Biological Weapons: From the Invention of State-Sponsored Programs to Contemporary Bioterrorism

By Jeanne Guillemin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7

THE SOVIET BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS PROGRAM

The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention completed the codified restraints on germ weapons: not only their use but also any preparations or possession for such use were outlawed. Biological weapons, the only weapon of mass destruction then internationally banned, became legally distinct from chemical weapons, which had a demonstrated if limited tactical potential and some potential for deterrence, as during World War II when neither the Allies nor Germany dared initiate first use. Biological weapons also became legally set apart from nuclear weapons, which had known strategic power and the potential for deterrence against use during the Cold War. After 1975, the dominant issue for those concerned about biological weapons was how and if legal restraints actually prevented secret proliferation. Did any nation have the right to secrecy in the face of strong international consensus against germ weapons?


THE PROBLEM OF PROMOTING COMPLIANCE

After World War II, the severe military restrictions on Germany and the other Axis powers included bans on biological, chemical, and nuclear arms. With the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), sovereign nations agreed to the ban. Yet, formulated without measures to promote transparency, the treaty could not prevent or reveal secret offensive programs if a state party was willing to risk violation. The BWC lacked strong compliance provisions, such as mandatory declarations of past and current capabilities that might

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