Russia, with one-seventh of the world’s land mass and a rich heritage of scientific achievements, has long had the unique experience and capability to help control the spread of infectious diseases. Now, globalization of travel and trade, emerging diseases, and the widening threat of bioterrorism have heightened the urgency of harnessing the scientific and technological abilities of all countries in a united counter-attack on pervasive and persistent disease agents that can wreak human and economic havoc. Clearly, Russia should be on the front lines of the global effort to prevent and contain outbreaks of disease, at home and abroad.
During the past decade, the United States and Russia have been engaged in a growing program of bilateral cooperation in bioscience and biotechnology. This cooperative effort was initiated to help reduce the likelihood that irresponsible governments or terrorists would gain access to and misuse expertise, technologies, or material from a weakened Russia that was in the midst of a dramatic economic transition. While making major contributions to achieving this objective, the joint program has also gained comparable importance in addressing human and agricultural diseases that directly affect the Russian population, and indeed populations in many countries.
As bilateral cooperation has evolved, the mistrust on both sides that had hampered scientific interactions in the biological sciences during the Cold War has diminished. Instrumental in this change were the many personal transoceanic relationships that now provide a solid foundation for expanded cooperative efforts. The importance of engagement activities is substantial in providing not only a
scientific return but also mutual confidence in the legitimacy of research and related endeavors in bioscience and biotechnology of former adversaries.
This report proposes important steps toward rejuvenating Russia’s capacity to contain endemic diseases and cope with newly emerging diseases. It underscores the fact that only the Russian government can chart a realistic course for ensuring the health and security of its population. But Russia’s international partners, and particularly the United States, can play important supporting roles as outmoded concepts of assistance give way to true partnerships, as Russia increases its financial commitments to international efforts and Western countries become more engaged intellectually, and as Western partners move from bilateral to multilateral approaches in addressing problems that affect many countries.