2019 lab accident, aerosol testing bioweapons, Anthrax, antibiotic resistant bacteria, biological agents, Biopreparat, bioweapon bombs, bioweapons, Chimeras, cluster bomb bioweapons, Cuba, eastern Europe, Ebola, gain of function research, genetic engineering, genetically engineered microbes, highly virulent smallpox weapon, hybrid chimera viruses, ICBM bioweapons, immunosuppressive variants, increased lethality viruses and bacteria, India, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Marburg, Moscow, new bioweapons, plague, Russia, Russian Biological Warfare Program, smallpox, Soviet Union, spraying bioweapons, super-plague, vaccine-resistant viruses, VECTOR, Vector Lab, VEE, weaponizing biological agents
Not only does Russia have nuclear weapons, it has one of two official stores of smallpox, as well as other dangerous pathogens. While we certainly hope that it won’t happen, the fact that some pro-Russian social media sites are saying that the west may release a bioweapon in Ukraine and/or that Russia is targeting bioweapons facilities in Ukraine, suggests that it is Russia who may plan to release a bioweapon (may God forbid).
This document is undated, but appears to from the early 2000s. It remains important.
Excerpt from: “Next Generation Bioweapons: Genetic Engineering and BW” 14 US Air Force Counterproliferation Center Future Warfare Series No. 14
Michael J. Ainscough
“The Former Soviet Union’s Biological Warfare Program
Despite signing the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), it is now certain that the former Soviet Union (FSU) continued a clandestine and illegal offensive biological weapons program until at least the early 1990s. Biopreparat (a huge military program with civilian cover) was organized to develop and weaponize biological agents for BW. 3 It employed approximately half of the Soviet Union‘s 60,000 workers in more than 18 BW facilities, and in the 1980s had an annual budget equivalent to tens of millions of U.S. dollars. 4 Unlike the American offensive BW program (1942-69) that worked primarily with organisms that were not contagious in humans (e.g., anthrax and tularemia), the Soviet BW research and development program also sought out the most contagious and lethal bacteria (e.g., plague) and viruses (e.g., smallpox) known to man. 5
Because Biopreparat and other Soviet BW research facilities operated under the highest security classification of ―Special Importance‖ (higher than Top Secret), the U.S. intelligence community did not even know it existed until 1989 when a top ranking scientist from the BW program defected to the United Kingdom. 6 From his extensive debrief, and subsequent collaboration by two other defectors from the program, we
now know detailed information on the genetic engineering successes and other advances in Russian microbiology. Obviously much of the data remains classified, but the three defectors‘ accounts have been documented to some extent in various unclassified books and articles. This paper discusses their open-source accounts.
In October 1989, Dr. Vladimir Pasechnik, the first primary source from inside the Soviet program, defected to England. 7 A top Soviet microbiologist and Director of the Institute for Ultra Pure Biological Preparations in Biopreparat, he described the extensive organization of biological research and production facilities in the program. In addition to confirming that the Soviet Union had an offensive BW program in violation of the 1972 BWC, he disclosed that the Soviets had an ―extensive genetic engineering program aimed at developing new kinds of biological weapons against which the West would be defenseless.‖ 8 His institute‘s top priority was to increase the lethality of plague and tularemia, and at the same time make them more resistant to antibiotics and temperature extremes. By introducing specially engineered plasmids 9 into successive generations of tularemia cultures, the strain became resistant to all known Western antibiotics. The dried, powdery super-plague became the Soviet weapon of choice (20 tons in stock at all times) and was loaded on various munitions.
The use of BW had been integrated into Soviet special war plans for a range of tactical operations where they would have been delivered using spray tanks and cluster bombs and strategic operations where intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and strategic bombers would have carried plague, anthrax, or smallpox. 10
Pasechnik also detailed work on perfecting other new strains of bacteria and viruses that would aerosolize well for use in weapons. 11 After 30 years of experimentation, Soviet scientists had solved the problems of fragile microbe survival in major atmospheric pressure changes and temperature extremes during missile flight by fitting BW rockets with astronaut cabin-like protective systems. They solved the ―destruction on explosion‖ problem by selecting the hardiest strains and calculating the required redundant quantity needed based on explosive testing done in Biopreparat and other BW research labs.
In summary, Pasechnik had disclosed that the Soviets (1) had genetically engineered bacteria and viruses, (2) weaponized the microbes in a powder form, (3) loaded them onto various munitions, and (4) integrated BW into their doctrine and had specific plans for use of BW. 12
In the spring of 1992, a lower-level bench scientist who had worked on plague research in Pasechnik‘s lab also defected to the United Kingdom. 13 He has remained undercover and is referred to by code-name ―Temple Fortune.‖ He fully corroborated Pasechnik‘s previous account, and then updated the British on Soviet BW work in the 30-month interval from Pasechnik‘s departure to that of ―Temple Fortune.‖ President Mikhail Gorbachev had ordered the termination of biological offensive programs in 1990, and despite the fact that President Boris Yeltsen had also announced (by televised address to the Russian people and in a personal commitment to President Bush) termination of the program, research on new forms of plague had secretly continued. 14
―Temple Fortune‖ stated that, in addition to being even more resistant to multiple antibiotics, the improved super-plague would be non-virulent in its stored form, but could be easily converted into a deadly antibiotic-resistant form when needed for weaponization. 15 The genes that cause plague virulence are located on a plasmid. What he was describing was a binary biological weapon, where benign bacterial plague cells would be mixed with virulence-enhancing plasmids immediately before loading on a weapon, and the transformation would take place in a small bioreactor on the weapon itself. 16
In late 1992, shortly after ―Temple Fortune‘s‖ defection, Dr. Kanatjan Alibekov became the third defector from the Russian BW program. 17 As the Deputy Director (number-two man) of Biopreparat and an infectious disease physician/epidemiologist, he was the highest ranking defector ever from the program. (Dr. Alibekov anglicized his name and now goes by Ken Alibek.) In 1999, Alibek published Biohazard, a first-hand detailed account of his experiences. Alibek disclosed a virtual encyclopedia of intimate details on Biopreparat from the top down: personnel and facilities, history of the offensive research, medical and microbiological discoveries, special production methods, weaponization techniques, aerosol testing, Russian BW defensive innovations, prior deceptions and secret plans, and the future direction of the program. 18
Alibek confided that Soviet biologists in the 1960s and 1970s were already interested in using genetics and gene manipulation to produce BW agents. In 1973, President Leonid Brezhnev established the ―Enzyme‖ program to modernize the BW program and develop genetically altered pathogens. 19 Early in his career, Alibek had been in charge of developing Biopreparat‘s first vaccine-resistant tularemia bomblet. 20 Later, by 1986, his team had also tripled the potency of the ―battle strain‖ of anthrax (Strain 836). 21 He was the first to weaponize glanders, and supervised the first Soviet tests with the Marburg virus (an Ebola-like virus). 22
Alibek disclosed that by 1992 the Russians possessed a grand total of fifty-two different biological agents or combination of agents, including deadly Marburg, Ebola, and smallpox viruses, that could be weaponized. The most infectious and easiest to manufacture and transport microbes were labeled ―battle strains.‖ 23 The favorite ―battle strains‖ were anthrax (Strain 836), Pasechnik‘s super-plague, and a special Russian strain of tularemia (Schu-4). By 1991, Alibek stated that Russian scientists had ―improved‖ all three of these so that they could overcome all immune systems and current medical treatments. 24
In May 1998, Alibek testified before the U.S. Congress:
It is important to note that, in the Soviet‘s view, the best biological agents were those for which there was no prevention and no cure. For those agents for which vaccines or treatment existed – such as plague, which can be treated with antibiotics – antibiotic-resistant or immunosuppressive variants were to be developed. 25
Although Biopreparat had worked with a highly virulent, rapidly infectious ―battle strain‖ of smallpox (India-1) since 1959, they began research in 1987 to develop an even more virulent smallpox weapon, and tested it in 1990. 26
In his book Biohazard, Alibek wrote about using plasmids to increase virulence or antibiotic resistance in bacteria. 27 This corroborated Pasechnik‘s and ―Temple Fortune‘s‖ prior statements. He also discussed transfer of a gene for myelin toxin to Yersinia pestis (plague bacteria), however this agent was reportedly not yet weaponized. He said that a new Moscow-based company named Bioeffekt Ltd. had offered, by mail order, three strains of tularemia produced by ―technology unknown outside Russia ‖ (i.e., genetically engineered strains). Most astounding of all, Alibek revealed that genetic engineering research was underway to create entirely new life forms. 28 The goal of hybrid ―chimera‖ viruses was to insert genes from one virus into another to create an even more lethal virus. Alibek stated that the Russians had created the first chimera virus from inserting DNA from Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) virus into vaccinia virus (genetic structure almost identical to the smallpox virus). 29 Chimeras, of VEE, Ebola, and Marburg genes inserted into the actual smallpox virus, were in the research phase when he left in 1991. Near the end of his book, Alibek talks about how biotechnical knowledge was shared with other countries. 30 For many years the Russians taught courses in ―genetic engineering and molecular biology for scientists from Eastern Europe, Cuba, Libya, India, Iran, Iraq, and other countries.‖ In fact, Cuba had set up a pharmaceutical company near Havana and was producing interferon from a genetically altered bacteria that contained an inserted plasmid.
Yeltsen and Sverdlovsk
In 1979, an accidental release of anthrax spores from the BW facility at Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinberg, Russia) killed at least 66 people. In 1998, a DNA sequencing study done on preserved samples from eleven victims revealed the simultaneous presence of up to four distinct genetic variants of Bacillus anthracis. These findings indicate that at least some level of engineering of military anthrax had taken place, because only one strain would likely be found after a natural outbreak. 31 The Soviet Union at the time denied the existence of a military program and the official in charge of the province where the incident occurred was none other than Boris Yeltsen.
More than a decade later, after becoming President of Russia, Boris Yeltsen visited Britain in 1992. In a public speech, discussing biological warfare research, he stated that the Russians ―had undertaken research on the influence of various substances on human genes.‖ Yeltsen‘s statements substantiated the existence of a previous Soviet genetic engineering research program. 32 Yeltsen, as Russia‘s President, later issued a public decree outlawing the entire Russian BW research and production program.
In 1995, Russian scientists presented a study at a conference in Britain that they later published in the British medical journal Vaccine in December 1997. 33 They reported that they had successfully transferred genes from Bacillus cereus into Bacillus anthracis cultures, making the anthrax resistant to Russian anthrax vaccine (at least in hamsters). This raised the obvious question about effectiveness of the American anthrax vaccine. American agencies sought to obtain a sample of the more potent Russian anthrax strain. 34 Unable to do so, in early 2001 the Pentagon made plans to duplicate the Russian work and genetically engineer its own modified strain for biodefense purposes. 35
Biological-type weapons have been used many times in history. Humanity‘s ancient enemies are, after all, microbes. 36 What is new today is the tailored development of more contagious and lethal pathogens and the increasing number of states and terrorist groups that may have access to the knowledge or cultures of them. 33 The above accounts from Russians knowledgeable about their BW programs indicate active research and success in genetic engineering, chimera agents, and binary biologicals. From public record accounts, we know that the former Soviet Union (FSU) used genetic engineering techniques in their massive offensive BW program. 38
Because the FSU classified its offensive BW program as ―Special Importance‖ (higher than Top Secret), it is clear that they considered BW missiles to be as valuable as their nuclear missiles. 39 Because of the protective military secrecy, it is plausible that even many top ranking Soviet/Russian officials did not know the full extent and details of the offensive program nor have control over it. 40 This Mafia-like secrecy may explain Gorbachev‘s and Yeltsen‘s confusions, hesitancies, and contradictions when talking to the West about treaty violations. 41
Incredibly, Pasechnik claimed that he had never been told about the existence of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and learned of it first from his British debriefers. 42 Indeed, despite Yeltsen‘s decree to dismantle the FSU‘s offensive BW program, many intelligence analysts suspect that it is still viable, hidden deep in the military structure which is reluctant to surrender their BW secrets. 43
Major General John Parker, the former Commander, U. S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, acknowledged that ―bioterrorists could just re-engineer diseases such as anthrax to negate the effect of existing vaccines.‖ 44 Some western intelligence experts believe a Russian genetic engineering program such as Alibek described is still in its infancy. 45 The pace of recent discoveries in molecular biology makes it imperative to contemplate new BW threats. 46 Advances in ―the dark side‖ of biotechnology predict a future of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, vaccine-resistant viruses, and the creation of completely new pathogens (chimeras). 47 The expertise and technology to create lethal new strains of viruses and bacteria are available at most major universities around the world. Some American scientists predict that we have some 20 years before genetic engineering will effectively make current biological defenses completely ineffective and obsolete against BW attacks. Science fiction may become science fact within two decades. 48
The threat of a war with ICBM exchange with Russia has been greatly reduced in recent years. However, as nuclear and BW missiles were decommissioned and Biopreparat and portions of the rest of the BW scientific infrastructure were dismantled, many Russian scientists were suddenly unemployed. There is concern that knowledge of genetic engineering, or even cultures of highly infectious agents (sold, stolen, or smuggled), may have been transmitted to ―nations of concern‖ or terrorist organizations. If true, such leaks, combined with the ease of flow of technology and information around the world, would result in a proliferation of capability that makes biological weapons use increasingly likely in major theater wars, smaller scale contingencies, and terrorist events. 49
A biological weapon consists of both the biological agent and its means of delivery. Growing microbes is easier than their weaponization or dissemination. As Larry Johnson, former deputy director of the State Department‘s Office of Counter-Terrorism, said, ―producing these weapons requires infrastructure and expertise more sophisticated than a lab coat and a garage.‖ 50 However, terrorists may attempt to recruit former biological weapons researchers to obtain information on weaponization techniques. Well-funded terrorist organizations might be able to buy the Russian scientists they need. A small subset of terrorist groups is likely to possess the technical know-how needed to carry out an effective biological attack. 51 Unless they are able to buy knowledge or microbe cultures from large programs such as the former Soviet BW program, it is unlikely, though not impossible, that small terrorist units would have access to or produce genetically engineered biologicals.
3. Tom Mangold and Jeff Goldberg, Plague Wars (New York: St. Martin‘s Press, 1999), 92.
4. Ken Alibek with Stephen Handelman, Biohazard (New York: Random House, 1999), 43; see also, Lester C. Caudle III, ―The Biological Warfare Threat,‖ in Textbook of Military Medicine: Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare, eds. Frederick R. Sidell, Ernest T. Takafuji, and David R. Franz (Washington D.C.: Office of the Surgeon General, US Army, 1997), 454. Biopreparat constituted only half of the Soviet BW program. See Alibek‘s Biohazard.
5. Jonathan B. Tucker, Toxic Terror: Assessing Terrorist Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), 4-5; and Jim A. Davis, ―The Anthrax Terror,‖ Aerospace Power Journal, Vol XIV, no. 4 (Winter 2000), 17.
6. Mangold and Goldberg, 182.
7. Ibid., 91-105; and Caudle, 453-4.
8. Mangold and Goldberg, 93-5.
9. Caudle, 454. Bacterial cells frequently contain extrachromosomal (located outside the cell nucleus), autonomously replicating DNA molecules known as plasmids. Some plasmids carry DNA sequences that can produce antibiotic resistance, virulence, or infectivity. Plasmids can move between bacteria.
10. Mangold and Goldberg, 94-5, 164; Col John Alexander, Future War: Non-Lethal Weapons in the Twenty-First Century (New York: St Martin‘s Press, 1999), 191.
11. Mangold and Goldberg, 93-7.
12. Ibid., 91-9.
13. Ibid., 163-5.
14. Alexander, 192; Mangold and Goldberg, 158-63.
15. Ibid., 164.
16. Block, 55-6.
17. Mangold and Goldberg, 177-95; Alibek, ix-xi.
18. Mangold and Goldberg, 178-9,182; Alibek, 3-304.
19. Alibek, 40-2, 155-6; Alexander, 191. Immediately after the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention treaty, President Brezhnev initiated the largest biological weapons program in history.
20. Mangold and Goldberg, 186.
21. Ibid., 180. 187-8.
23. Ibid., 179.
24. Ibid., 180.
25. Block, 49-50.
26. Mangold and Goldberg, 181.
27. Alibek, 160-1, 163-7, 272.
28. Ibid., 259; and Mangold and Goldberg, 181.
29. Alibek, 258-61; Mangold and Goldberg, 181.
30. Alibek, 273-5.
31. Block, 50-1, Alibek, 69-86.
32. Plague War, Frontline, PBS Home Video, Public Broadcasting Service, FROL-1706, 1998, 60 minutes.
33. A.P. Pomerantsev, N.A. Staritsin, Yu V. Mockov, and L.I. Marinin, ―Expression of Cereolysine AB Genes in Bacillus anthracis Vaccine Strain Ensures Protection Against Experimental Hemolytic Anthrax Infection,‖ Vaccine, Vol. 15, No. 17/18, 1997, 1846-1850.
34. Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg, and William Broad, Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War (New York, Simon and Schuster, 2001), 218-220.
35. Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg, and William J. Broad, ―U.S. Germ Warfare Research Pushes Treaty Limits,‖ New York Times, 4 September 2001, A1, A6. 36. Laurie Garrett, The Coming Plague (New York: Penguin Books, 1994), 10.
37. Peter R. Lavoy, Scott D. Sagan, and James J. Wirtz, Planning the Unthinkable: How New Powers Will Use Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons (Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000), 5.
38. Malcolm R. Dando, The New Biological Weapons: Threat Proliferation, and Control (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc, 2001), 11.
39. Mangold and Goldberg, 182.
40. Ibid., 110,159-61, 176.
41. Ibid., 183.
42. Ibid., 98.
Excerpt from: “Next Generation Bioweapons: Genetic Engineering and BW” 14 US Air Force Counterproliferation Center Future Warfare Series No. 14 by Michael J. Ainscough” https://media.defense.gov/2019/Apr/11/2002115480/-1/-1/0/14NEXTGENBIOWEAPONS.PDF
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