Text Only | Disarmament Diplomacy | Disarmament Documentation | ACRONYM Reports
back to the acronym home page
WMD Possessors
About Acronym
Disarmament Diplomacy No. 78, Cover design by Paul Aston

Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 78, July/August 2004

The Challenge of Biological Weapons:
Proposals for Greater EU Effectiveness

Ulla Jasper

The events of September 11, 2001, as well as the war against Iraq on the grounds of its presumed non-compliance with international disarmament obligations, have heightened concerns about the potential use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by terrorist groups or in warfare. Even though there is no coherent and plausible evidence for the imminent use of WMD by either a revisionist state or a terrorist group and even though the use of WMD in warfare is technically more difficult than often assumed, there is a growing debate about how to counter WMD proliferation more effectively. For the first time indicating a comprehensive common European Union (EU) approach to tackle these threats, the European Security Strategy (ESS), the EU Strategy against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the respective roadmaps for their implementation highlight these resurgent concerns.1 They present a new attitude within the EU and its member states, showing that they have become more serious and determined about nonproliferation issues, including the possible use of force in the case of grave violations of international arms control obligations.

However, there remain doubts as to whether rhetoric will be followed by deeds. An analysis of the EU and its member states' performance in the disarmament of biological weapons confirms these doubts. Even though the EU member states were able to agree on a common position that they carried forward throughout the negotiations on a verification protocol for the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), they were not able to prevent the failure of the negotiations in 2001. Moreover, the EU now appears unwilling to make a stronger, genuine contribution to the disarmament of biological weapons, preferring to enjoy a rather comfortable position in the shadow of the "bad guy" and scapegoat for the failure, namely the US government.

The EU WMD Strategy sets out appreciable goals for global arms control efforts, but it remains rather silent concerning steps to be undertaken by the EU and its member countries to polish their own performance in the arms control and nonproliferation domain. The following analysis will elaborate upon steps that ought to be undertaken by the EU and its member states in order to establish a genuine and comprehensive approach towards the effective nonproliferation and disarmament of biological weapons.2

Biological Weapons: Definition, Utility, Potential Effects

Whereas other weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons for example, seem to be commonly defined, there is much less agreement on how to define biological weapons (BW) and biological warfare. This is underscored by the absence of a definition in the BWC, which opened for signature on April 10, 1972 and entered into force in 1975. One of the most usable definitions is given by Brian Beckett: "Biological warfare involves the use of disease-producing micro-organisms - bacteria, viruses, fungi and rickettsiae - in support of military or paramilitary operations."3

Humankind has seen several instances of the use of disease as a weapon. Examples can be traced back as far as to the 14th century, during the siege of Caffa in the Crimea, when infected cadavers were catapulted into the city to spread disease; a further notorious case was the introduction of smallpox on infected blankets given to Native American tribes by British forces in the 18th century.4

Further incidents of the deliberate use of these weapons are almost all confined to poisoning and sabotage, which has been more widespread than the actual use of bioweapons as a warfare capability. Such cases include sabotage acts by German agents against livestock in the US to disrupt food supply during World War I5 or the so-called 'Salad Bar' incident, in which a US religious cult infected more than 750 people by contaminating food with Salmonella bacteria in Oregon in 1984. In another US example from September-October 2001, a small number of letters containing anthrax were sent to prominent politicians and journalists, leading to the death of five people and to the prophylactic antibiotic treatment of some 10,000. Such incidents illustrate the utility of biological weapons to cause casualties and to disrupt societies.

In modern times there is only one confirmed use of biological weapons as a means of warfare: the Japanese offensive warfare programme that was developed against Chinese and Soviet forces and civilians in the 1940s. An insufficient understanding of effective dissemination methods and other technical problems however prevented a more widespread military utilisation of such weapons. The limitations notwithstanding, the Allies, particularly the US military, later made extensive use of the Japanese knowledge and findings. In return for their cooperation and disclosure of their scientific results, leading scientists of the Japanese BW-programme were granted immunity in the Tokyo war tribunals by the US administration.6

Most other allegations of the use of BW by state-actors have never been verified and are thought to be unlikely. These include accusations regarding the US in the Korean War in the 1950s, the US against Cuba on several occasions since the 1960s, and Germany against the Soviet Union in World War II. In the case of Germany, there is actually evidence that Hitler explicitly prohibited any research and development on BW.7

Yet, having said that, far reaching offensive and defensive BW research programmes were established in several countries as early as the 1930s, in particular the United States and the Soviet Union, where they continued for many decades.8 By the 1970s, many of the activities under the umbrella of these programmes were in direct breach or at least considered to violate the spirit of existing arms control agreements such as the BWC. Given the high profile of former research activities, it seems even more astonishing that biological weapons were, as far as we know, never used after World War II. How can this phenomenon possibly be explained?

One of the often repeated arguments is that the perceived immorality and growing international norm against the use of disease as weapons, as first established in the Geneva Conventions in 1925, contributed widely to self-deterrence and non-use of BW. There might be some weight to this argument, but it seems to be just one side of the coin. The other, perhaps more important argument is that despite their potential destructiveness, the military benefit and utility of biological weapons was found to be rather limited compared to other forms of WMD or even conventional weapons, restricting their use for most of the 20th century.

Even though the destructive power and lethality of certain biological agents can be compared to the destruction potentially caused by nuclear weapons, and even though biological agents are easier and cheaper to produce, their weaponisation is extremely challenging and their utility as a means of warfare has long been in doubt. This can be explained by three key factors: unpredictability and lack of stability; danger to the aggressor's own forces; and the weapons' incubation period, frequently resulting in deferred effectiveness.

Unpredictability and lack of stability encompass the problem of disseminating the agent and exposing as many people as possible to it without degradation by environmental influences such as sunlight or humidity. It also reflects the possibility of defensive measures (e.g. vaccines) taken by the intended targets, which could significantly lower the impact of a BW attack.

The second aspect reflects that biological weapons disseminated as an aerosol might under certain weather conditions also affect the aggressor's own forces.9 And thirdly, depending on the agent used there is a time lag between the actual use of BW and their noticeable effect in the form of symptoms of a disease.

Given these three difficulties, the military utility of BW has long been controversial. Thus, when the administration of President Richard Nixon decided to renounce the US BW program in 1969, many observers argued that this was mainly due to the fact that the US had a huge and more effective nuclear arsenal at its disposal, to which a biological warfare capability added little military value.

The "poor aggressor's" atomic bomb?

Why then have a significant number of countries decided to acquire biological weapons? Even though biological weapons seemed to be of limited military utility, as illustrated by the US decision to unilaterally forego its programme, about a dozen countries are suspected of having developed more or less advanced BW warfare capabilities. As mentioned above, the development of crude biological warfare agents is cheaper and in a certain sense easier than that of nuclear weapons.10 Most of the commonly known BW agents occur in nature. Moreover, medical or legal defensive research has many similarities to an illegal offensive programme. This is an example of the dual-use problem that makes it difficult to expose non-compliance with existing legal norms that prohibit weapons research. Furthermore, the ongoing revolution in biotechnology (e.g. the human genome project, genetic modification of living agents etc) has now substantially changed the outlook and dramatically increases the utility and lethality of biological weapons.11

New biotechnological methods can now be used as a method to strengthen agents' stability, making them less susceptible to environmental factors such as sunlight and rain, as well as to countermeasures such as vaccines. Furthermore, biotechnological engineering (e.g. the introduction of foreign genes into an agent's DNA) increases the sheer number of available warfare agents, making detection and diagnosis extremely difficult and rendering vaccination eventually fruitless.12 Taking into account these new developments, efforts to strengthen the disarmament and nonproliferation of biological weapons seem to be more needed than ever.

Developments leading to the BWC

The massive use of chemical weapons (mustard and chlorine gas etc) that caused hundreds of thousands of deaths on all sides during World War I led the international community to agree to ban chemical and biological weapons (CBW). The Geneva Convention, signed in 1925, followed the Hague Declaration and marked a major step in a century-long struggle to implement a more effective prohibition of the use of these weapons. However, the declarations only banned the use of the weapons categories (and only against other parties). They neither prohibited research and development, nor did they demand the destruction of existing stockpiles. Additionally, their limited effectiveness was revealed when 37 signatories maintained reservations to the convention, effectively allowing them to retaliate with biological or chemical weapons. Thus, both The Hague Declaration and the Geneva Convention banned the first use of CBW, while allowing for research and development and ultimately even second strikes with CBW. An effective norm against the use of these weapons was not therefore established: chemical weapons in particular were used quite extensively in the following decades.13

As mentioned earlier, the Nixon administration decided to halt its biological warfare programme, thus paving the way for a multilateral settlement of this issue. The reasons for the US decision, however, have never been fully explained. One assumption, that the norm against BW played a decisive role, has to be questioned. Two other factors may have been key to the decision; firstly, having a huge nuclear force, the United States was not in need of comparatively unreliable biological weapons; and secondly, it was feared that an unrestricted and uncontrolled proliferation of biological weapons would in the longer run turn into a serious threat to the United States, especially from non-nuclear states. The BWC, however, did little to alleviate the situation.

The BWC has to be seen within the context of the Geneva Convention. Whereas the BWC prohibits the development, production or stockpiling of biological weapons and categorically rules out all research that is not of defensive nature, the earlier Geneva Convention outlaws the use of BW.14 Both treaties together comprise a disarmament regime that completely rules out a certain class of weapons.15

In the absence of a specific definition of banned biological agents the principal criterion in the BWC is the purpose for which BW research is undertaken: the Convention covers and bans "all biological agents and toxins intended to be used for hostile purposes or in armed conflict".16 This broad scope, which clearly prohibits every kind of non-peaceful research, is a strong asset for the Convention, making it "immune" against scientific progress and the introduction of new agents. But it allows for a wide range of "peaceful" research programs without stipulating any obligations regarding transparency or accountability. Given the closeness between offensive (non-peaceful) and defensive (peaceful) research, this provision weakens the BWC.17

In this and in many other regards, the BWC is a typical "child of its times": brief and, as a result, rather unspecific, and with a lack of any verification mechanisms. Cases of suspected non-compliance had to be referred to the UN Security Council, which, due to the cold war stalemate, never initiated any further investigations, even though there were ample accusations of non-compliance with the BWC.

New prospects for a multilateral supplementary treaty opened up only after the downfall of the Soviet Union and the thaw in East-West bloc confrontation. The necessity for such an additional protocol became more and more visible when it was revealed that the Soviet Union and Iraq, both parties to the BWC, had maintained large offensive research facilities and BW stockpiles even after signing the treaty. Subsequently, and with the hope that the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which prohibits the production of chemical weapons and orders their destruction, would serve as a model, the BWC State Parties established a so-called Ad Hoc Group (AHG) in 1995 to develop a draft protocol of verification instruments. According to its mandate, the AHG was supposed to consider confidence and transparency building measures (CBMs) and compliance verification measures, which should be "reliable, cost effective, non-discriminatory, and as non-intrusive as possible".18

The failed BWC Protocol

In order to understand why the Protocol failed after six years of negotiations, it is necessary to consider its main provisions and aims.19 Given the lack of compliance verification mechanisms in the BWC, there was an urgent necessity to establish additional legal pillars for the verifiable prevention of further vertical and horizontal proliferation of biological weapons. The contentious issue was, however, how to establish a robust and reliable verification system without endangering commercial or national security information and without placing on State Parties too high a bureaucratic burden. In order to reach this goal the Protocol introduced certain quantitative and qualitative thresholds to limit the number of biotechnological facilities and laboratories to be declared. Thus, neither food production facilities nor most medical and small-scale research laboratories would have to be declared. It established a threefold control system of declarations (to be submitted by every State Party to indicate past BW activities, current defensive research as well as laboratories involved in certain types of research), random visits to such facilities (to increase transparency) and investigations (in case of suspected non-compliance), the latter two to be conducted by an international inspectorate.20

All these provisions reflect the carefully struck balance between transparency and verification on the one hand and non-intrusiveness and protection of commercial and national security information on the other. Several analysts of the negotiations in Geneva, as well as delegates, stressed that more intrusive provisions would have been desirable and even possible without necessarily aggravating these concerns.21 Yet, particularly due to concerns voiced by the US delegation, the provisions were narrowed down, resulting in (a) a smaller number of facilities to be declared and visited and (b) stricter rules of access for the inspecting team, eventually limiting the value of these visits. In July 2001, to the indignation of many other negotiating parties, the US delegation announced its rejection of the Protocol Text and of any further negotiations within the existing forum.22

This rejection dealt a severe blow to all negotiations for a supplementary multilateral protocol.23 Instead of negotiations, there is now a form of consultative process involving national experts and State Parties meeting twice a year until 2006 to discuss possible national measures to strengthen the legal norm against biological weapons.

In addition to the BWC and its aborted protocol, there are other regional and international instruments in force which aim to prevent the spread of WMD, mainly by controlling the transfer of and trade with arms and dual-use goods that could be diverted for non-peaceful purposes. But as the establishment of BW export controls for dual-use goods was another provision of the failed BWC Protocol, there are currently no universal, legally binding norms in force.

The development of a European arms control agenda since 1993

The European Union's role in disarmament and arms control issues has changed fairly significantly since 1993, when the Maastricht Treaty established today's Union, including the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). This can be considered a milestone for the international role of the EU in general as well as for its performance in the field of arms control, even though the treaty did not create a new legal entity, but only deepened intergovernmental cooperation. The Amsterdam Treaty (1997) and additional Council Resolutions, all inviting further consultation and coordination of Member States' positions further fostered the process initiated by the Maastricht Treaty.

By adjusting and adapting national arms control and armaments policies, the EU not only seeks to augment policies within its boundaries, but - using its international political and economic weight - also globally. Whereas in the field of nuclear weapons this process is still complicated and hampered by the unequal nuclear status of the EU member states (given the fact that the UK and France are nuclear weapon states), there has been further progress regarding the European role in biological and chemical disarmament.

The Union has sought to establish common regulation for the export control of dual-use goods, with the detailed elaboration of legal provisions remaining the duty of member states. The EU Commission, however, observes and ensures that there is adequate national implementation of the common regulation. Furthermore, the Australia Group, a non-institutionalised international association of about three dozen countries (including all EU member states plus the EU Commission as an observer)24 , has established common rules and procedures to assimilate national export policies as well as mechanisms to facilitate the exchange of information on recipient states.25 In 2003, the EU further established procedures for a peer review system through which experts of other EU member states can evaluate and help to ameliorate and adjust national legal norms.26

On an institutional level, the progress becomes visible through the establishment of two General Affairs Council-Working Groups, CODUN (Global Disarmament) and CONOP (Non-Proliferation), which meet on a monthly basis (on a senior national representatives level) to fine-tune common policies and to develop joint working papers for negotiations in international arms control fora. The meetings are also attended by a representative of the Council's General Secretariat and by an official of the Commission to guarantee interconnectedness with Community activities (trade, development etc).

The institutional progress is also reflected in Javier Solana's decision to appoint Annalisa Gianella as his Personal Representative for the nonproliferation of WMD. This, too, underlines that the European Council has undertaken to pay increased attention to aspects of nonproliferation and arms control.

On the level of common political activity, there are two prime examples for progress in the EU. One is the long and intensive cooperation with the former Soviet Union in the framework of the EU's threat reduction initiative which is targeted at assisting Russia with the destruction of its surplus weapons. The second example is the development of common EU positions and working papers in the negotiations for the CWC and the BWC Protocol respectively. Particularly within the framework of BW negotiations this progress became visible not only in the sheer number of joint working papers produced by CODUN and submitted by the EU presidency27 , but also in the quality of positions. Feakes points out that the regular discussion and adjustment of standpoints and views among the European partners can in fact work as a "laboratory of consensus", making it eventually easier to put forward proposals that are acceptable to a broader number of countries.28 All initiatives and working papers were ultimately based on three Common Positions issued by the European Council in 1996, 1998 and 1999. These outlined the EU's position and voiced its support for a successful completion of the Geneva negotiations.29

Yet, these common positions also illustrate the ambiguity of Europe's approach to arms control. On the one hand, they can be praised as a sign of political will to express unity and to call for further steps towards disarmament. On the other hand, they completely lack concrete and convincing measures, demands and steps to make actual progress towards the goal of nonproliferation and disarmament. It is this ambiguity which characterises the EU approach to arms control.

Therefore, it did not come as a surprise that in 2001, when the Geneva negotiations failed, the EU and its member states had no "Plan B" for a new approach or any immediate measures to rescue the Protocol. Even the so-called "list of concrete measures" that was initiated by the EU's Belgian presidency and further elaborated by Spain in spring 200230 as a reaction to the failed negotiations has merely been an ambitious exercise without substantial results. Instead of real engagement, the EU has been reiterating its usual sermon of vague proposals and ideas, such as strengthening national legislation measures, fostering export controls, reinforcing multilateral treaties and deepening international dialogue.

Even though one has to acknowledge the significance of these declaratory steps as they raise attention and express a certain will to deal with the problem of BW proliferation, there is still a void regarding concrete and forward-reaching steps. Too often, the EU has refused to take on a more pro-active role within the negotiations; too often it has refused to make more use of its considerable political and economic influence.

The EU's new approach to nonproliferation and arms control

It remains to be seen whether the European Security Strategy and the Strategy against WMD Proliferation will significantly improve the situation and free Europe from its "lethargy". However, there is no doubt that, taken together, the European Security Strategy and the EU Strategy against WMD and the respective Action Plan for implementation represent the first comprehensive European approach to tackle the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction. The evolution of these documents must be seen in the context of the events of September 11 and new concerns about the possibility of WMD terrorism. Of particular relevance is the war on Iraq, which exposed deep rifts not only between the United States and some European states, but also within Europe, centred on the appropriate strategy to deal with non-cooperative states and how to enforce compliance with disarmament treaties. Therefore, the strategies and action plan constitute not only the first major EU documents regarding nonproliferation and disarmament issues, but they are also intended to help heal the intra-European rifts provoked by the war in Iraq.

Under the headline of "effective multilateralism", the EU sets out to define a genuine, innovative approach to arms control that combines the "US way" of enforced disarmament with a strong commitment to multilateralism and verified arms control and disarmament processes under the umbrella of the United Nations. Furthermore, it takes into account that root causes of conflicts and arms races need to be dealt with in order to nurture global security. Undoubtedly, this is a welcome step forward.31 Nonetheless, being tentative and unspecific the documents still leave many questions unanswered. If the EU does want to mitigate the proliferation of biological weapons, it has to take on a far more proactive role. The following section will indicate options for the Union and its member states to do so.

The need for more effective EU engagement

It should be restated that the EU has made considerable progress in developing and strengthening its common arms control and disarmament position, since this aspect was formally introduced into the Treaty on the European Union in 1993. As noted above, the events of September 11, 2001 spurred new threat perceptions and instigated a debate on the potential dangers of WMD proliferation, eventually contributing to the development of a European arms control agenda. However, given the performance of the EU and its member states during the BWC Protocol negotiations in Geneva and the limited and tentative suggestions the EU has made in its Security Strategy and the road map regarding BW disarmament, one has to doubt whether the declaratory policy will eventually grow into strong and influential actions. The following aspects underline why scepticism could be appropriate:

  • During the whole six years of BW negotiations in Geneva there was a total lack of public debate in Europe. There was neither a realistic discussion of the potential danger posed by BW, nor about the implications of a BW arms control treaty, nor about the desired outcome of the negotiations. A public debate has to be stimulated, and it is highly desirable that this debate should not only touch upon "states of concern" and their misbehaviour, but also on the European attitude towards arms control and BW research.
  • There was no anticipation of the US delegation's negative attitude (and the following rejection of the Protocol), and consequently no agreement on how to deal with it and whether to continue negotiations without the United States. Furthermore, during the negotiations the EU's position was often shaped by the desire not to provoke any further negative reactions from Washington. This may have led to a watering down of European proposals.
  • There is still no concrete plan for how to proceed with the negotiations and the EU has done little to bring in new ideas. The current process, scheduled to last until the next review Conference in 2006, cannot bring about significant progress and therefore it is necessary to develop a new forum and new ideas.
  • Apparently, secret defence programmes are being conducted in almost all of the EU countries.32 Even though these programmes are covered by Article I of the BWC, which allows defensive research, they often take place in a legal grey area, given the technological closeness of offensive and defensive research. Due to the surrounding secrecy, the programmes can cause unnecessary suspicions. A crucial and uncomplicated step would be to declare these projects in more detail - if necessary, research results could still be kept classified - and to refrain from projects that include work on genetically modified warfare agents.
  • A further step must be to extend and deepen the annual declarations, providing qualitatively valuable and substantial sources of information covering all national biodefence programmes. This would increase transparency and act as a confidence-building measure in its own right.33 Following the example of Australia, and lately the US administration, these declarations should be made accessible to the public, for example by publishing them on the internet or in the form of a publicly-available CBM database. During the current, "new process" of annual BWC meetings in Geneva, the EU could also lobby to make such declarations legally mandatory.
  • Another area for action should be the criminalisation of BW production and use. Currently, national legislation for the punishment of BW offences varies significantly from one country to another. Therefore, a first step must be the adjustment of national legislation. A second and even more important step would be to prohibit BW offences under international criminal law. The EU could play a key role in lobbying for that aim within the international community.34
  • The EU should consider the establishment of a regional control and verification regime (so far, there is no regional "visit-and-report" system in place). Also, the Union should use its political and economic weight to force associated countries to accept and implement the EU's Code of Conduct for Arms Exports, its Dual-Use regulations as well as the rules of the Australia Group. The implementation of the so-called "WMD-clauses" and conditionality into bilateral agreements between the EU and third countries could help to globally enforce the EU's non-proliferation goals, but only if used in a strict, yet positively encouraging manner, which rewards countries that make significant progress in terms of nonproliferation and disarmament.
  • Finally, in light of the next BWC Review Conference, the EU also has to consider the potential way forward: could there be a BWC Protocol without the United States? Could the US be encouraged to come alongside eventually (particularly in view of a possible change of administration in November)? Could there be something similar to a verification regime that at least was able to include like-minded countries?35


Since 1993, and even more so since the adoption of the EU Security Strategy and the Strategy and Action Plan against WMD Proliferation in 2003, the EU has made considerable progress regarding the development of a comprehensive arms control and nonproliferation agenda. In particular, the establishment of a provision recognising the possible use of force as a weapon of last resort to enforce treaty compliance indicates a new "getting tough on arms control" approach among the EU member states.

However, as outlined in this analysis, there is still significant room for improvement both for the EU as such and for its member states individually. Instead of focusing only on so-called states of concern and their misdoings in nonproliferation and arms control, the European countries need to face the failings in their own performance. In order to play a more legitimate and effective role, Europe needs to set an example and push forward with steps for non-proliferation and disarmament in its own backyard. The article has indicated a number of ways in which this challenge could be approached.


1. European Security Strategy "A Secure Europe in a Better World", URL: http://ue.eu.int/uedocs/cmsUpload/78367.pdf; EU Strategy against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, URL: http://ue.eu.int/uedocs/cmsUpload/st15708.en03.pdf; Action Plan for the Implementation of the Basic Principles for an EU Strategy against WMD Proliferation, http://register.consilium.eu.int/pdf/en/03/st10/st10354-re01en03.pdf

2. This analysis does not include BW emergency preparedness and countermeasures; though important, those aspects are a very distinct issue. However, a recent analysis of European developments in this area can be found in: Jean Pascal Zanders, "The chemical and biological weapons threat", in Gustav Lindstrom and Burkard Schmitt (eds.), Fighting Proliferation - European Perspectives, Chaillot Paper no. 66, December 2003

3. Cited in: Susan B. Martin. "The Role of Biological Weapons in International Politics: The Real Military Revolution", Journal of Strategic Studies. Vol. 25, no. 1, March 002, p. 65

4. Mark Wheelis, A Short History of Biological Warfare and Weapons, pp. 15-31. In: Marie Isabelle Chevrier et. al. (eds), The Implementation of Legally Binding Measures to Strengthen the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Amsterdam 2004

5. Documentation of these sabotage acts is rather scarce, but success seems to have been quite limited.

6. Wheelis, op. cit. p. 19

7. Erhard Geißler, Anthrax und das Versagen der Geheimdienste. Kai Homilius, Berlin, pp. 135-136

8. Even though the Soviet Union was one of the depository states of the BWC it continued an extensive offensive biological warfare programme throughout the 1970s and 1980s and there remain doubts even today that Russia has now irrevocably abandoned all offensive programmes.

9. One way to prevent this from happening is the vaccination of one's own forces. Therefore, it has often been argued that the vaccination of soldiers can be one of the first signs of planned BW use by an actor.

10. However, this must not obscure the fact that the effective delivery and dissemination of BW are more difficult. Also, this must not support the widespread and yet wrong belief that biological weapons can nowadays be built by any biological scientist in little more than a kitchen.

11. Wright, op. cit. p. 81

12. James B. Petro et al., "Biotechnology: Impact on Biological Warfare and Biodefense." Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice and Science, Vol. 1, No. 3, 2003

13. Verified cases include: Italy against Ethiopia (1930s), Japan in Manchuria (1930s), Egypt against Yemen (1967-68), Iraq against Kurds and Iran (1988) or the US against Vietnam (1960s): CNS, Chronology of past CBW use: http://cns.miis.edu

14. However, as ratifying the BWC does not necessitate ratification of the Geneva Protocol (or withdrawal of reservations to it) there are several states that have not renounced the use of BW, although ruling out their production. Such an attitude weakens the spirit of both treaties and lacks credibility.

15. This clearly distinguishes the BWC from the NPT, which provides different obligations for the possessors and non-possessors of nuclear weapons. Yet, the BWC Protocol, too, has provisions to facilitate international trade and the transfer of biotechnological goods and knowledge (Art. X BWC is comparable to Art. IV NPT)

16. Jozef Goldblat, Arms Control. A Guide to Negotiations and Agreements, Sage Publications, London 1994, p. 93

17. Article I, BWC

18. Final Report of the Special Conference of the State Parties to the BWC (VEREX), Geneva, September 1994. http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/sbtwc/verex/verex1.htm

19. Detailed analyses of the Protocol Text, single provisions and the rejection by the US Delegation can be found on the website of the University of Bradford's BW disarmament project: http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/sbtwc

20. Under the auspices of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Biological and Toxin Weapons (OPBW) that would need to have been established under the Protocol.

21. Jenni Rissanen, "Hurdles cleared, obstacles remaining: the Ad Hoc Group prepares for the final challenge", Disarmament Diplomacy 56, (April 2001).

22. Donald A. Mahley, US ambassador to the Ad Hoc Group explained the US rejection as follows: "No nation is more committed than the United States to combating the BW threat... We must counter this complex and dangerous threat with a full range of effective instruments - non-proliferation, export controls, domestic preparedness, and counterproliferation... (However) the draft Protocol will not improve our ability to verify BWC compliance. It will not enhance our confidence in compliance and will do little to deter those countries seeking to develop biological weapons. In our assessment, the draft Protocol would put national security and confidential business information at risk." http://usinfo.state.gov/topical/pol/arms/stories/01072501.htm

23. Instead of a multilaterally binding treaty, the US administration proposed stronger unilateral and non-binding measures such as improved biodefence and biosecurity as well as an ethical code of conduct for scientists.

24. According to information on the EU Website, the new member states are either in the process of accession or have already acceded.

25. Participants in the Australia Group do not undertake any legally binding obligations: the effectiveness of the cooperation between participants depends solely on their commitment to CBW non-proliferation goals and the effectiveness of the measures they each take on a national basis. http://www.australiagroup.net

26. Ian Anthony, "The New Global Arms Control Agenda and Europe's Involvement", in: Jocelyn Mawdsley, Marta Martinelli and Eric Remacle (Eds.), Europe and the Global Arms Agenda: Security, Trade and Accountability, Nomos, Baden-Baden, pp. 89-101 (forthcoming)

27. In addition to Working Papers and statements prepared and issued by the national delegations.

28. Daniel Feakes, "The Emerging European Disarmament an Non-Proliferation Agenda on Chemical and Biological Weapons", Disarmament Diplomacy 65 (July-August 2002).

29. The three Common Positions are: 1996/408/CFSP, 1998/197/CFSP and 1999/346/CFSP respectively.

30. Council of the European Union, Conclusions of the 2421st Council Meeting, Luxembourg, April 15, 2002, http://ue.eu.int/ueDocs/cms_Data/docs/pressData/en/gena/70160.pdf

31. Stephen Pullinger and Gerrard Quille assess both the progress made as well as missed opportunities in: Pullinger and Quille, The European Union: Tackling the Threat from Weapons of Mass Destruction, ISIS Europe Report #1, December 2003

32. Marie Isabelle Chevrier and Iris Hunger, "Confidence-Building Measures for the BTWC: Performance and Potential", The Non-Proliferation Review (Fall/Winter 2000), pp. 32-33

33. During the BWC Review Conferences in 1986 and 1991 the States Parties agreed upon the introduction of "politically binding" CBMs, which oblige State Parties to annually submit certain information about biological defence activities under their auspices, including vaccine production, outbreaks of particular diseases on their territory and so forth. However, as this is only a "politically binding" exercise, the results have been disappointing. The number of countries submitting their CBMs is low (about one fifth of all State parties) and the submitted information is often incomprehensive, to say the least. See Chevrier and Hunger, ibid.

34. Matthew Meselson and Julian Perry Robinson, "A draft convention to prohibit biological and chemical weapons under international criminal law", The CBW Conventions Bulletin, No. 42, 1998, p.1

35. In 2002, the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) conducted a very enlightening assessment of the feasibility of an EU BWC control regime. The study, which was prepared for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, concluded: "At present there seems little enthusiasm among EU officials for developing investigative or reporting mechanisms among member states as means of promoting confidence in compliance with the BTWC. However, regional control, reporting and response measures in the European context would serve as a positive role model for other regions." Davis, Ian (et. al), A Preliminary Assessment of the Feasibility and Consequences of Establishing a European Union Biological Weapons Control Regime, BASIC Research Report, October 2002 (unpublished)

Ulla Jasper is a Marie Curie Fellow at the Centre for International Cooperation and Security (University of Bradford). The author is grateful for the financial support provided through the European Community's Human Potential Programme under contract HPRN-CT-2000-00070, ESDP democracy. Many thanks also to Jocelyn Mawdsley and Gerrard Quille for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

Back to the top of page

© 2004 The Acronym Institute.