The expert explained just how big a threat today is a biological weapon
June 17, 2011, 20:40
Text: Elena Sidorenko
“Biological warfare is not. Everyone understands the threat from the use of biopathogens. It will be worse than a nuclear weapon”, – assured the newspaper LOOK chief scientific officer of the Center for international security, IMEMO ran, Natalia Kalinina. So she commented on the talk about bioterrorism accompanying spread in Europe an intestinal infection.
Struck Europe E. coli E. Coli, has already claimed the lives of 38 people, once again forced the community to talk about the threat of bioterrorism. It is a version of outbreaks. Chief sanitary doctor of Russia Gennady Onishchenko believes that the current epidemic may be artificial, caused by humans. At this point it was prompted by the fact that all strains of infections resistant to antibiotics.
“In principle, bioterrorism is a topic which is intensively engaged in law enforcement. In the past was evidence that the terrorist organization tried hard to important biological materials, but to no avail,” – said about the last epidemic in an interview with the magazine Focus, the head of the Federal office for criminal matters (BKA), jörg Circus.
Moreover, the subject of biological terrorism seriously raised the world’s media for the second time in a short time. A few weeks ago analysts have persistently voiced the hypothesis that the poisoning of the Russian tourists poor-quality alcohol at the resort in Bodrum can be nothing other than an act of sabotage against the current Turkish authorities and the tourism industry of the state.
The potential threat of the use of biological weapons represent and the countries of the Middle East. In April of this year WikiLeaks released materials investigators center detention at a military base in the United States, spoke about upcoming plans for nuclear and biological terrorist attacks “al-Qaeda”. It is noted that the terrorists in recent times especially thinking about the use of biological weapons. In particular, they discussed the possibility of infecting a significant number of people with anthrax.
About whether humanity is threatened by biological warfare and what in the world is the situation with biological weapons, the newspaper VZGLYAD said the chief researcher of the Center for international security, Institute of world economy and international relations Russian Academy of Sciences, doctor of medical Sciences, Professor Natalia Kalinina.
Natalia Kalinina believes that the threat of use of biological weapons is becoming more real (Photo: pircenter.org)
The LOOK: Natalia, let’s define the concepts. Which at the moment is called “biological weapons”?
Natalia Kalinina: Theoretically as means of biological warfare is used by a huge number of pathogenic biological agents (viruses, bacteria, fungi, toxins, extracted from animals or plants). Most countries predictably focused on those types of biopathogens that can quickly cause a mass lesion. To the classic types of biological weapons are usually referred to anthrax, cholera, plague, various types of fevers, etc. Artificial cultivation of biological agents for hostile purposes is actually understood as the production of biological weapons. If the developers consciously support or in some way enhance the pathogenic properties of biological agents, it also refers to the development of biological weapons.
There is a whole list of criteria by which a particular bioagent may be related to the bioweapon. It all depends on in what form it intends to use. For example, if a particular weapon is suitable aerosol pathway (creation of clouds, spraying, aircraft munitions), this type of bioagent should not decompose quickly under high temperature, and it needs relatively long time to persist in the environment.
Another important and indispensable for the creation of bioweapons are looking kind of biopathogens and growing such a strain that is resistant to treatment. Well, this is understandable: if the infection is easy to defend, it would not have sufficient damaging effect or awesome factor.
OPINION: Which countries have developed biological weapons? And what exactly did they work?
N. To.: The idea of using pathogens as weapons emerged due to the fact that infectious diseases continually claimed many lives, and the epidemic that accompanied the war caused major losses among troops, sometimes prejudging the outcome of battles and whole campaigns. For example, from 27 thousand British soldiers who participated in 1741 in aggressive campaigns in Mexico and Peru, 20 thousand died from yellow fever.
From 1733 to 1865 in the wars in Europe killed about 8 million people, including combat losses amounted to only 1.5 million, and 6.5 million people died from infectious diseases. The history of the wars of the past knows other similar examples.
For the first time the deliberate and systematic development of such weapons began only in the early XX century. During the First world war the Kaiser’s Germany did a series of subversive use of biological resources. В1940 years preceding the Second world war, the most intensive work in the development of biological weapons were the Japanese.
At the time, many industrialized countries had an offensive program for the development of biological weapons, including the Soviet Union. These works are not published and direct evidence of their existence no, no one has officially stated that it is the design, and didn’t say something works, but research is definitely carried out.
VIEW: AND some of these States used a bioweapon? According to some, it was used during the Second world war.
N. To.: The Soviet Union never used biological weapons against anyone. The production of biological weapons in the USSR were considered only if necessary of its use “as weapons of retaliation” and was only applied in the “special period”. Offensive military-biological program of the USSR was completely destroyed, and the appropriate information was submitted to the UN in 1992. Russia today does not possess facilities for the production of bioweapons and submits annually to the UN information on the activities of the biological objects in the framework of confidence-building measures.
In fact no state officially biological weapons have never been used.
The loudest process has been associated with Japan, which in the 1940-ies have tried to use the bioweapon against China. In the occupied territory of Manchuria they created two large research centre (units No. 731 and 100), which together with research and production departments had experienced landfills, where tests of biological agents were conducted not only on animals but on prisoners of war and civilian population of China (conducted spraying of fleas and flies infected with various types of pathogens). But still, it’s difficult to consider a clear military use of biological weapons. To serious political consequences that may lead. Again, it was a secret test.
OPINION: If the fact of creation and use of biological weapons has never officially confirmed, real data about its effects is not, why was adopted by the international Convention on the prohibition of biological weapons?
N. K.: When most countries began to have greater biological potential threat of possible use of biological weapons began to increase. At the same time was the growing understanding that of a few who manage to escape. Bioweapon scary that can be used not only against people but also against animals and plants, i.e. it is valid in General for all environments zhizneobitanija.
All this has led to the fact that immediately after the Second world war, negotiations began on the need for International agreement banning not only the use but also the development of biological weapons. It ended with the fact that in 1972 there was a Convention on the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons and on their destruction.
LOOK How many countries today are parties to the Convention?
N. To.: The Convention has been ratified by 164 States. But when you consider that the UN is composed of 194 countries, the risk remains that some States not parties to the Convention can continue the development of offensive programs of biological weapons.
Among those who have not signed the Convention, there are underdeveloped countries, for example, Comoros, cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and some others that even in the distant future will not possess the technology to manufacture biological weapons. There are, however, among the “nepodpisantov” and those States that not only have the capacity to manufacture this type of weapon (they, by the way, have all NATO countries, India, China, Russia and some other industrially-developed States) but may continue development of offensive programs. Their list is quite extensive. It is States like Israel, Egypt, Syria, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Myanmar (Burma) and some others.
OPINION: what happened to those stocks that countries certainly have accumulated prior to 1972?
N. To.: The Convention stipulated that the bio-weapon must be destroyed within nine months after its entry into force. Of course, all the States quickly grew, rather, stated that they have no stocks of biological weapons. To some extent it can be trusted. Because in essence the bio-weapon is a living weapon. To live, it must eat, reproduce and carry out its activities in accordance with the genetic structure. Biocomponent placed in any product, for example, an artillery shell, to be delivered to the destination, under conditions of prolonged storage loses its pathogenic properties and eventually dies. Therefore no state, however technology has had never made large stocks. So to fulfill the requirement of the Convention on stockpile destruction was easy enough. It was not easy to replace what has already been, the rest itself would have died.
OPINION: In all your words about the destruction and termination of the development of biological weapons feel a serious element of doubt. What do you think, is there now a threat of biological war?
N. To.: Biological warfare – just as the war – there will be nothing to fear. All civilized countries understand the threat from use of biopathogens. It will be even worse than nuclear weapons. But that’s why many experts in the first place for potential danger, put biological weapons – because of the unpredictability of the consequences and magnitude for all living things. In the absence of an effective international legal regime to control biological weapons nonproliferation global threat of biosecurity and bioterrorism in the modern world increase, by the very nature of biological agents (biopathogenic) and possibilities of their application not only against man but also animals and plants that form the basis of nutrient balance. Today, the number of biopathogens that can potentially be related to the bioweapon hundreds. If we add to this poorly observed the situation with the spread of biomaterials and critical technologies that can be used to obtain weapons, the potential threat can become real.
Additional risk factors include intensive development of biotechnology, genetic engineering, methods of cloning that raises the possibility of generating new types of biological weapons, is not subject to control under the Convention. As a factor contributing to the possible consequences of the production and application of new biological damaging agents, experts attribute the program “human Genome” because of research conducted in the framework of this program do not fall within the scope of the Convention.
Examples of some biopathogens as a tool of terror known. The “loud” case of bioterrorism occurred in the United States in 2001, when the course went anthrax spores.
LOOK: If you still this deadly biological war happens, Russia will be ready for it?
N. To.: Of course, technology we have. And if the need arises, which will lead to the violation of the obligations of the Convention, many countries in a fairly quick time can accumulate a certain number of certain types of biological weapons. Such options is not exception and Russia. But again, the reality of the emergence of military-political conditions for unleashing the biological war between the States is negligible, and it cannot be considered seriously. At the same time, the risks of the use of biological weapons for terrorist purposes remain and even have a tendency to rise.
LOOK: by the Way, some experts point out that despite the Convention, the United States managed to free his hands and to continue to develop biological weapons. Is there any reason to believe so?
N. To.: Specific grounds for such claims, but the reason for that could be the situation that occurred in 2001. The weakness of the biological weapons Convention is that there are not enough adequate control measures. Initially it was planned to develop a system of oversight of States (they continue development or not). It’s one thing when a country is simply saying that she did not, another thing to check, whether so it actually. It was decided to develop a Protocol on verification measures, established a group of governmental experts, which for several years have developed this system of oversight. By 2001, created a 400-page document that had to be considered and adopted at the Review conference in late 2001. But all of a sudden the Americans refused to sign the Protocol, citing the threat of bioterrorism and in particular, in the event that we talked about above. Thus, the United States gave rise to discussions of their unwillingness to subject their country to inspections.
OPINION: is There still some flaws in the Convention that allow countries to continue working towards the creation of bioweapons?
N. To.: There has been talk about the need to develop a Code of conduct for scientists. The fact that the biological science in recent decades are developing so actively and powerfully, do some research in several areas can lead to unpredictable consequences. First of all, this concerns research in the field of genetics.
The emergence of new technologies to create genetically modified organisms has two sides. Of course, they are huge humanitarian focus when using genetic engineering to create new drugs and vaccines, from previously completely incurable diseases. On the other hand, the same technologies allow to create new, unknown in nature, the biological agents that can act independently and purposefully.
Everyone understands that in the biological Sciences there are aspects that are impossible to control. Why is the conversation about the development of the Code of the scientist. This refers to not only individual people, but entire research teams or laboratories. Now, for example, the search for a new drug, and suddenly in the synthesis of substances with the use of genetic engineering appear in the new connection properties that can be used entirely different plan. In such cases, scientists are encouraged to voluntarily abandon further research.
But, in my opinion, is a dead end road. Science cannot deny, it will still develop. To place the responsibility on the scientist either. Because he is innocent. If the fruits of his mind exercised by the state, then it should be held accountable.
LOOK: Every time the emergence of a disease begin to talk about the possibility of the use of biological weapons. Now at the peak of the discussion of E. coli that hit Europe. How, in your opinion, it is artificial or natural, whether in connection with biological terrorism?
N. To.: Infections occurred in all ages, and even before the invention of biological weapons, this is normal. But since now the world is a big migration, it becomes a lot and “imported” diseases.
If we talk about E. coli, I believe that it’s more an economic war. In fact, no special infected, no. The types of these E. coli has always existed, contamination could occur from-for elementary non-compliance of equipment for agricultural cultivation. The reason, as a rule, watering gardens wastewater, which is full of feces. Plus temperature, heat and Escherichia coli multiplied. In fact, from the seasonal flu, which happens twice a year, in Russia and in all countries, killed many more people than now from Escherichia coli.