been used in chemical weapons production as well as facilities that produce chemicals that have not been used in military production, but are nevertheless of concern to states parties. There are roughly 5,000 factories in the latter category. With only 127 inspections every year, there is therefore some risk of evasion of treaty commitments.
26. In addition, any state party suspicious that another is pursuing a chemical weapons programme can request the Director-General to send an inspection team, with states parties having no right to refuse inspection – a mechanism that has never been used, however.
27. After signing the Convention, seven countries declared chemical weapons under the treaty. Russia and the United States possess the vast majority of the world’s chemical weapons. Charged to destroy these large stockpiles built up during the Cold War, both are behind schedule however, and the process is likely to last another decade. The United States has destroyed more than 85 per cent of its stockpiles. Mandated to finish by April 2012, due to funding cutbacks and other issues, the destruction of the last of its weapons is only anticipated in 2021. Russia has destroyed roughly half of its stockpiles and will miss the same deadline. 2015 is its new selfimposed deadline to destroy the approximately 20,000 tons of remaining weapons. Iraq had an extensive chemical weapons programme under Saddam Hussein, even though it was not active in the later years of his rule. The country’s new government joined the Convention in 2009 and declared weapons and facilities, but has not yet begun destroying its chemical stockpiles. Albania, India and South Korea completed destroying their chemical weapons in the last four years.
28. The seventh country that declared chemical weapons holdings is Libya. It should not be forgotten that Libya is a notable success story in non-proliferation efforts, as it agreed to give up its WMD-related programmes in 2004. Today, however, it still retains a small amount of mustard agent, which had a deadline of May 2011 for destruction, as well as chemical weapons precursors, slated for destruction by December 2011. The first deadline was missed, and the second will also not be met, due to the uprising which ended the rule of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi. While the National Transition Council (NTC) has removed Qaddafi from power in Tripoli in August 2011 and is now recognized by the United Nations as the sole legal representative of Libya, the country still has a challenging transition ahead. Additionally, at the time of writing, the fighting has not concluded in Libya, and Qaddafi remains at large with a certain level of support in parts of Libya. The remaining stockpile of chemical material would be difficult to militarise. Paula DeSutter, the Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance and Implementation in the George W. Bush Administration, argues that “[y]ou can't say that what's left there is ash and trash, but pretty close.”9 Still, the international community must monitor the chemical material and ensure that they cannot fall into the wrong hands.
29. The treaty is still not universal, but only seven countries have not ratified the CWC: Angola, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, North Korea, Somalia, newly-independent South Sudan and Syria. Israel and Myanmar have signed but not ratified the CWC. North Korea is believed to possess undisclosed chemical weapons or programmes. There is also serious concern that Syria may be developing a capability for chemical weapons. Indeed, in 2004, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that his country had a right to develop and maintain the capability for biological and chemical weapons. Evidence suggests that both Israel and Egypt had active offensive programmes in the past, but their programmes may be exclusively defensive in nature now. Some judge that Egypt could be in compliance with the treaty if it wished to sign and ratify. Weapons were reportedly used in the Angolan civil war, but the country is not believed to possess them now.10
30. China and Iran, which are states parties, may also have undisclosed chemical weapons or programmes. The US State Department’s most recent overview of compliance also concluded that it could not confirm whether Russia’s declaration was fully complete.
31. Related to current events, several doctors have alleged that Yemen’s government used nerve agents against protestors in the ongoing demonstrations of 2011. The government has denied this, saying that they used legal varieties of tear gas and that demonstrators had taken drugs that simulated the effects of chemical weapons. Chemical weapons have been used in Yemen before by Egyptian forces during the civil war in the 1960s. This case highlights the fact that it is difficult to ascertain cases of chemical weapons use under the treaty.
32. The destruction of older chemical munitions constitutes a special case. Hundreds of thousands of shells of chemical weapons abandoned in China by imperial Japan at the end of World War II remain in place. Japan is tasked with the clean-up effort under the CWC, estimated at USD 1.6 billion. After years of delays, destruction began in September 2010, but the abandoned weapons remain a sore point in Sino-Japanese relations. Australia recently destroyed US weapons left at a World War II military base. Many weapons remain on European soil from World War I and efforts to locate and destroy them continue. In the United States, during World War I, chemical weapons were tested in the Spring Valley neighbourhood of Washington DC, and unexploded ordinances were found decades later; clean-up continues.
C. ADDITIONAL INTERNATIONAL DISARMAMENT AND NON-PROLIFERATION MEASURES
33. While the BWC and CWC are by far the most important frameworks for biological and chemical disarmament and non-proliferation, other initiatives exist that bolster the treaties.
34. Most crucially, in 2004, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1540, as enforceable international law, on the non-proliferation of WMD. The Resolution obliges states to refrain from any means of supporting non-state actors in developing, acquiring, manufacturing, possessing, transporting, transferring or using WMD as well as their delivery systems. States are required to establish domestic controls to prevent proliferation. A "1540 Committee" has been tasked to collect comprehensive reports from states parties on progress towards the implementation of mandatory steps. One hundred and sixty three states and the EU have so far submitted national reports on the implementation of the Resolution. In its second report to the Security Council in 2008, the committee noted progress, but also underlined that much more needed to be done.11 Crucially, it is still unclear how non-compliance with the Resolution can be defined, identified and dealt with. Laudably, the mandate of the Resolution was extended in April 2011 for a period of ten years to 2021.
35. The Proliferation Security Initiative was launched in 2003 under the leadership of the United States. It is an informal arrangement of over 90 states that aims to stop shipments of WMD, as well as delivery systems and goods to produce such weapons, to countries of concern for participants in the initiative. Member states have pledged to act when necessary to help seize or foil dangerous trade at sea, in the air or on land and readily share information among one another.
36. The Australia Group is a key multilateral forum for the non-proliferation of biological and chemical weapons and their delivery systems. The group harmonizes export controls to ensure that exports do not lead to the development of biological or chemical weapons. It includes all 27 European Union member states, the European Commission, and 13 other countries, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States. The informal group meets annually to assess how national-level export licensing measures can be made more effective in non-proliferation efforts.
37. NATO has also increased its institutional engagement on WMD. In 1999, it launched its Weapons of Mass Destruction Initiative. Under the initiative, the Alliance is integrating its political and military work in non-proliferation efforts, giving strong support to a variety of arms control and non-proliferation regimes and outreach to partners and relevant international organisations. The Lisbon Summit Declaration in 2010 also called for the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and tasked the North Atlantic Council to assess and report, before the June 2011 meeting of Ministers of Defence, on how NATO can better counter the threat of WMD and their means of delivery (Details of this report have not been reported at the time of writing).
38. The EU, for its part, supports the BWC and CWC through joint actions, operating through the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs in Geneva. Since 2006, EU member states are obligated to submit annual confidence-building measures. While all states parties to the treaty are politically obligated to submit such measures annually, many do not do so, which makes such reinforcement very useful.
39. Neither biological nor chemical weapons have openly or indisputably been used by states in warfare in the last two decades. Clearly, a strong international norm exists that considers the use of either unacceptable. International stockpiles have been greatly diminished, with many states renouncing and destroying their weapons. Terrorists have also largely failed to weaponise biological and chemical agents. Indeed, the most successful and costly biological terrorist attack, the anthrax letters of 2001, apparently came from a scientist at an American government laboratory who had access to the material. Nevertheless, measures to counter biological and chemical threats still have to cope with numerous issues to become truly effective tools of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.
40. Experts routinely recommend that more should be done to counter biological threats, at the local, national and international level as well as in the private sector. The Seventh Review Conference for the BWC provides an opportunity for the international community to take steps to make the world more secure from the threat of biological weapons under the treaty. Moreover, it provides a natural point of reflection on the wider web of biosafety and biosecurity measures.
1. Reviewing the BWC
41. In general, significant challenges to a deeper BWC regime remain, for example due to the dual-use nature of biotechnology, biodefence programmes and lack of trust among different states. In light of substantial differences on these and other issues, Paul van den Ijssel, the chairman of the Review Conference, has stated that the guiding principle for the preparatory work and the conference itself must be “ambitious realism.”12
42. In the opinion of many observers, the BWC is in need of its own verification mechanism. The Third Review Conference in 1991 established the VEREX ad hoc group of experts to identify potential verification measures from the standpoint of science and technology, and in 1994 an ad hoc group was tasked with developing a legally-binding verification regime. In 2001, however, the international community was unable to conclude negotiations on a draft protocol. Some advocates of verification had high hopes for the Obama Administration, which has placed a strong priority on non-proliferation of WMD. However, the administration has focused on nuclear weapons and no drastic change in the US approach on biological weapons has taken place. At a December 2010 meeting under BWC auspices, the United States stated that “a verification regime is no more feasible than it was in 2001, and perhaps even less so, given the evolution of technology and industry.”13 The United States also fears that reopening the protocol question could weaken the treaty, as Russia seeks to define more closely what is banned by the Convention. In recent statements, the US Special Representative for BWC issues has emphasised that the member states should focus on areas of general agreement, rather than revive discussions where opinions differ significantly. For better or worse, a verification protocol is thus most likely off the agenda for the upcoming Review Conference, even though “there are many countries who want to keep it on the table in some form or the other”, as the Chairman of the Review Conference recently argued.14 If future research shows that a strong verification mechanism could indeed be created, which would ensure high confidence in compliance and not negatively affect legitimate interests of the States Parties, verification could again become a topic for discussion at BWC Review Conferences."
43. States parties have organised themselves into regional groups in discussions regarding the BWC. The Western Group, consisting primarily of Western and wealthy countries, favours additional confidence-building measures and more effective export controls in order to strengthen biological non-proliferation efforts. However, many of the countries of the largest group, the Group of the Non-Aligned Movement and Other States, are discontent with the tight export controls on dual-use items. Article X of the BWC gives states parties the duty to facilitate and the right to participate in “the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the use of bacteriological (biological) agents and toxins for peaceful purposes.” Cuba, co-ordinator of the Group of the Non-Aligned Movement and Other States, has thus proposed establishing an institutional mechanism for peaceful co-operation, albeit in rather vague terms. Iran, for its part, wants the Australia Group dismantled entirely for ostensibly violating Article X. Thus, the divide between wealthy countries prioritising non-proliferation and developing countries wishing to benefit from technology sharing has been and continues to be a major challenge for the biological non-proliferation regime.
44. G8 foreign ministers, representing Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, endorsed strengthening the BWC regime in strong but not particularly specific terms in a statement at a March 2011 meeting. They cited the risk posed by the use of a weapon as a major issue for the international community, and said that “tangible progress with respect to increasing mutual confidence in compliance is very much needed.”15 Recommendations included:
* looking for “more effective ways to enhance assurance of compliance”;
45. They also noted that “the involvement of civil society, particularly the academic and industrial sectors, is essential to the effective implementation of the provisions of the Convention”, and pledged to step up engagement with civil society and work to improve awareness of risk among the life science community.
46. A 2009 report by the Arms Control Association, a US non-partisan organisation that advocates more effective arms control policies, also recommends the strengthening of the UN Secretary General’s mechanism for investigation as a key step going forward. The report suggests the UN training of a group of biological weapons specialists for a standby investigative capability and the securing of a UN Security Council commitment to consider the investigation of any alleged breaches. The report does acknowledge that sovereignty concerns are once again at the core of the problem in establishing such mechanisms.16
47. A strengthening of the Implementation Support Unit would be a promising step forward. For example, Gregory D. Koblentz, an expert on biological weapons at the George Mason University, recommends that the group take on three additional responsibilities: a) working to boost membership in the BWC, b) overseeing the implementation of new confidence-building, nonproliferation or biosecurity measures adopted at the review conference in December 2011, and c) maintaining a roster of experts and laboratories for the UN Secretary General to call on to investigate alleged uses of weapons.17
48. At the time of writing, it is not entirely clear whether the BWC Review Conference will be a success or a failure, but those looking for major steps in tightening the international regime will most likely be disappointed.
49. In light of the shortcomings in the BWC and the low possibility that this will change soon, arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation efforts concerning biological agents must go beyond the treaty, including national, multilateral and private-sector initiatives. Pathogen and laboratory safety measures, for example, remain insufficient in many countries, especially in light of the rapid advances in science and technology. As scientists find it increasingly easy to synthesise deadly viruses, such as the Spanish influenza that killed more than 3 per cent of the global population in 1917-1920, measures to control biological substances are struggling to keep pace, especially with regard to radical groups producing or acquiring biological weapons.
50. At the national level, states have many tools in their arsenal to enhance the safety and security of biological agents. In the United States, for example, the resources range from legislation and strategies to counter biological threats against civilians and agriculture to the National Scientific Advisory Board for Biosecurity, which advises government agencies. The US National Security Council also published a National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats in November 2009.18 The strategy concentrates on three priorities: “1) improving global access to the life sciences to combat infectious disease regardless of its cause; 2) establishing and reinforcing norms against the misuse of the life sciences; and 3) instituting a suite of co-ordinated activities that collectively will help influence, identify, inhibit, and/or interdict those who seek to misuse the life sciences.” Public health rather than counterterrorism is prioritised in the strategy, which seeks to reduce threats from outbreaks of disease “whether natural, accidental or deliberate.” National health and security actors must also co-operate amongst each other to handle potential threats and emergency situations. The US Government Accountability Office therefore recommended in March 2011 the establishment of a mechanism to co-ordinate federal biodefence efforts.19
51. Jonathan B. Tucker of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies is critical of the current disease-centric strategy of the United States, however, as coupling public health and national security tightly together may be counterproductive.20 Ultimately, it could give “greater priority to infectious diseases that the developed world considers threatening […], at the expense of combating endemic diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria […].” Furthermore, if the United States would put disease surveillance at the centre of its strategy for strengthening the BWC, it “would distract attention from the main challenge facing the treaty regime, namely ensuring that the member states comply with their obligations not to acquire or proliferate biological weapons.”
52. National and multilateral efforts to reduce threats from Cold War WMD stockpiles or programmes are also seen as critical outside the BWC framework. The US Cooperative Threat Reduction programme, for example, offers financial and technical assistance to improve security at facilities in the states of the former Soviet Union. Even in a time of budget cuts, President Obama’s budget proposal increased spending on the biological part within the programme from USD 169 million in fiscal year 2010 to USD 260 million in fiscal year 2012.21 Particular efforts have also been aimed at preventing scientists who worked on weapons programmes in the Soviet Union from selling their knowledge to terrorists or states that wish to acquire weapons. The International Science and Technology Center in Russia, a multilateral organisation founded in 1992, provides weapons scientists with job opportunities in the civilian scientific arena, and the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) in Ukraine has a comparable mission. While Russia is unfortunately withdrawing from the ISTC, the centre will have four years to finalise ongoing projects and gradually move its centre of operations to Almaty, Kazakhstan.22 The not-for-profit CRDF Global promotes international scientific and technological collaboration for similar reasons. The United States has also funded biodefence centres in several former Soviet states, including Georgia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
53. Outside the treaty, the influential Nuclear Threat Initiative, under the chairmanship of former US Senator Sam Nunn and CNN founder Ted Turner, recommends improving intelligence capabilities, tightening export controls, strengthening security measures at laboratories, reducing the vulnerability of buildings to attack, managing the consequences of an attack through early detection, disease surveillance and response, additional research for vaccines and medical countermeasures and the stockpiling of and ready distribution system for vaccines and drugs.23 The 2009 Arms Control Association report also recommended stronger approaches on the national level as well as the development of internationally harmonised standards – possibly by creating a working group under UN or BWC auspices, involving international scientific organisations like the World Health Organization (WHO), to develop such standards.24
54. National strategies and multilateral governance are important, but biosafety and biosecurity measures must go beyond both the BWC and government responses. Prevention of bioterrorism and crisis response requires efforts from the private sector, scientists, academia and nongovernmental organisations as well.25 Amy E. Smithson of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, for example, argues that “[i]n contrast to the tangled web of national review boards, professional societies, government bureaucracies, and years of review and negotiation often involved in creating treaties and the regulations constructed to implement them domestically, self-governance tools can be launched quickly.”26 Nevertheless, she also notes that “governments can ill afford to abdicate the responsibility for managing bio-risk to the private sector.”
55. Already, there is a wealth of freely available information on biosecurity from private sector sources, in addition to government resources. The Federation of American Scientists, for example, has put together a valuable compilation of educational materials as well as the recentlylaunched Virtual Biosecurity Center, an online resource for a wide range of biosecurity information.27
56. Luckily enough, biological or chemical terrorism has not caused a major incident that would make it absolutely clear to scientists and governments of the potential of mass casualties from the work they do in the life sciences. A cultural change must nevertheless take place in the discipline. The development of a global code of ethics or conduct for scientists engaged in the life sciences has therefore been suggested by many. Such a code would be less binding than a treaty, but stronger than a guideline. Many institutions and organisations have already binding codes of conduct for members. Several organisations have drafted or written biosecurity codes, including UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights in 2005. Such codes emphasise working ethically for the sake of humanity and not misusing or allowing the misuse of research. The International Association of Synthetic Biology and another group of synthetic biology companies have established voluntary standards for companies to screen the genes that clients request to ensure that they are not used for malicious purposes. Editors of a number of life science journals have furthermore adopted a security and safety review of articles, to prevent the publication of articles that could potentially aid terrorist networks.
B. CHEMICAL THREATS: CORE ISSUES AND PROSPECTIVE DEVELOPMENTS
57. With significant progress made towards the eradication of chemical weapon stockpiles worldwide, the OPCW is looking forward. In December 2010, the Director General established an advisory panel of independent experts to make recommendations on the future priorities of the OPCW, which submitted a report to him in June 2011 (Details of this report had not been reported at the time of writing). The Director General calls this a time of transition for the OPCW: the goal of universality remains, while new focuses could include assisting in protecting chemicals and implementing national legislation, building capacity in countries, and export controls as well as developing a plan of how to handle non-state actors.28
58. At the core of the CWC are the elimination of the still sizable US and Russian arsenals, the smaller ones in Iraq and Libya as well as the munitions left in China by Japan; the signing and ratification of the CWC by all states; and, most importantly, adherence of all countries to the treaty. Moreover, countries will have to stay vigilant and guard against chemical terrorism. Nevertheless, the international chemical weapons non-proliferation regime is in good shape compared with its biological and nuclear counterparts.
59. Convincing the seven states not party to the Convention to join is still an important goal. Five countries (the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, and Lebanon) have joined the Convention since the Second Review Conference in April 2008. The prospects of North Korea joining the Convention are almost non-existent at this point. Somalia lacks a government that could credibly pledge itself to the Convention. However, if the military junta in Myanmar has a genuine interest in boosting its credentials in the wake of the very tacit opening towards electoral democracy, it might be persuaded to join the CWC. Also, Angola has little reason to hold out and could potentially be induced to sign the convention. South Sudan, which declared independence from a states party and was admitted to the United Nations in July 2011, should be expected to join the Convention shortly. The cases of Egypt, Syria and Israel are interrelated. Egypt initiated a linkage policy, which called for Arab states to boycott the CWC until Israel committed itself to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, only Damascus still joins Cairo in this policy. For Israel’s defence strategy, chemical weapons are not particularly useful, and unilateral ratification has, in fact, been discussed in the government at times. Syria, on the other hand, is more reliant on chemical weapons as a security asset, and its leaders have defended their possession.29 While instability and uncertainty in the region, especially in Syria, make a bargain on chemical weapons unlikely in the short term, an Egypt-Israel or three-way deal would be a positive step for Middle East security as well as for the Convention. Also, as a result of 2010 Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference, a major UN-sponsored conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East is planned for 2012. While discussions, which are still at an early stage, have mainly focused on nuclear weapons so far, biological and chemical weapons should naturally emerge as a key topic as well.
61. Discussion of the use of white phosphorus is also likely. The incendiary weapon is legal for use as a smokescreen in war. If used against enemy fighters or civilians, however, it violates the CWC. The United States was accused by Iran, for example, of violating the Convention with its use of white phosphorus in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, but the United States argues that it was only used legally.31 Israel used white phosphorus as a smoke cover in civilian areas in its December 2008 offensive in Gaza. While Israel apparently reprimanded a number of officers for excessive use, this is still likely to spur major disagreements.
62. The Second Review Conference showed a divide between industrial countries focused on non-proliferation and developing countries focused on the disarmament of the United States and Russia. At the Third Review Conference, future spending levels of the OPCW will most likely be a major topic of discussion. As of 2008, the organisation had spent 85 per cent of its verification resources on monitoring the destruction of stockpiles. With significant progress made in this area, funds could therefore be redirected towards verifying that industrial facilities do not produce chemical weapons or provide technical assistance. Alternatively, some funding could also be cut.32
63. Given the increasing overlap between the fields of biology and chemistry, some, including the Science and Technology Committee in its 2009 General Report, have also argued for combining the BWC and CWC conventions, although several states have rejected this and the Director General of the OPCW calls it unlikely. The difference between the two types of weapons can be blurry; toxins are covered by both conventions, for instance. The CWC is moving towards completing the goal of destruction of weapons, and its primary goal will then switch to nonproliferation, the goal of the BWC. Combining the treaties might be able to improve international regulation of biological weapons, which is the greater threat, when this has been difficult to achieve so far. However, the political will to do so is lacking – one reason the CWC was so successful is that it was adopted in the 1990s at a high point in international cooperation. The dual-use nature of biotechnology makes biological weapons a particular challenge to regulate. After the December 2009 BCW meetings, Jonathan B. Tucker underlined that “[b]iological weapons are different from chemical and nuclear weapons, and need to be addressed in a different manner.”33
64. In the event of actual usage of biological, and less so chemical, weapons by a state or terrorist, local, national and in some cases international emergency health structures, such as the WHO, would be essential in mitigating the consequences for the population.
65. While the release of highly infective and contagious diseases is a frightening scenario, a biological attack is more likely, at this point at least, to use a non-contagious biological agent delivered by air or in food or drinking water. The immediate effects of the attack would thus likely be geographically contained, although panic could undoubtedly spread in the population. In a climate of fear, a strong and unified political response urging people to keep calm would be essential. Even a limited spread of dangerous material can have far-reaching effects, which could be seen in an example this year: the severe E. coli outbreak in Germany beginning in May 2010 killed more than 50 people, was difficult to attribute and led to consumers avoiding certain kinds of vegetables from some countries and Russia banning fresh vegetables imports from the EU. These events had widespread economic ramifications affecting many countries. A quicker and more accurate discovery of the source of the contamination could have limited deaths, assuaged fears and prevented economic and political damage. Still, for the first time, the genome of a biological agent was de-coded during an outbreak, which is potentially a good sign for similar successes in future incidents.
66. As with cyber threats, a biological or chemical attack can be suspected or determined, which can in itself be rather hard, but may be difficult to respond to because the origin of the attack may be difficult to ascertain. The main priority, at least in the beginning, will be dealing with the effects of the outbreak on people, not with the attacker. The US Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, for example, argues that, because “biological weapons attacks are not always readily identified as attacks, and [because] effective detection and response to an attack are only possible if there is an effective public health response,” it is “abundantly clear that this is our business.”34
67. Natural pandemics and certain biological attacks will trigger global responses. The WHO has virtually universal membership and has thus a great advantage compared to other forums. It has programmes in place to handle outbreaks of international significance, such as the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network. Global epidemic responses have been tested, with varying success, by the SARS and H1N1 epidemics in 2003 and 2009, respectively.
69. However, Gregory D. Koblentz and Jonathan B. Tucker note that the missions of the different actors involved in responses often do not align39: “public-health and medical experts seek to diagnose the infectious agent responsible for an outbreak, treat the victims and prevent further spread; law-enforcement officials strive to identify the perpetrator(s) and collect evidence that will stand up in court; and national policymakers want to determine the source of the attack so that they can take retaliatory action within a reasonably short period.” Inter-agency co-operation could thus be severely hampered by competing priorities, thus clear strategies and effective mechanisms for co-ordination are needed.
70. The European Union, with its 27 countries in a relatively small and densely populated region, open internal borders under the Schengen agreement and high volume of trade, needs to have a European-level biodefence strategy as well. A July 2007 Green Paper on bio-preparedness by the European Commission laid out goals for improving European biodefence: “improving disease surveillance and detection systems, enhancing cross-border cooperation and communication, facilitating international laboratory cooperation, and developing mechanisms for international sharing of medical countermeasures.”40 In 2009, the European Defence Agency (EDA) started the Biological Detection, Identification and Monitoring Equipment Development and Enhancement Programme, an armaments programme designed to improve equipment for EU forces, enabling them to work in biologically hazardous areas.
71. Local authorities also have a substantial role to play in defence against attacks and crisis response. New York and San Francisco, the two most densely populated major cities in the United States and thus attractive targets for biological attacks, are cases in point. New York has a ‘syndromic surveillance’ system that tracks emergency room visits and pharmacy sales to try to detect any outbreak of disease.41 The San Francisco Bay Area has launched a working group with a website designed to strengthen the regional ability to dispense large quantities of medication to a population spread across multiple counties and municipalities in a health emergency, holding a public exercise in June 2011 to test how the online information system would work during an incident.42
72. As the threat from biological weapons evolves with rapid advances in technology, detection of dangerous materials is also advancing with new technologies, though still proves challenging and expensive. Biohazard Detection Systems, installed at hundreds of mail-sorting centres in the United States, collect air samples to detect trace amounts of DNA from biological agents. The BioWatch programme launched after the September , 11, 2001 attacks monitors the air in major American cities in a similar fashion. Detection technologies like the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Microbial Detection Array, which can detect more than 2,000 viruses and 900 bacteria within 24 hours, assist with accurate diagnosis of the threat.43 However, in October 2010, the National Academy of Sciences, in an assessment of BioWatch done at the request of the Department of Homeland Security, concluded that the system “requires better testing to establish its effectiveness and better collaboration with public health systems to improve its usefulness.” Local authorities have responsibility to interpret and respond to alerts, and they need greater assistance in developing capabilities to do so as well as reimbursement for the costs of supporting BioWatch.44 Indeed, BioWatch will cost more than USD 80 million to run over the next decade, and a planned upgrade could raise costs to USD 200 million.45
73. There are practical and universally applicable actions which affected citizens can take in the event of an attack. For example, FEMA advises to move away from any suspicious substance, wash with soap and water, remove and bag clothing and personal items if people have been exposed, contact authorities, listen to the media for official instructions, and seek medical attention if the person becomes sick or knows that they were exposed.
74. To minimize the human damage of a biological attack, efficiently developing, producing and distributing treatment will be essential. With very high fixed costs in research and development, although fairly low variable costs for mass production due to economies of scale, the economics of vaccine production are not easy, and there are few vaccine producers.46 The major pharmaceutical companies have generally stayed out of biodefence, leaving the market to smaller biotechnology firms with less capital and market experience.47 Indeed, only one production line in the United States produced H1N1 vaccine during the outbreak in 2009,48 and vaccine shortages have led to criticism of the government in many countries. Some experts, such as the pro-market American Enterprise Institute, recommend less regulation and having the government reimburse people for vaccines rather than buy them up front.49 One major vaccine producer, GlaxoSmithKline, argues that technology transfer to developing countries that would produce vaccines domestically is suboptimal because of the difficulties of vaccine economics and production in developing countries and stresses the need to keep borders open for supply chains in the event of a pandemic.50 Gregory D. Koblentz recommends that biodefence focus on the development of broad-spectrum drugs useful against both biological and natural threats, as they would be more likely to sustain the interest of the private sector and would provide public health benefits even in the absence of an attack.51 Indeed, in a recent hearing in the US House of Representatives, a senior HHS official recommended setting up a nongovernmental strategic investment fund that would direct money to firms researching such broad-spectrum countermeasures.52 Threat-specific responses can still be mounted – in 2003, scientists were able to sequence the genome of SARS in less than six weeks, and vaccines and drugs were quickly developed.
75. Deterrence is a key element in preventing attacks. Therefore, as Gregory D. Koblentz and Jonathan B. Tucker point out, “an effective national capacity for attribution” of biological attacks is essential, because if the culprit “cannot be targeted for punishment, deterrence will cease to operate.” After the anthrax attacks in 2001, the FBI was able to use forensic science to determine the source of the anthrax to a laboratory in the United States, but even then more traditional methods of investigation were necessary to find the culprit – and, still, some argue that the case was never conclusively solved. The anthrax case thus shows the difficulties in definitively attributing an unclaimed attack. Improving capabilities to attribute attacks is challenging but increasingly vital.53
76. NATO, for its part, has had a multinational Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Defence Task Force, designed to respond to an attack since 2003. A Joint CBRN Defence Centre of Excellence in the Czech Republic was activated in 2007. It develops doctrines, standards and knowledge with the goal of improving interoperability and capabilities as well as provides training to the CBRN Defence Task Force and advises NATO and partners on CBRN issues. In March 2011, NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme convened a workshop on CBRN in Haifa, Israel, discussing in particular the potential of Internet-based tools for responses to disease outbreak.
77. Despite various initiatives to improve multilateral responses against WMD incidents, Dominique Loye and Robin Coupland of the ICRC have argued that “[a]t an international level, there are no plans for assisting the victims of a nuclear, radiological, biological or chemical (NRBC) event which are both adequate and safe.”54 While military capacities exist, both at the national level and in multinational organisations like NATO, they are aimed more towards reacting to WMD-related events in combat. The ICRC therefore argues that the interface between such military capacities and civilian responses, be it national authorities or the ICRC, is inadequate. Progress on civil-military co-operation and transferring knowledge and best practices into the civilian sector is very modest. The ICRC is therefore building capacities to answer the risks of WMD-related events. According to the organisation, other challenges exist as well, such as the lack of a clear definition of assistance to civilians, the problem of asserting that an intentional use of NRBC occurred and of notifying proper authorities, such as the UN Security Council, as well as subsequent information management.55
78. In December 2008, the Graham-Talent Commission reported to the US Congress that “unless the world community acts decisively and with great urgency, it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013.”56 Other assessments are more cautious. Benjamin Cole of the University of Liverpool argues that “[t]echnological constraints coupled with tactical choices that some groups are likely to make will mean that indiscriminate mass casualty involving [chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear] weapons are likely to be rare.”57 Whatever the case may be, Richard Falkenrath, now Deputy Commissioner of Counter-Terrorism of the New York City Police, was right that a WMD terrorist attack represents a “low-probability, high-consequences threat.”58 Given the continued existence of biological and chemical programmes of certain states, it is therefore of utmost importance to work for a stronger web of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation measures, at the national and multilateral level as well as in the private sector.
79. This General Report has laid out the state of the regimes governing biological and chemical weapons and hazardous agents, analysed their weaknesses and suggested some ways forward.
80. The chemical non-proliferation regime has been successful, as the world is well on its way to eradicate existing stockpiles of chemical weapons. Critical issues still remain to be solved, however. Care must be taken that chemical stockpiles in Iraq, Libya, Russia and the United States as well as leftover munitions from the wars of the 20th century are destroyed. The CWC must be universalised, inducing hold-out states to join. As the complete eradication of stockpiles approaches, the international community must ensure that no backsliding on treaty commitments occurs. Other chemicals that are not explicitly governed under the CWC, such as incapacitating chemical agents, must be addressed. Future spending levels and distribution of the OPCW must also be scrutinised to guarantee optimum efficiency.
81. Arguably, the regime governing biological materials that could be used for malicious purposes is weaker and less engrained. Lack of trust between certain groups of states, coupled with rapid advances in science and technology and the dual-use nature of much of biotechnology, are increasingly putting a strain on the BWC. Adding verification mechanisms to the BWC might not solve existing and future problems, given the increasing ease of evasion. Additional confidence-building measures and a strengthening of the Implementation Support Group and UN Secretary General’s mechanism for investigating cases of alleged use offer a more realistic avenue for now. Most importantly, however, measures must be taken beyond the BWC. Privatesector, local, national as well as multilateral initiatives to counter the threat from biological weapons must be developed or enhanced, for example more effective export controls and scientific code of conducts for research and development.
82. Colonel Qaddafi’s totalitarian regime was long repugnant to much of the world and to many of the people of Libya. However, it must be noted that it was an unqualified success that Europe and the United States were able to pressure, engage and cajole the regime to give up its WMD-related programmes in 2004. Because of these successful efforts, the destruction of Libya’s stockpiles of chemical agents was in an advanced stage when conflict broke out in the country in February 2011, denying the regime the ability to realistically threaten to use or to actually deploy these horrific weapons against rebels. The international community must monitor these stockpiles and their whereabouts very closely throughout Libya’s challenging transition to ensure they cannot fall into the hands of terrorists or desperate fighters still loyal to Qaddafi. Also, Syria’s likely possession of chemical weapons should be of concern given the widespread conflict in the country. This underlines that international efforts of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation of WMD should be renewed, even if that means engaging with unfriendly regimes.
83. A critical area, which has not received as much attention as it deserves, is crisis response in the case of WMD-related incidents, whether intentional or accidental. The international community is still far from being prepared for a WMD attack. Crisis-response mechanisms must be strengthened. In particular, the gap between civilian and military responses needs to be filled.
84. In conclusion, the Rapporteur wishes to engage in a debate on the proper ways forward to counter biological and chemical weapons. One of the Science and Technology Committee’s core responsibilities is to monitor, discuss and work for more effective arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation measures. The Rapporteur therefore hopes that this report and the attending debate on this critical subject will lead to a strong NATO PA Resolution on these matters, to be adopted by the Plenary Sitting at the Annual Session in Bucharest, Romania.