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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

History of American Policies, Part VI: Current Strategies

The 2003 National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction calls for a three-pronged approach:
* Counterproliferation
* Nonproliferation
* Consequence management
While the distinction between counterproliferation and nonproliferation is not clearly articulated, their constituent parts make it clear that counterproliferation deals with the effects of WMD proliferation, whereas nonproliferation seeks to avoid WMD proliferation in the first place. Thus, the Strategy calls for three types of policies to support counterproliferation:
* The interdiction of “WMD materials, technology and expertise” to prevent their transfer to “hostile states and terrorist organizations”
* The deterrence of WMD usage through the threat of “overwhelming force”
* “Robust active and passive defenses and mitigation measures.”
In the realm of nonproliferation, the Strategy identifies six tools for preventing the spread of WMDs:
* Diplomacy
* Multilateral arms control regimes
* Threat reduction cooperation (the foremost such program being the Nunn-Lugar program)
* Controls on nuclear materials
* Export controls
* Nonproliferation sanctions
Most of these have little or no bearing on the non-state transfer of C/BW: interdiction is easier said than done when dual-use technologies are involved; overwhelming force is unlikely to deter shadowy and suicidal terrorist networks; arms control regimes are worth little if not respected by the signatory states; export controls do little to affect the black market; and sanctions – for which there is little political will regarding Russia – will do little to prevent theft of CB/W.

In May, 2003, the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) was launched, with eleven nations agreeing to its Statement of Interdiction Principles. This document calls on states to
(1) “undertake effective measures, either alone or in concert with other states, for interdicting the transfer or transport of WMD, their delivery systems, and related materials to and from states and non-state actors of proliferation concern,”
(2) “adopt streamlined procedures for rapid exchange of relevant information,
(3) “strengthen their relevant national legal authorities… and… relevant international law and frameworks” and
(4) “take specific actions in support of interdiction efforts regarding cargoes of WMD, their delivery systems, or related materials,” primarily relating to boarding and searching ships.
How effective these measures will be in intercepting small quantities of C/BW being trafficked by non-state actors remains to be seen, though the flexible nature of the arrangement, based on actions rather than treaties, may be fruitful. PSI does not have member states, per se, though in August, 2005, Russia sent participants to PSI’s Deep Sabre Exercise. Even if Russia herself is reluctant to participate, active cooperation by the states whose waters vessels pass through or whose flags they fly could limit the ability of non-state actors to remove C/BW from Russia.

In April, 2004 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1540, calling upon states to refrain from helping non-state actors acquire WMDs, tighten WMD site security and corresponding laws, and share intelligence to fight WMD trafficking. While this resolution should be applauded for recognizing the important role of non-state actors and the threat posed by poor site security, it fails to provide credible incentives – positive or negative – for actually carrying out the provisions described. And thus it leaves intact the basic problem of how to convince another state to take better care of its own weapons stockpiles until they can be destroyed.

The 2006 National Security Strategy points out that “terrorists, including those associated with the al-Qaida network, continue to pursue WMD,” while “advances in biotechnology provide greater opportunities for state and non-state actors to obtain dangerous pathogens and equipment.” However, actual methods of dealing with the proliferation of biological and chemical weapons are not articulated in this document. Instead, the Strategy explains that
The United States is working with partner nations and institutions to strengthen global biosurveillance capabilities for early detection of suspicious outbreaks of disease. We have launched new initiatives at home to modernize our public health infrastructure and to encourage industry to speed the development of new classes of vaccines and medical countermeasures.
None of these efforts, important as they are, do anything to stop C/BW attacks from being launched in the first place. Other measures are needed to ensure that C/BW do not fall into the hands of terrorists in the first place.

Monday, July 30, 2007

History of American Policies, Part V: The Clinton and Early Bush Years

In an effort to reduce the spread of WMD knowledge, the Clinton administration
mandated that the Secretary of Defense provide Congress with a report on the number of individuals in the former Soviet Union with expertise in weapons of mass destruction and the risks that might exist if these individuals sold their knowledge to other nations.
In addition to requiring information on this matter, a program was implemented to try to find alternative work for weapons scientists who might otherwise sell their knowledge, as the CRS reported.

At their joint summit in 2002 Presidents Bush and Putin issued a joint declaration in which
the United States and Russia call on all countries to strengthen and strictly enforce export controls, interdict illegal transfers, prosecute violators, and tighten border controls to prevent and protect against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
These are admirable goals, precisely the sort of thing that could prevent the non-state transfer of Russian C/BW. However, there is little evidence Russia is actually making meaningful attempts to live up to these goals.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

History of American Policies, Part IV: Nunn-Lugar

A separate effort, the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program was begun by Congress in 1992 with four objectives:

(1) the destruction of former Soviet WMDs,
(2) the transportation, storage and safeguarding of WMDs in conjunction with their destruction,
(3) the establishment of proliferation safeguards and
(4) the prevention of scientific expertise proliferation.
These goals were a positive development, in that they recognize some of the broader proliferation difficulties, including the proliferation of knowledge and the ongoing danger that exists during the destruction process.

The program provides funding and technical assistance to former Soviet states to help them accomplish the aforementioned objectives; however, the Nunn-Lugar legislation provides six criteria for Russia to receive aid. It must

(1) invest in the dismantling of WMDs,
(2) forgo military modernization or WMD replacement,
(3) forgo reusing nuclear material,
(4) facilitate US verification of WMD destruction,
(5) comply with arms control agreements, and
(6) observe human rights.
Russia is currently failing on all six counts. However, the president may waive these criteria, if he considers it in the “national interest.” (See J. Michael Waller, “Foreign Aid Advisory,” American Foreign Policy Council, May 19, 1995.)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

History of American Policies, Part III: Various Programs

The Australia Group, formed in the 1980s, has received renewed attention since September 11, 2001. The organization was formed to coordinate export controls so that states which failed to obtain sensitive materials or technologies from one member could not simply get them from another. While this is an important effort in its own right, it fails to address the non-state transfer of Russian C/BW. Russia is not a member of the Australia Group and even if it were, the organization only deals with legal trade, not the black market.

A 1992 agreement between Russia, the US and Britain calling for reciprocal visits and disclosures of classified programs never panned out, though it did reveal that the Russians had secretly moved their smallpox samples from the Institute of Viral Preparations in Moscow, the designated site, to a location in Siberia. In 1995 Russian officials flat out refused to admit American inspectors to their labs, as had previously been agreed. (See Judith Miller, et al, Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War)

Friday, July 27, 2007

History of American Policies, Part II: The BWC

In addition to the Chemical Weapons Convention, Russia is a party to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), which requires that biological weapons be destroyed or diverted to peaceful purposes within nine months of entering the Convention. Russia ratified the Convention in March of 1975, but retains large BW stockpiles, with the same basic problems regarding “peaceful uses” as involved with the CWC.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

History of American Policies, Part I: The CWC

Russia is a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which calls for the total destruction of all chemical weapons by April, 2007. Russia has received an extended deadline until 2012 but is unlikely to meet it; the General Accounting Office (GAO, since renamed the Government Accountability Office) estimates that Russia will not complete the destruction of its chemical weapons until 2027. Even if Russia is proceeding in good faith and with due speed towards the destruction of her chemical weapon stockpiles, this process takes time, as the US is discovering; the Department of Defense estimates that American stockpiles will not be destroyed until 2023. Throughout this process destruction facilities and transport systems remain targets for theft.

Dr. Amy E. Smithson testified that
In December 2002, Russia began destroying mustard gas at its Gorny storage site. Russia also declared 24 production facilities to the CWC’s international inspectorate, of which six have been destroyed and another seven converted to peaceful uses under the watchful eye of inspectors.
However, these conversions are not quite the good news they appear to be. Because of the dual-use nature of biological and chemical weapons, many of the materials and technologies employed in these “peaceful use” facilities have potential use as weapons. Furthermore, scientists employed in these fields continue to exercise skills which can later be applied to C/BW again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Threat, Part III: Negligence and Ongoing Research

Preventing proliferation becomes increasingly difficult in light of the fact that
The Soviet Union never instituted a comprehensive control and accounting system for these materials, relying instead on physical security and isolated facilities to protect against attacks from the outside and the control of the Communist regime to protect against subversion or theft from the inside. (See CRS)
As a result, Russian authorities often do not even know if weapons are missing, in what quantities, or when they disappeared. Furthermore, the ability of the current Russian regime to provide physical security is considerably less than that of its Soviet predecessor.

Ongoing Russian research efforts, ostensibly to develop defenses against C/BW, pose an additional threat. Even if these defensive claims are true and the Russians are acting in good faith, such research remains outside controls of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and poses a proliferation threat, since both the materials and the knowledge learned could find their way to the black market and – by virtue of their dual-use nature – be put to work creating offensive weapons, as Former Assistant Secretary of State Carl W. Ford has testified.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Threat, Part II: The Nature of C/BW

Several attributes of biological and chemical weapons (C/BW) complicate the threat posed by non-state transfers of Russian weapons. C/BW are of an extremely dual-use nature, with many of the technologies and materials used in a variety of legitimate medicinal, agricultural and industrial processes, making these components easier to produce and proliferate than corresponding nuclear technologies and materials. Furthermore, while some C/BW are very complex, experts point out that on the whole they are simpler than nuclear weapons. Michael Moodie explains that
This problem is exacerbated by the very small quantities that may be transferred to bolster a weapons capability. When snippets of protein are all that you need, the notion of controlling transfers of such materials becomes a less attractive option.
Moreover, the means of delivering chemical and biological weapons can be quite simple, including public transportation networks or the postal system. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported that
Compared with most conventional weapons, C/B weapons are less well understood and have the potential to cause mass casualties. Even if used in smaller attacks, C/B weapons have the potential to cause mass terror.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Threat, Part I: Old Soviet Programs

The size of the old Soviet biological weapons (BW) program is staggering. Dr. Amy E. Smithson explained:

In blatant violation of the international treaty outlawing biological weapons… the USSR redefined the horizons of germ warfare with a massive bioweapons effort that involved approximately 65,000 scientists and technicians at over fifty research, development, testing, and production sites. The Soviets harnessed over fifty diseases for military purposes.
Though the Russian government has professed to have ended the old Soviet BW program, a considerable offensive capability remains, in addition to the estimated 7,000 scientists who “would pose a grave proliferation risk were they to cooperate with other governments or terrorist groups.” Likewise, the chemical weapons (CW) stockpiles in Russia are extensive. Former Assistant Secretary of State Carl W. Ford testified in 2002 that
Moscow has declared the world's largest stockpile of chemical agents: 39,969 metric tons of chemical agent, mostly weaponized…. US estimates of the Russian stockpile generally are still larger.
Moreover, “this program employed thousands of scientists, engineers, and technicians throughout the former Soviet Union.” Smithson noted that “of that number, the US government conservatively estimates that 3,500 would pose a serious proliferation risk if they were to collaborate with proliferating governments or terrorists,” creating a pool of knowledge that is virtually impossible to monitor or contain. Ford went on to explain,
Given that Russia still faces serious economic and political challenges and the large number of weapons involved, the possibility that some Russians might sell chemical and biological materials, technologies and knowledge to other countries or groups continues to exist.
For the right price some of these personnel, “many of whom either are unemployed or unpaid for an extended period,” could be recruited by criminals or terrorists.