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.