Preventing Proliferation of Biological Weapons: U.S. Assistance to the Former Soviet States [April 10, 2002]   [open pdf - 166KB]

This report addresses the imperative role the US has played in the attempt to rid the former Soviet Union of their numerous biological research and production centers (BRPCs). Their BRPC capabilities included genetically-altered, antibiotic-resistant pathogens and sophisticated delivery systems, with approximately fifty biological research and production centers (BRPCs) throughout the country devoted to either all or part of their work to the program. To make matters worse, the drastically reduced or eliminated funding for these BRPC's created thousands of unemployed BW scientists, in addition to the facilities, weapons technology, and thousands of strains of pathogens at these centers that became vulnerable to theft, sale, or misuse. However, in the mid-1990's, the United States began engaging BRPCs throughout the former Soviet Union in four kinds of cooperative projects aimed at preventing proliferation of BW capabilities - Biosafety, Biosecurity, Collaborative Research, and Dismantlement. Biosafety enhancement projects are intended to make BRPCs safe places for collaborating scientists to work. In combination, Collaborative Research and Biosafety enhancement projects give U.S. officials routine access to laboratories and facilities that were once used for BW research and production. BioSecurity projects consolidate and restrict access to pathogens, while Dismantlement projects target excess infrastructure and BW equipment at BRPC sites for permanent dismantlement. As a result, U.S. participants in these projects have identified several lessons learned in the past few years. First, it has become clear that the infrastructure of the Soviet/Russian BW complex was more extensive than most analysts realized when the United States initiated its efforts to prevent proliferation of BW capabilities from former Soviet states. Second, U.S. participants report that biosafety, biosecurity, and dismantlement projects require complex negotiations, complex engineering work, considerable project management support, and innovative solutions for problems specific to each BRPC. Consequently, they have learned that the United States may need to offer a long-term commitment if it wants to complete the effort. At the same time, the U.S. agencies with BW nonproliferation programs recognize the need to maximize the nonproliferation benefits of U.S. assistance in an environment with limited resources. Finally, U.S. participants have discovered that interpersonal and institutional relationships resulting from these cooperative efforts may play a powerful role in preventing proliferation of BW capabilities from former Soviet states.

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CRS Report for Congress, RL31368
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