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O.B. Ignat'ev

Russian Mutation's Agency

In recent years public concern about non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has grown. Among these problems, particular emphasis has been placed on non-proliferation of biological weapons connected closely with implementing international obligations taken by states under BW Convention of 1972 and the Geneva Protocol of 1925 for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous and Other Gases. For solving these problems, a systematic and complex approach, as well as political, legislative, social, organizational and economic measures, is needed.

Although 150 countries signed the Convention, the threat of the use of BW in military actions still remains. The number of countries with capacities for large-scale production of biological agents and toxins destructing humans, animals, and plants is increasing. Science and technology advances in the field of biology, biotechnology, genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics and computer modeling, especially in recent years, have provided backgrounds for designing new species of microorganisms and toxins to be used as BW. The latest findings in reconstructing entire genomic structures of many pathogens open up new opportunities for gene-engineering modifications, strengthening their virulence, the ability to overcome immune response and drug resistance. In addition, constructing microorganisms with combined pathogenic properties and some other modifications become possible. Due to unique opportunities provided by biotechnology and a great breakthrough in medicine and agriculture, biological knowledge that can be misused, becomes a property of different states.

The Internet is also a good provider of scientific information and may be a source of data required not only for state institutions but also for extremistic groups and terrorists in many countries. This creates a danger that biological agents can be used both in military conflicts and terroristic acts.

Taking into account specificity of BW, one need not to think that the advances mentioned above will give immediate impetus to the development of biological agents that could be used as means of mass destruction. That is more important is not to give an opportunity to use these advances for purposes prohibited by Convention.

It should be also noted that advances in the field of biotechnology are born as a rule in highly developed countries, while other countries may use natural microorganisms for their works.

When accessing tendencies of global threats of the spread of biological weapons, it should be taken into account that unlike other components of means of mass destruction approaches to solving BW problem are peculiar. This is explained by the fact that from the point of view of Convention, state-members do not have BW stockpiles and facilities allowing its development and storage. In this case, the subject matter of consideration is dangerous pathogenic microorganisms and toxins that owing to their properties can be used as BW, as well as technologies of so called dual use. That is why, the case in point is a potential that any state has to develop BW. Therefore, in this context emphasis should be placed on assessment of risks connected with a possibility of development of BW in those countries, which have such capacities and may transfer relevant technologies to other countries. However, in any case such assessment will be subjective and carry corresponding political concealed meaning.

A more productive approach to solving the problem of non-proliferation of BW is to elaborate a mechanism of control that would allow one to minimize or eliminate a possibility of design and production of biological weapon. This mechanism, in our view, should:

1. assign the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention a comprehensive character in order to make it universal by attracting states, which have not ratified it yet;
2. strengthen the Convention by developing a mechanism controlling the observance of it;
3. provide a corresponding legislative basis at national levels, including systems and agencies of export surveillance.
In this context, when elaborating approaches to the assessment of threats, it would be reasonable to start from the analysis of current situation about the Convention and practical solutions of tasks to strengthen its regime.

1. The assignment the Convention a comprehensive character is a task of priority. (Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) was ratified in April 10, 1972 and entered into force in March 26, 1975. By August 1, 2003, 166 countries have signed and 150 states have ratified it.) To solve this task, targeted work to co-ordinate efforts at different levels is needed to perform. It is necessary to make up a joint activity program to attract countries, which are still outsiders of the Convention. The program would describe measures being taken by states-members in a certain region, as well as powers historically or politically connected with this region. Since the attraction of states to the Convention is not a one - time act, but a long and complicated process, the program should be based on full and realistic evaluating circumstances in any particular country, taking into account specificity of the political situation existing in this or that region.

Another element of the mechanism is strengthening the BTWC by means of the mechanism, which would allow monitor its observance. The availability of such multi-sided mechanism, that would prevent new threats associated with BW and hamper developments in this area, is a key point in the context of counteraction the biological threat. The fact that such mechanism is absent in the BTWC, and that some countries reject its adoption, generates well-grounded concern of the global community concerning a danger of extended possibility of BW production.

Most likely states should provide the universal regime to protect biomaterials, whose efficiency and transparency would be monitored by inspections in the framework of the Convention. (The Convention does not include the mechanism of observance. In order to improve the efficiency of the Convention, participants of relevant Conferences held in 1986 and 1991made an agreement to submit annually to UN information about objects and activity in the field of biology. As a government -depositor, Russia considers submission of such information by states-members one of the most important factors to strengthen confidence.

In compliance with decisions of the #rd Review Conference (1991) and Special Conference (1994.) for state-members since 1995, between 1995 and 2001 in Geneva in the framework of a Special Group negotiations were being conducted to develop a controlling mechanism to be executed as International Juridical Document, Protocol to Convention. The work on elaborating this mechanism was ceased by one of delegation in July 2001).

Pertaining to the issue about elaboration of the mechanism of observance of the Convention, Russia's attitude is to create objective, non-discriminative, not hampering economical and technical development of the states, and non-oppressive, including financial aspect, mechanism of the observance. Based on this, the following measures and provisions for monitoring the fulfillment of the Convention were suggested in Geneva:

а) notification about potentially dangerous facilities (facilities involved in anti-biological weapons programs; facilities carrying out research with so called "listed" pathogens causing diseases in humans, animals, and plants; BL-4 facilities; vaccine production);
б) investigation of anticipated violations of the Convention (investigation of activities in a facility; investigation of application of weapons);
в) availability of criteria on which inspections and investigations would be based (terms and their definitions; lists of especially dangerous pathogens and toxins).

Another main element of constraining proliferation of BW is availability of appropriate national legislative bases. National legislation in those countries, where this problem is still exists or solved in part, should be further improved. At the same time laws implying punishment because of not following up obligations of the Convention are needed.

The process of non-proliferation is influenced greatly by financial and technical cooperation with developing state-members and assistance in elaborating laws and rules to follow up provisions of the Convention. In addition, measures assuring safe research with pathogens and toxins, whose objective is to produce means of prophylaxis and cure, monitoring of infectious diseases and counteraction terrorism may contribute much into the fulfillment of the Convention. The effective means of non-proliferation may be also an active role of specialists and scientists not only in controlling their results, but also in strengthening international cooperation on mutually beneficial and possessing basis.

The Russian Federation considers the Convention as the important international agreement providing the ban of the whole class of weapons of mass destruction. The carrying out the international obligations on the ban is one of the priorities of state policy of Russia. In this plan the Russian Federation undertakes the appropriate efforts both at international and national levels on the guarantee of carrying out of the obligations provided by the Convention, and increase of its effectiveness.

With this purpose in Russia the acts including an opportunity of activity carrying out in the breach of the Convention positions are accepted:

In the Russian Federation the system of data collection for the performance in Security Council UNO of the annual announcements is precisely organized in accordance with strengthening trust about biological activity and objects according to the established formats.

It is possible to establish that in Russia the acting legislative and normative legal base providing keepings of the international agreements in the fields of the ban of biological weapons is built. It is important not only to establish legislative base, but to ensure its effective work capacity. There are here certain difficulties connected to the economic situation of Russia, with the inadequate coordination between the departments. It is important that the work is conducted and the mechanism of the control works and is improved. As the exchange of opinion between the experts of the state-participants of the Convention about the ban of biological weapons in Geneva has shown, Russia takes one of the leading places on the establishing regulations of the guarantee of the carrying-out of the Convention about the ban of biological weapons and, hence, non-distribution of this weapons. Certainly, any regulations demand development, and, if required, with international recommendations harmonization taken into account.

It would be considered important, that the meetings of the experts and representatives of the state-participants to Geneva which will be hold in 2003-2005, were finished by the development of the coordinated document providing the strengthening of the Convention about the ban of biological weapons, that simultaneously it will be the additional contribution to process of non-distribution.

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Proceedings of First Russian Workshop on Biological Security
Copyright © Committee of Scientists for Global Security and Arms Control