Monday, August 6, 2007

Recommendations, Part III: The Long Term

In the long term the US needs to pursue a policy of encouraging a more open and responsible Russian government. In recent years Russia has done much to shut down NGOs and media outlets that call for transparency, democracy or accountability, as Freedom House has reported. The US and her allies need to both ensure that such independent institutions remain well funded and put pressure on the Russian government to allow their continued operation.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Recommendations, Part II: The Medium Term

In the medium term we need to take several measures. Cooperative Threat Reduction should receive a major review, with the Executive, the GAO and the CRS assisting the Congress in a comprehensive study of the program. Those aspects which can reasonably be expected to produce results should be placed under greater oversight, with unrealistic elements of CTR scrapped, saving the money for other uses.

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) should be expanded with a particular eye towards enlisting the involvement not only of Russia herself but also of Russia’s land neighbors and those who control the key waterways leading to and from Russian ports, the Danish and Turkish Straits. Improved intelligence capabilities and cooperation are needed to ensure that interdiction efforts can target proliferation threats in spite of dual-use materials and the small quantities needed for attacks.

Regarding the Container Security Initiative (CSI), the US needs to:

• Encourage Russia to live up to its statements as a WCO and G8 member and allow CSI scanning in its ports
• Fund research to ensure that CSI scanning is able to detect biological and chemical threats
• Develop and fund intelligence efforts to identify circumvention of CSI scanning by use of third-party ports
• Encourage the further expansion of CSI around the world to decrease the number of non-CSI ports through which C/BW could be smuggled

The disruption of terrorist and criminal networks should be another key component of our medium-term efforts. Increased intelligence penetration abroad, coupled with law enforcement and financial efforts at home and in the nations of our friends and allies, will not only disrupt non-state efforts at proliferating C/BW, but will also provide the sort of intelligence needed to improve the efficiency of CTR, PSI and CSI. In addition to adequate funding, these disruption efforts also require coordination among the various agencies of the US government, probably to be done through the National Security Council.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Recommendations, Part I: The Short Term

Our response to this threat should include short-, medium- and long-term solutions.

In the short term, US consequence management must be enhanced. While this cannot be the whole answer, too much time has passed to assume that no biological or chemical weapons have yet left Russia. We must act under the assumption that such weapons are on the black market and could be deployed against the United States by terrorists at any time. In accordance with the President’s Biodefense for the 21st Century plan, we should continue to

• Support the BioWatch network of environmental sensors to detect biological weapons attacks,
• Secure and defend our agriculture and food systems,
• Expand the Strategic National Stockpile of medicines and vaccines,
• Fund bioterrorism research, including Project BioShield efforts to develop new medical countermeasures against biological weapons,
• Provided Federal funds to improve the capacities of state and local health systems to detect, diagnose, prevent, and respond to biological weapons attacks.

Options, Part III: The Fundamental Question

Ultimately one must consider the nature of the Russian regime. In spite of a democratic veneer, the Kremlin retains an iron grip over the media and industry of Russia. The Federal Security Service (Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti or FSB), successor to the KGB, is wholly unreformed and incompatible with democracy. It should come as no surprise then that such a regime is instinctively suspicious, both of its own people and of outsiders, however well-meaning they may be. Nor should we be surprised by the deceptive and uncooperative way the Russians have gone about dealing with CTR. So long as the Russian regime remains what it is, expecting good-faith cooperation on nonproliferation is probably wishful thinking.

Working to affect change in the Russian political arena may sound bold or even extreme; it is, however, completely consonant with stated US national security goals. The 2006 National Security Strategy argues
We must encourage Russia to respect the values of freedom and democracy at home.
In the document’s basic principles it explains that
Because democracies are the most responsible members of the international system, promoting democracy is the most effective long-term measure for strengthening international stability; reducing regional conflicts; countering terrorism and terror-supporting extremism; and extending peace and prosperity.
Thus, long-term efforts could be directed at increasing openness and ending the corrupt and conspiratorial ways that plague the Russian government. Then, and only then, can we reasonably talk about working with the Russians to keep their biological and chemical weapons stockpiles out of the hands of terrorists.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Options, Part II: Other Approaches

One possible approach would be to blunt the power of C/BW, such that their proliferation would pose little threat to the US. This is the line of thinking behind the concept of missile defense – that proliferating ballistic missiles becomes almost meaningless if US missile defenses can shoot them down. However, missile defense can do little to stop biological and chemical weapons that can be carried in small quantities in a briefcase and delivered by the public transportation infrastructure or the postal system. Are there other defense options? Mass vaccination is theoretically an option which could render biological weapons useless; however, the cost of vaccinating the entire US population would be tremendous, especially if such vaccinations were to cover every one of the more than fifty diseases the Russians have manufactured for military purposes. Furthermore, vaccinations are useless against chemical weapons.

If the US cannot stop the proliferation of C/BW from Russia and cannot defend against their use, the only possibility left open is to try to manage the consequences of their deployment, ensuring that first responders are well-trained and -equipped, so that casualties can be kept to a minimum. While consequence management and damage control cannot be neglected, it would an abdication of the government’s duty to protect its citizens if consequence management were its only response to the C/BW threat coming out of Russia. Thus, some sort of effort to prevent the proliferation of these dangerous weapons is demanded by the Constitution imperative to “provide for the common defense.”

In 2002 the US Bureau of Customs and Border Protection launched the Container Security Initiative, whereby cargo containers being shipped to the US are scanned using large-scale X-ray and gamma ray machines and radiation detection devices. While no Russian ports currently participate in CSI, both the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the G8 – both of which Russia is a member – have issued statements of support for CSI, calling for its expansion. Unlike weapons facilities inspections, the introduction of CSI in Russian ports would not involve American inspectors crawling over sensitive Russian sites, and should therefore be more amenable to the Russian government. Furthermore, CSI allows for reciprocal inspections, with foreign inspectors allowed to scan containers departing the US for their own ports, a provision which should further mollify Russian concerns. While CSI scanning overseas is only carried out on vessels traveling to American ports – and can therefore be circumvented by a trip to a third party port – the growing number of major world ports supporting CSI means that only a small amount of traffic would be traveling from Russia to non-CSI ports and then on to the US. Intelligence should be able to identify this conspicuous traffic with relative ease.

In a single sentence the 2006 National Security Strategy explains that
To deter and defend against [chemical] threats, we work to identify and disrupt terrorist networks that seek chemical weapons capabilities, and seek to deny them access to materials needed to make these weapons.
There are a number of ways terrorist networks can be disrupted, including the use of law enforcement efforts to arrest members and economic efforts to deprive networks of funds. Both of these are valuable tools that could be employed. A more direct – though difficult – method involves the infiltration of such networks and their criminal associates by intelligence personnel. While this is not easily done, it would create the ability to disrupt terrorists at the heart of their operations.

Options, Part I: The Orthodox Views

There is no silver bullet to solve the problem of non-state biological and chemical weapons proliferation out of Russia. Many of the existing programs could be significantly increased in size or given a new focus; various elements of policy can be mixed and matched to try to create a multi-facet solution.

One obvious option is to try to improve the oversight and efficiency of CTR. The existing programs we have need to be held accountable so that they actually produce their maximum possible results. Those overseeing efforts to find alternative employment for Russian weapons scientists need to see that the funds allocated for this purpose are not lost in the bureaucratic process. Furthermore, programs such as the Department of Energy’s Initiative for Proliferation Prevention need to be re-worked or copied elsewhere so that they include chemical and biological knowledge as well.
In its 1995 report, the General Accounting Office found that most CTR defense conversion efforts were ‘converting dormant facilities that once produced items related to weapons of mass destruction,’ rather than eliminating current production capacity. (See CRS)
A further problem that needs correcting is that CTR personnel cannot even report on their own activities with accuracy: the 2007 CTR report to Congress specified in one place that the Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility would begin operations in December 2008, while elsewhere in the same report it was stated that operations would begin in July. Such basic bureaucratic failures could be addressed in order to make CTR more effective.

However, a stepped-up version of CTR cannot fully address the problem. The GAO, commenting upon CTR’s biological efforts, said that
Key risks [involved with CTR] include sustaining Russia’s existing biological weapons infrastructure, maintaining or advancing Russian scientists’ skills to develop offensive biological weapons, and the potential misuse of US assistance to fund offensive research.
Because of the dual-use nature of chemical and biological technologies, these outcomes are not simply a result of poor management – although that may exacerbate the failure – but are an inherent problem with any CTR-type program. As the same report goes on to explain,
None of these [safeguards the US relies upon] would prevent Russian project participants or institutes from potentially using their skills or research outputs to later work on offensive weapons activities at any of the Russian military institutes that remain closed to the United States.
For this reason, many are calling for the abolition or serious curtailment of CTR, arguing that it is both a fundamental failure and a waste of money.

These two options encompass almost the entire debate surrounding the prevention of biological and chemical weapons proliferation in Russia. The one school of thought, while perhaps recognizing the shortcomings of CTR, points to the size of the threat and insists something must be done, concluding that CTR is better than nothing, while the other school of though, pointing to the high costs and frequent failures of CTR, insists it should be scrapped. Neither school is considering other options and neither side is thinking long-term.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Gap

Cooperative Threat Reduction, the preeminent program aimed at stopping the proliferation of Russian WMDs has had several shortcomings. The 2007 CTR report to Congress said that
Construction of Russia’s first Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility (CWDF) for nerve-agent-filled, proliferable weapons continued…. In February [2005]… the lack of an approved practical plan for the elimination of Russia’s stockpile of nerve agents was addressed.
Meaning, in nearly 15 years of CTR no CWDF had been built and no plan for eliminated nerve agents developed.

But more fundamentally, US efforts generally fail on five key points.
* First, most US policies address state uses and transfers of WMDs, rather than non-state transfers.
* Second, they deal with
legal, not black market trade.
* Third, many US policies ignore the pitfalls posed by the
dual-use quality of biological and chemical weapons.
* Forth, US policies tend to suffer from “nuclear blindness,” address the nuclear threat but in so doing ignoring the
biological and chemical threat.
* Finally, US policy fails to address the essential question of
why Russia has been reluctant to cooperate with CTR.
Russian obfuscation can be explained in several ways. The Russian government may perceive that the threat of global terrorism, while affecting Russia, is more of an American problem than a Russian one. Furthermore, it is understandable that the Russians are hesitant to have American inspectors crawling all over some of their most sensitive sites, destroying weapons; while it is not in Russian interests to have their biological and chemical weapons stolen or sold on the black market, the sensitive nature of the weapons and technology involved creates a reluctance among the Russian military to fully cooperate with American requests. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported that
Although the United States would have liked to allocate more funds for chain of custody efforts, officials in Russia did not share this priority.
Put simply, Russian calculations of the cost and benefit of American threat reduction programs may conclude that such programs are not in Russia’s overall interest. In addition, the Russian government may be reluctant, for the sake of pride, to admit that it is unable to take care of its own weapons, that it does not know where they all are and cannot ensure their security. At the most basic level, the Russian regime is an authoritarian one, conspiratorial and suspicious; these are traits carried in its political DNA. A government that bullies its own people and its neighbors finds it difficult to believe that others might actually be interested in the common good; furthermore, a regime that makes routine use of censorship and deception does not take kindly to notions of transparency and openness.