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International voices urge US explanation for bioweapons accusations

Source: Global Times

Russia is now strengthening its accusations against the US of developing biological weapons in Ukraine with documents and evidence it had detained amid its military operations in its neighboring country, and the US keeps claiming that Russia’s accusations are “disinformation” even if statements from different officials of the Biden administration are contradictory, and this has caused rising international concerns over US biolabs worldwide. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an extensive speech on the Ukraine crisis on Wednesday. “There was a network of dozens of laboratories in Ukraine, where military biological programs were conducted under the guidance and with the financial support of the Pentagon, including experiments with coronavirus strains, anthrax, cholera, African swine fever and other deadly diseases,” Putin said during his speech.

Putin noted that “frantic attempts” are underway to conceal the “traces of these secret programs,” according to RT.

Analysts said Putin’s remarks showed that Russia is very serious about the accusations against the US, and apart from providing documents it had obtained in Ukraine, and in order to further verify the accusations, Moscow and Kiev could consider inviting an international investigation team to include neutral countries like China, India, Turkey and representatives from international organizations to enter the relevant facilities to collect more direct and convincing evidence. 

The responses from Washington have made the international community more concerned. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki last week called out Russian claims that the United States has secretly operated chemical and biological weapons laboratories on Ukrainian territory as a “disinformation campaign.” 

But Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland previously said at a hearing in Congress that the US has “biological research facilities” in Ukraine and she said “we are now in fact quite concerned that Russian troops… may be seeking to gain control of [those labs], so we are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces should they approach.”

The US is a country that has rejected the protocol of monitoring bioweapons to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), so all its biolabs worldwide have no transparency. Due to the accidents related to these labs in the past, and the nasty record of the US using biological and chemical weapons in Vietnam and the Korean Peninsula, experts said it’s necessary for the international community to exert more pressure on the US to accept the BWC, and to prevent it from using other countries’ soil for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) development.

Wang Yiwei, director of the institute of international affairs at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Thursday that the US needs hundreds of biolabs worldwide in the territories of its allies so that when it can’t break the nuclear balance with its competitors, it needs some other WMDs to reinforce its strategic deterrence, and the biological and chemical weapons are their choices. 

“The international community has already been greatly concerned about US military biological activities. They have 336 laboratories around the world. This number comes from the information provided by the US to the Conference of Parties of the BWC,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun said at a UN Security Council meeting on March 11 on the matter of US biolabs in Ukraine. At the meeting, the US groundlessly accused China of spreading disinformation while China was just simply urging the US to clarify itself with transparency and evidence. 

Du Kaiyuan, a Shanghai-based military commentator, said the US needs hundreds of such facilities around the world rather than concentrate on the research at its domestic labs because “the tests for biological weapons need live tests which might cause legal problems in the US, but it can get enough samples from other countries.”

World concerns

The concerns are not only from Russia and China. Experts from many other countries, including the US, also raised their concerns over the matter. 

Jeffrey Kaye, a former clinical psychologist in San Francisco, told the Global Times on Thursday in a video interview that the US needs to provide the documentation and open up to what’s really being done in those labs in Ukraine. 

“We need to declassify the records going back to the end of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War so that we can find out what they are doing in these hundreds of biolabs.” But unfortunately, “the problem is they [the US government] won’t do that,” Kaye said.

Sheradil Baktygulov, a Kyrgyz independent political analyst based in Bishkek, told the Global Times on Thursday, “The formal explanations of the US authorities on more than 300 US biolabs activities around the world do not match the real situation on the ground. The truth is much darker as has been shown by many independent investigations since 2018.”

“There were numerous mysterious outbreaks of human illnesses and losses of livestock in Georgia, Ukraine and Russian provinces bordering that country since 2007. Moreover, the US is keeping its bioweapons in violation of international treaties,” he.

If the US is a peaceful and peacemaking country and follows democratic principles, then it has to be more transparent and open on US biolab operations around the world, said Baktygulov, noting that “Greater transparency will give mankind the opportunity to see beyond the formal explanations on US biolabs and the US might be recognized as a more trusted partner internationally.”

“At this point, all humanity needs transparency, not only the people on the battlefield but also the entire world,” Abdullah Agar, a security expert and academic at the Istanbul-based Bahcesehir University, said in a recent interview with the Xinhua News Agency.

Korkut Ulucan, a Turkish specialist in medical biology and genetics, said such laboratories must be accessible to international scientific committees, and their activities need to be audited by multiple independent organizations.

“To prevent a leak, these laboratories should be gradually evacuated with utmost care, under high-level security conditions and the supervision of a committee of scientists, and they must be inactivated,” Ulucan, also an academic at the Istanbul-based Marmara University and lecturer at the Uskudar University, told Xinhua.

International voices urge US explanation for bioweapons accusations
What is the US hiding in the biolabs discovered in Ukraine? Infographic: Deng Zijun/GT

What can we do?

Wang said that the problem is that the current international order can’t impose very effective restrictions and law enforcement on the US when it violates international laws or breaks the basic norms of international relations, or force it to be transparent on sensitive issues like WMDs.

“So if the US refuses to be transparent and be immune to accusations from Russia and keeps pretending to be blind to the concerns raised by world scientists, Washington won’t pay a significant price,” he said.

Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times that the international community can keep pressuring the US to accept the protocol for monitoring bioweapons of the BWC, as this is the obligation that the US should take, so that it will abide by laws, and the difficulties for the US to continue such research worldwide will be harder.

“And those US allies who have cooperated with the US on biological research with military or CIA backgrounds should also be responsible for their own people’s security, and these countries should also join the BWC and execute the right to monitor what the US is doing in their countries,” Song noted.