Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Seventh Report


336.  The Report also looked at Russia's biological weapons [BW] capabilities, writing that the "extensive offensive BW programme maintained by the Former Soviet Union was the largest and most sophisticated the world has yet seen…Agents weaponised included anthrax, smallpox, Marburg, tularaemia and plague".[442] We heard in Moscow that attempts to cut the Russian Federation's BW capacity were hard to pursue since the Russians offered no figures on their capabilities and maintained a cloak of secrecy around their facilities, which are widely distributed across the immensity of Russia. One unavoidable concern is that if the Russian authorities destroy the weaponised pathogens and scale back their capabilities, the expertise remains with Russian scientists.

337.  The G8 Global Partnership Annual Report described the status of its work on the Russian BW capability to date. It said that "because of the priority given to the chemical weapons destruction programme, implementation of biological non-proliferation was delayed…The first UK biological non-proliferation project, involving a plant health institute in Georgia, was approved in July 2003 and is currently awaiting the approval of the ISTC Governing Board".[443] So work has hardly started.

338.  We conclude that progress on the destruction of the Russian Federation's chemical weapons stocks is most welcome but unfortunately is well behind the planned timetable. We recommend that in its response to this Report the Government set out how it will encourage the Russian authorities to speed the destruction process and outline its plans for work at the destruction facility at Shchuch'ye.

339.  We conclude that the destruction of biological weapons material in the Russian Federation should be a priority, and recommend that the Government set out how it will engage its Russian counterparts more directly on its biological weapons stocks and the employment of Russian scientists. We further conclude that the security of stocks of pathogens and the proliferation of expertise of Russian scientists present serious challenges for the international community.


340.  The Russian Federation has made some reductions of nuclear weapons under international arms reduction agreements. For instance, Russia is cutting its nuclear capacity from 18,000 to between 1,700 and 2,200 nuclear warheads by 2012 under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II) and the 2002 Strategic Offensives Reduction Treaty (SORT).[444] However, the USA and Russia tackle the dismantlement of nuclear weapons on bilateral basis. Other states playing a role in non-proliferation efforts, including the United Kingdom, work on different areas, such as the destruction of chemical weapons or decommissioning of submarine and the employment of weapons technicians.

442   Ibid p 17 Back

443   Ibid p 17 Back

444   Dmitri Trenin, "Russian and Global Security Norms", Washington Quarterly Vol 27 (2004), pp 63-77 Back

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