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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 46, May 2000

Report Highlights Downside of Helping ex-Soviet BW Centres

On April 28, the GAO issued a report detailing the risks involved in US programmes designed to help former Soviet biological warfare centres in their transition from military to civil activity. Since 1994, the US has spent $20 million on such assistance, with $220 million slated over the next four years. The GAO report argues that "expanding the program" by this degree "will pose certain risks to the United States" by helping to sustain operations and expertise at facilities which are still secretive and capable of military research. The report notes: "Although Russia has generally allowed the United States access to its non-military institutes that receive US non-proliferation assistance, Russia has consistently rebuffed US efforts to inspect its military institutes currently managed by the Ministry of Defense."

In a joint statement attached to the report, the Departments of Defense, Energy and State strongly defend the increased assistance, arguing that "the benefits far outweigh the remaining risks." However, speaking on May 3, Floyd Spence, Republican Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, stressed that "Congress must carefully evaluate the risks and benefits of this program to ensure that it does not have unintended consequences that could jeopardize national security…"

Report: Biological weapons - effort to reduce former Soviet threat offers benefits, poses new risks, GAO Report, NSIAD-00-138, April 28; Report - risks in helping ex-Soviets, Associated Press, May 4.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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