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Biological Weapons Proliferation: Reasons for Concern, Courses of Action

NCJ Number
Graham S. Pearson; Gillian R. Woollett; Marie I. Chevrier; Jonathan B. Tucker; Amy E. Smithson
Date Published
January 1998
141 pages
This document describes ways to strengthen the international Biological Weapons Convention agreement.
The use of biological warfare agents is one of the most serious threats to national security. The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) was adopted without verification arrangements of any kind. There are significant difficulties associated with strengthening the BWC. Even mandatory transparency may be insufficient to deter and detect cheating. Many representatives of the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are very wary of strengthening measures of any kind. This was not the case for their counterparts in the chemical industry, which worked diligently with negotiators to craft intrusive verification methods for the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). A strengthened BWC is only a partial solution to the problems posed by the threat of biological weapons use. Multiple solutions are needed for a problem this complex and difficult. Diplomatic initiatives to deal with suspected biological weapons production or use will be weakened unless conventional military options are available and unless troops are properly trained, equipped, and led. Military options are likely to be undermined in the absence of diplomatic initiatives. Those who strongly advocate strengthening measures do so out of a sense of deep understanding of the magnitude of the problem. Strengthening measures would compound an already serious problem by lulling the general public into a false sense of security. Progress on many different fronts is needed. Chemical and biological weapons have proliferated more widely than nuclear weapons. The international norms against the acquisition and use of chemical and biological weapons are weaker than those against nuclear weapons. The essays in this document cover some of the following issues: the biological weapons threat, the use of confidence-building measures (CBMs) to show that members are abiding by the treaty, and the potential applicability of the CWC’s verification concepts to the BWC verification protocol. 5 tables, 3 charts, 3 appendices