It is an unfortunate enough reality that the world is concerned about the threat of naturally occurring biological hazards, but now there is a real fear that terrible biological weapons may make a reappearance. While many may consider the Covid-19 pandemic to be a “once in a lifetime” tragedy, there is reasonable concern that a lack of preparedness may give rise to another pandemic sooner than we may think. Although, we may not have time to focus on preventing another naturally occurring biological disaster because there is a serious concern that Russia may employ biological weapons in their invasion of Ukraine.
A biological weapon specifically involves using a living organism to inflict harm on others. The classic example would be depictions of Roman or Mongol armies throwing dead animals in an enemy’s water supply to ensure that disease would spread through the ranks. Since the Classical age, humans have only grown uncomfortably more efficient in all aspects of warfare and biological weapons have undergone terrifying advancement. Since 2008, more than 20 countrieshave maintained a biological weapons department and the former Soviet Union extensively researched the subject.
In October of 2021, NATO acknowledged the possibility of another devastating pandemic then began to ring the alarm bells that certain countries have the capability and motive to unleash devastating biological weapons that many would be unprepared to counter. Barely a month later, and likely in response to the then escalating tension between Russia and Ukraine, the Biden administration formally voiced their concern about the proliferation and potential use of biological weapons. The administration agreed with NATO that there needs to be a united global stance against the development of biological weapons and thorough cooperative strategies to prevent the threat of another pandemic. Thankfully, there are indications that Congress is willing to support President Biden in this area.
Republican Senator, James Risch, introduced bill 2912 last year that directly addresses the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic and the actions the United States must take to prevent another natural, or weaponized, biological disaster. The bill calls on the government to make assessments of foreign countries, specifically Russia and China, and potentially ban all cooperative research funding if those countries are found to not be compliant with the Biological Weapons Convention. Additionally, the bill would call upon the United States to actively use its leverage within the United Nations to condemn the offending countries and prevent them from seeking any position of power within the sphere of global health.
The threat of these weapons cannot be understated. Even Russia is spreading obvious misinformation that their justification for invading Ukraine was because of alleged bio-labs within the now besieged nation. As the conflict in Ukraine continues, the likelihood of Russia resorting to utilizing biological weapons among its many other war crimesonly increases. Congress has shown initiative in recognizing that the United States needs to be proactive in its defense against biological hazards, so there is hope that the often-divided institution will come together to condemn any use of such a weapon and react accordingly.