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Assessing the motivations and implications of US biological warfare policy Warrian, Kevin James

Abstract

The 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) was the first international treaty in the history of arms control to successfully ban an entire class of strategic military weapons. Despite its historical precedent however, subsequent grievous violations of the convention by at least two state parties to the treaty revealed its profound weaknesses. In the absence of even the most rudimentary verification mechanisms, the diffusion and advancement of biotechnology resulted in severe violations by both the former Soviet Union and the former government of Iraq. In response to the violations of the international regime banning biological warfare, the state parties to the BTWC began to take steps to repair the regime in the early 1990s by initiating negotiations to create a set of multilateral verification protocols for the convention. In 2001, after have spent seven long years in negotiation, the positions of the state parties to the BTWC had begun to converge on a set of verification instruments that satisfied the vast majority of the participating nations. This progress however, was abruptly undercut by the United States when it not only rejected the draft verification protocols that had been negotiated by the state parties to the convention, but it also went on to reject the very process of strengthening the regime through the creation of multilateral verification mechanisms. To date, the U.S. policy toward the development of verification protocols has effectively prevented the international community from moving forward to strengthen the BTWC, as the U.S. is the world leader in biotechnology and any effective verification protocols would need the support of the United States. While the current U.S. policy toward verification protocols represents a formidable setback in the international community's effort to restore credibility to the BTWC, current illicit research and development by the U.S. military into the creation a new generation of offensive biological weapons has dealt yet another blow to the long standing international norm against biological warfare. In order to restore credibility to the international regime banning biological warfare, the U.S. must not only retreat from its polarized position of opposing the institution of multilateral verification protocols, but it must also bring itself back into full compliance with its obligations under the BTWC.

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