As noted previously, resistance to international cooperation persists within the Ministry of Defense (MOD). However, MOD apparently has not objected to Biopreparat's outreach, and some well-informed Russian colleagues believe that in the future, MOD will allow its institutes to join in cooperative efforts. Also, the interest of the Russian Defense Council in promoting cooperation and its reported endorsement of the NAS activity are encouraging.
Biopreparat institutes and enterprises were a major component of the former Soviet BW complex. Effective engagement of Biopreparat specialists and institutes therefore warrants a substantial bilateral effort even if MOD remains reluctant to participate.
Although Russian interest in cooperation is increasing, the future political course within Russia remains difficult to predict, and curtailment of bilateral cooperation with the United States in sensitive areas could be among the early targets if a reversal of the current movement toward political and economic reform occurs. As cooperation becomes more ingrained in the scientific community, joint efforts are more likely to survive severe political shocks, which underscores the importance of establishing and broadening such cooperation as soon as possible.
In view of the foregoing considerations, the committee believes that prompt action to follow up on recent steps toward expanded bilateral cooperation is very important.
Drawing on its positive experiences during 1996 and 1997 and current Russian interest in expanding cooperation, the committee recommends that a Pathogens Initiative focused on the public health aspects of dangerous pathogens begin as soon as possible. It will substantially expand the initial program of pilot projects described in Chapter 2 and will build on the limited efforts of several U.S. government agencies in this specialized field as presented in Table E-1.
If the Department of Defense (DOD) decides to support a Pathogens Initiative, as recommended in this report, the program will provide significant civilian research opportunities for defense scientists. The assurance of regular paychecks will reduce the economic incentives for these scientists to look elsewhere for financial support, including states of proliferation concern. Thus, the program will directly support DOD's mission to prevent diffusion of critical technical know-how that could assist in developing BW capabilities.
The core of a Pathogens Initiative should be joint research projects directed to the epidemiology, prophylaxis, diagnosis, and therapy of diseases associated with dangerous pathogens, as well as related fundamental research. The approaches for selecting and administering such projects developed during the implementation of pilot projects, described in Chapter 2, should serve as the initial framework for an expanded research program.
The Pathogens Initiative is projected to last five years, beginning in fiscal year (FY) 1998. The research and other components involved are discussed below. As the program matures, additional activities may be included and some recommended activities and approaches may be modified to reflect the experience gained.
If successful, the Pathogens Initiative should lead quite naturally to a state of sustained, transparent cooperation with Russia. This cooperation should be at a level of activity that provides attractive opportunities for a significant number of specialists from each country while at the same time concentrating research at a limited number of high-quality facilities in Russia. A favorable political environment is necessary, and the joint efforts envisaged should, in turn, contribute to improved bilateral political relationships. A possible template for sustained cooperation as a follow-up development to the Pathogens Initiative is presented in Chapter 4.