By Pavel Felgenhauer
Continued U.S. accusations that Iraq is secretly producing biological weapons has increased international interest in Russia's germ-warfare capabilities. Russia has been accused of illegally preparing to use biological weapons and also helping Iraq.
Last November, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen displayed a bag of Domino sugar on a Sunday television talk show to press the point that five pounds of anthrax could kill half of Washington's population. The spectacle was not impressive. Only a fitness maniac can be seriously scared by a bag of sugar. Obviously, better proof was needed.
So The Washington Post disclosed that in 1995, Iraq's military procurement officials struck a deal with Russian companies to buy large fermentation vessels to produce single-cell protein. The same vessels could also produce large quantities of biological weapons. No vessels ever reached Iraq, however, so the story was continued in a different way.
Recently, Dr. Kanatzhan Alibekov, a senior official in the former Soviet biological warfare program now living in the United States as Ken Alibek after defecting from Kazakhstan in 1992, began giving newspaper and television interviews in the United States, alleging not only that "hundreds of tons" of anthrax were ready to be loaded on Soviet missiles at a few days notice in the '80s, but that Russia is continuing work on new biological agents under the guise of defense research.
Alibek's firsthand knowledge of current Russian biological defense programs may be dubious. But his account of the Soviet past is at least partially accurate.
The Soviet Union did have a biological military program and did in fact violate the 1972 international convention banning biological weapons. In April 1992, President Boris Yeltsin signed an ukaz that banned work on biological weapons. Yeltsin also officially acknowledged that the anti-biological weapons treaty was violated.
However, the Soviet biological military effort was never h ... Читать далее