A UK View on Biological Weapons
The Importance of Strengthening Norms
Against Biological Weapons
GRAHAM S. PEARSON
The United Kingdom (UK) has long regarded biological weapons as a class of weapons that should be totally prohibited. The UK led the way in 1969 by putting forward the first draft for what became the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC).1 Its Preamble states the Parties’ determination “to exclude completely the possibility of bacteriological (biological) agents and toxins being used as weapons.”2
The UK, along with the United States and the former Soviet Union (now Russia), are the co-depositaries of the BWC. The Convention opened for signature on April 10, 1972, and entered into force three years later on March 26, 1975, when 22 states, including the three depositaries, had ratified the treaty.
In this chapter the UK experience is first outlined. The chapter then sets out a UK view on biological weapons attribution policies. The manifestation of biological weapons may lie only in their eventual use—in an outbreak of disease or intoxination—but there can be earlier indicators that a biological weapons capability may be being sought. UK policy focuses on the latter, due to a clear preference for actions to deter and counter the acquisition of biological weapons over actions to respond to their use. The chapter notes what indicators there may be of possible possession of biological weapons and how these indicators may be evaluated. The aim of the chapter is to develop an overall policy strategy for deterring the possession of biological weapons, together with the elements necessary to implement such a strategy.