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.


Aaron said...

In this light, the claim that the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program “seeks to eliminate former BW facilities in [former Soviet Union] states through the removal of dual-use equipment or destruction of the facility” is nothing short of absurd. See Department of Defense, Cooperative Threat Reduction Annual Report to Congress (2007), 27, at http://www.nti.org/e_research/official_docs/dod/2006/040705.pdf.

Aaron said...

The CRS report cited goes on to argue that “the classification of C/B weaponry into the catch-all category of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (WMD) has led to consideration of C/B use primarily on a mass-casualty scale. This treatment may misstate the potential civilian vulnerability to a small-scale terrorist C/B attack. Treatment of terrorist attacks on a mass-casualty scale has produced many worst-case scenarios, but few assessments of the wide spectrum of potential C/B agents.”