perhaps more likely a group of misguided scientists to use such knowledge and do harm is a critical concern. Early detection of intention is essential to reduce the likelihood of misuse or proliferation of dangerous biological assets. In short, security systems surrounding virulent pathogen collections are of course important but cannot alone hold potential terrorists at bay. Gaining insights as to intentions is just as important as efforts to constrain through physical barriers and security procedures access to collections of strains of dangerous pathogens.

One way to understand—and perhaps even alter—nefarious intentions regarding the misuse of biological agents is through development of close personal working relationships between American and counterpart scientists abroad, which introduce considerable transparency into scientific activities. Also, international projects can improve our understanding of foreign environments that might attract irresponsible groups seeking to misuse biological assets.

This chapter discusses important aspects of the security context for consideration of BTRP. It highlights scientific engagement promoted by BTRP and other programs as a promising avenue for understanding intentions.

Historical Perspective of Developments in Russia

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States, along with several U.S. allies, particularly the United Kingdom, developed large offensive biological warfare programs. The United States and its allies halted their efforts by 1969. The USSR continued its program until 1992, when President Boris Yeltsin declared that the development of biological weapons was illegal. The committee is unaware of any evidence that indicates continuation of illegal activities in Russia since that time, although others have lingering concerns. Fortunately, neither the United States nor the Soviet Union has used biological weapons.

The Soviet program is reported to have involved 30,000 to 40,000 specialists working in up to 40 facilities, primarily in Russia. Many of the facilities were grouped under the umbrella organization Biopreparat. In addition, the Soviet program also obtained specialized scientific support from a number of internationally known civilian-oriented research institutes. Research activities were highly compartmentalized, both within and between institutions. Production facilities were also closely shielded. They were capable of producing annually hundreds of tons of biological materials for weapon filling, particularly anthrax.5

Shortly after President Yeltsin’s announcement, U.S. and British teams of specialists visited four Biopreparat facilities in Russia that were suspected of having supported weapons research and production activities. These visits were carried out within the framework of a Trilateral Agreement signed by the United States, United Kingdom, and Russian Federation. Following the visits and subsequent reciprocal visits to U.S. and British facilities by a Russian delegation of experts, negotiations began to lay the groundwork for additional visits to military facilities. However, the negotiations dragged on for months and eventually terminated without leading to such visits.6


See, for example, Mangold, T. and Goldberg, J. 2000. Plague Wars. New York: St. Martin’s Press, chapters 6 and 13.


Ibid, chapters 13, 15, and 17.

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