- WASHINGTON (AP) Russia has the ability to revive its once massive chemical
and biological warfare capability and Russian firms weakly policed by the
government are exporting weapons technology, according to a U.S. intelligence
- The CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency
told lawmakers in newly released written responses to questions that the
basic building blocks of the former Soviet Union's chemical and biological
weapons capability are being maintained by Moscow. In addition, the intelligence
agencies said certain elements of the Russian government may be seeking
to circumvent arms control agreements that limit offensive chemical and
- "Key components of the former Soviet
biological warfare program remain largely intact and may support a possible
future mobilization capability for the production of biological agents
and delivery systems,'' the DIA reported in its written responses to questions
posed by the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Moreover, work outside
the scope of legitimate biological defense activity may be occurring now
at selected facilities within Russia.''
- If that activity is geared toward developing
offensive biological weapons, the DIA said, Russia would be violating the
1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.
- The CIA cited evidence from Russian "whistleblowers''
who have "alleged that Moscow is hiding a program designed to ensure
a continuing offensive chemical weapons capability despite arms control
commitments,'' including the Chemical Weapons Convention, which took effect
in 1995. Some of these allegations have long been publicly aired. In 1992,
Russian chemical weapons scientist Vil Mirzayanov said in the Moscow press
that Russia was developing a new generation of binary chemical agents called
"Novichok'' or "Newcomer.''
- "These allegations, when combined
with other information give rise to concerns that at least some factions
within the Russian government desire to circumvent the Chemical Weapons
Convention,'' the CIA concluded.
- The CIA said that some biological weapons
facilities have been deactivated in recent years but that other facilities
remain able to produce biological weapons.
- "We cannot establish that Russia
has given up this capability and remain concerned that some of the individuals
involved in the old Soviet program may be trying to protect elements of
it,'' the CIA said.
- Both the chemical and biological treaties
require signatory countries to eliminate biological and chemical weapons
stockpiles and production capabilities. The export of biological or chemical
weapons technology is also forbidden by the pacts.
- The limits on biological capability leave
some wiggle room, according to Spurgeon Keeny, director of the Arms Control
Association, an arms control advocacy group based in Washington. The treaty
allows research and development of vaccines used in protecting people from
biological weapons attacks, and some of these treatments involve diluted
versions of the same lethal substances banned by the treaty. As a result,
Keeny said, it can be difficult to be sure that a vaccine production lab
is not being used for weapons development.
- "There has been considerable suspicion
over the years that their biological program, which was a separate activity,
was moving slowly to be brought in compliance,'' Keeny said. For both the
chemical and biological programs, a major problem facing cash-strapped
Russia is the high cost " in the tens of billions of dollars "
of dismantling huge weapons stockpiles. "The Russians don't have a
ghost of an idea where they're going to get the money to do all this,''
- The CIA also reported that private or
quasi-governmental organizations in Russia are assisting other countries
in weapons development with little oversight by law enforcement agencies
seeking to prevent illegal arms technology exports.
- "The financial position of defense
industries in the countries of the former Soviet Union continues to be
shaky, prompting many entities to seek foreign contracts to keep operating,''
according to the CIA. "Government oversight of the activity of these
firms appears to be spotty.'' Law enforcement "remains a major problem,
given high levels of corruption, limited expertise and resource shortages.''
- In addition, the CIA said, "Increasingly,
scientists from the former Soviet Union appear to be providing their expertise
and know-how to solving weapons development problems for foreign countries.''
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