Ebook: Assessing the Threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction
Assessing the Threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction is a collection of papers delivered at the Nato Advanced Research Workshop of the same name, which examined the role of independent scientists in assessing WMD threat. Such threat assessment has a profound impact on the policies of governments and international organizations. It raises numerous questions. What exactly is an independent scientist and what pressures threaten their independence? What role do cultural dependencies play within assessments? How do independent scientists produce threat assessments and what are the widely differing models used by different countries to facilitate the input of such assessments into policy? To address these and other issues, an interdisciplinary group of eminent experts and policy makers from twelve countries gathered to discuss ways in which the technical advice of independent scientists could be strengthened to aid governments and international organizations in forming policies in response to perceived threats. With papers covering topics ranging from policy making to chemical and biological weapons, nuclear threats and breaking the threat/counter threat cycle, this book illuminates an area of vital importance to the security and stability of relations between states, and the maintenance of internationally agreed norms.
The NATO Advanced Research Workshop, ‘The Role of Independent Scientists in WMD Threat Assessment’, met for 2¼ days in Zagreb, Croatia from 13–16 November 2008. An interdisciplinary group of eminent experts and policy makers gathered from 12 countries to discuss ways in which the technical advice available to governments could be strengthened so as to aid governments and international organizations in their policy formation in response to perceived threats.
Sessions addressed the following topics: Scientists and Policy Formation on CBRN Weapons: Current Structures; How Threat Assessment Affects Policy (with recent examples); Chemical Weapons; Biological Weapons; Nuclear Threats; Ballistic Missiles; The Relevance of WMD Threat Assessment for South-Eastern Europe and the Caucasus; The Way Forward: Breaking the Threat-Counter Threat Cycle. A final round table discussion brought together the main ideas presented and discussed, identified items of particular importance in the present international situation, and suggested possible next steps.
Participants appreciated the interdisciplinary nature of this workshop, as it brought together leading experts who were able to share experiences in their own issue areas, while teasing out the common aspects that may strengthen the norm for independent scientific advising across the broad range of fields relevant to threat assessment. The consensus was that further exploration of the topic should be made, with the goal of strengthening the advice governments receive on WMD threat assessment. This is urgent, since threat assessment has a profound impact on the policies of governments and international organizations.
A number of important questions arose from the workshop papers.
First, the question was raised as to what constitutes a threat assessment; what role do cultural dependencies play within assessments and what is the role of independent scientists in their production? Secondly, the question of what exactly constitutes an independent scientist was addressed. What institutional, funding, and other pressures threaten independence? In giving independent advice, should scientists operate through existing national or international structures, or through new institutions or collaborative structures? Thirdly, the question of how independent scientists produce threat assessments was discussed, including the limitations they may have to work under, and how these might be minimized. Issues raised here concerned access to data and information, and the related problems of classified or commercial proprietary information. Fourthly, the widely differing models used by different countries to facilitate independent science input into policy were discussed, as were the challenges posed by the pace and complexity of current scientific advances. This problem of increased complexity was particularly relevant to biological weapons, and drawing the line between chemical and biological weapons is becoming increasingly difficult. Not surprisingly in the current ‘pre-nuclear renaissance’ situation, a point that stimulated particularly interesting discussion in the nuclear field concerned the difficulty of distinguishing activities related to peaceful uses of atomic energy and possible diversions for weapons development. There is a clear need to develop procedures that would ‘thicken the line’ between peaceful and possible weapons uses. This is a problem that clearly requires expert scientific input, and much work needs to be done urgently. Finally, regional threats were discussed, as were the implications for the region and the world if these threats were not addressed effectively.
It was noted that the UN mandate is to maintain peace and security and that accurate threat assessments are very important to the fulfilment of this mandate, though it is the responsibility of governments to conduct such threat assessments. It was further noted that the difference between ‘threat’ and ‘risk’ should be more clearly delineated. The role of education was seen as crucial, especially the importance of multidisciplinary departments and fostering enhanced co-operation between universities in training the next generation of scientists equipped to give independent advice to policy makers. Education was also important in empowering societal verification of internationally agreed norms. It was suggested that enhanced co-operation between Israel and the Arab world would be of benefit in the production of more accurate regional threat assessments.
Finally, it was argued that NATO is a unique alliance and out of its three components of military, politics and science, the latter is an essential element, as it potentially has the capability to co-operatively address all current threats and dangers, such as climate change, energy security, food security, economic and social issues, in addition to traditional and new security threats from terrorism, WMDs and states challenging international norms. NATO has the potential to transform itself, through initiatives such as the Science for Peace and Security program, from a military and political alliance to a driver towards a broad and inclusive knowledge-based society.
This ARW would not have been possible without the help and commitment of many people and organizations. The co-directors wish to thank especially Sandy Butcher of British Pugwash and Andrea Ruk of the Institute of International Relations, Zagreb, who were instrumental in the organization and running of the workshop. We thank also the other members of the Organising Committee, namely Prof. Mladen Staničić, Dr Mustafa Kibaroglu and Prof. Dr Götz Neuneck, as well as Dr Jo Husbands, Prof. Julian P. Perry Robinson and Dr Mohamed Kadry Said for invaluable assistance in putting together the workshop programme. The very helpful assistance of Prof. Robert A. Hinde with the editing process is particularly appreciated. Finally, the ARW, and this volume, would have been impossible without the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme (Special Call – Assessing the Threat of WMD) which provided most of the funding, and the British Pugwash Trust. We are very grateful for this funding. The helpful assistance and advice of Dr Fausto Pedrazzini and Alison Trapp of the NATO Public Diplomacy Division is also particularly appreciated.
A NATO Advanced Research Workshop that took place in Zagreb, Croatia in November 2008, brought together scientists and other experts to discuss the role of independent scientists in assessing threats from nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological weapons. This introductory chapter summarises the discussions that took place in the workshop, which addressed a range of related issues, examined current practices and their limitations, and worked through a number of case studies. Areas in which interactions could be strengthened are identified, and a number of suggestions for possible ways forward are made.
NATO receives scientific input from multiple sources. One of these channels supports a non-military civil function served by the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme  which is administered by the Public Diplomacy Division (PDD). Direction for the Programme is provided by the NATO Science for Peace and Security Committee consisting of national representatives from each of the 26 Alliance countries. The PDD which is a new Division within NATO has emerged from a distinguished past going back almost to the Second World War. Since that time priorities have changed leading to the repositioning of the Science Programme to deal with NATO's new international challenges. The history of this evolution, the importance of independent scientific advice, and the composition and role of the new Science Programme are outlined. Under the new name of ‘Science for Peace and Security’ (SPS) the Programme seeks to influence and fulfil NATO's strategic objectives which include enhanced security in member states and partner countries, and the promotion of action through cooperation. While the Programme's objectives together with its various components and mechanisms used to procure and deploy scientific input have been reshaped, a critique will show that limitations persist which restrict the international impact of NATO's non-military civil function and that a high-level review of its role in the twenty-first century would be timely.
NATO has gone through a change of strategies in the post Cold War era. It has transformed from a merely military alliance to an active player in the international system confronting a variety of soft and hard threats. NATO's strategies within Europe have proved more successful than its manifested strategies with the Southern Mediterranean countries through the Mediterranean Dialogue and with the Gulf through the Istanbul Cooperative Initiative. There has been minor success on the political and practical level of both initiatives. Both initiatives have taken place on a bilateral level, but they proved to lack momentum. In fact, there are several obstacles hindering further cooperation between NATO and the Southern Mediterranean and the Gulf Arab countries that require mutual efforts and understanding to overcome.
This chapter illustrates the extent and limitations of inspections and verifications in Iraq and the role of scientists in these processes, especially in the biological weapons area. The unique mandate in Iraq established an intrusive inspection regime for all areas of weapons of mass destruction. Technical experts – in the broader context of the definition of a scientist – provided technical assessments for the United Nations Security Council.
As activities in civilian and military fields become more complex and technologically advanced, taking into consideration the risks or threats associated with related incidents or accidents, or with misuse of these technologies, becomes increasingly complex. The French College for the Prevention of Technological Risks was in charge of assessing these new risks. This article recounts the history of this body and explains its originality – its main characteristics, its functioning – and the issues it dealt with. The conclusion draws out ways in which this organization as a model could meaningfully treat risks associated with military technologies.
Examples are discussed of the use of independent technical analysis of a broad range of aspects of national security programs in the United States. These include assessments of effectiveness of defenses, and counter- and counter-counter measures, with particular reference to missile defense.
Roles for independent scientists in the formation of public policy on chemical weapons are specified by identifying different types of risk associated with chemical weapons and asking whether independent scientists could contribute usefully to their assessment and therefore to their management. Attention is paid to three sources of novel risk: the changing utility of chemical weapons; changing science and technology; and CW arms control. Having particular regard to the disappointing outcome of the April 2008 conference to review the operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and to the impending shift in the primary focus of the CWC oversight organization from disarmament to non-proliferation, twelve different roles are suggested. These include work on better implementation of the ‘general purpose criterion’, on expansion of the CWC Schedules, and on convergence of the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions.
Chemical weapons, like all military technology, are associated with activities of scientists and engineers. However, chemical weapons differ from any other military technology because they were invented, and their first mass use directly developed by famous chemists. The active contribution of engineers and scientists and their organisations in the negotiations on chemical disarmament, including drafting the Chemical Weapons Convention, is described. Their present and future role in implementing the Convention is analysed, taking into consideration the threats and benefits of advances in science and technology, and stressing the independent expertise of the OPCW Scientific Advisory Board.
The size of chemical industry and rapid advances in science and technology increase the potential for illicit use of chemicals. There is a need for industry to contribute to threat assessment and can do so by considering several factors including the chemicals, their availability, quantities and likelihood of use.
This chapter explores the potential threats arising from the development and weaponization of incapacitants – chemical or biochemical agents that act on biochemical and physiological systems, especially those affecting the higher regulatory activity of the central nervous system to produce a disabling condition. The chapter then explores the roles for independent scientists in monitoring incapacitant research and development, utilising open source material, national oversight and transparency mechanisms, field missions, etc. It also explores how independent scientists can build a culture of responsibility, and promote and contribute to effective intergovernmental mechanisms to address the potential misuse of incapacitants.
A concept of non-lethal weapons might be used as an alternative not only to weapons of mass destruction but, in a certain sense, to conventional weapons also. However this concept is very questionable: for example, immobilizing chemicals and mini-nukes are considered by some, unfairly, to be non-lethal weapons. This example suggests that the concept of ‘non-lethality’ is essentially a relative one: in reality, non-lethal weapons may be rather lethal depending on specific conditions. Therefore, problems of reduction, non-proliferation and prohibition are also of importance for many types of these so-called non-lethal weapons.
Dual-use research is that which could be misused for malign purposes. The challenge to the international community is to manage the risks from this type of research without constraining its benefits. Scientists have a clear role to play in placing dual-use concerns in the broader context of the full spectrum of biological risks, and to inform assessments of the changing nature of biological risks. They can help ensure a focus on the highest risk research and avoid unnecessary restrictions or censorship. They can also inform policymaking through contribution to risk assessment and management strategies, whilst recognising that the risk of misuse cannot be eliminated.
This chapter offers an account of the work of the US National Academies, in cooperation with other national and international scientific organizations, to address increasing concerns about the potential security risks posed by continuing and dramatic developments in the life sciences. The work, begun in 2001, builds on a much longer line of work by the Academies on the periodic tensions between the culture of scientific openness and the desire to prevent adversaries from using advances in science and technology to cause harm to national or international security.
The Twin-Tower terrorist attacks and anthrax envelope scares of 2001 were a watershed for public perceptions of the threat of unconventional terror in general and of biological terror in particular. Biotechnology, genetic engineering and molecular biology began to develop at an unprecedented pace towards the end of the last century. Advances in DNA synthesis and cloning will soon make it possible to produce any desired gene rapidly on an industrial scale at minimal cost. Forecasts indicate that this pace will continue to increase exponentially. Many areas of modern biological research are unavoidably dual use by nature. Thus hostile forces could also take advantage of recent and future biotechnological advances to harm humans on a catastrophic scale. Much information is freely available, and the list of organisms whose genomes have been sequenced is hardly selective in terms of biological risk. Regulation of life science and biomedical research in Israel is largely limited to biosafety concerns. Israeli researchers are no strangers to a certain amount of well-justified regulation. The big challenge now is to incorporate biosecurity concerns into this system, in particular, to upgrade measures to prevent the leakage of dangerous organisms, information and technologies to terror organizations. To this end the Israel National Security Council and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities initiated a national project, Biotechnological Research in an Age of Terrorism, and formed a special Steering Committee to analyze and report on the current situation and to recommend future action. In this article I will elaborate mainly on the risks of biotechnological dual-use research, the overview mechanisms and legislation aimed to encounter those risks.
Advances in the life sciences and in enabling technologies affect the operations of both the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Both treaty regimes have developed mechanisms to review scientific and technological advances in order to ensure that their future implementation will not be negatively affected by such developments. These reviews also identify opportunities where new scientific knowledge and technology can help enhancing the effectiveness of the treaty regimes, or improve protections against CB weapons. This paper reviews experiences with both formal and informal mechanisms to provide effective and meaningful science advice to the States Parties of the two conventions, and in the case of the CWC also the international agency implementing it (the OPCW). These mechanisms include, for example, the provision of scientific advice by government scientists, in the CWC case by the Scientific Advisory Board of the OPCW, and independent advice received from international science unions, the Inter-Academy Panel, the International Council for Science and other international scientific institutions, as well as industry associations. The paper concludes that independent science advice is important for the proper functioning of the two conventions, and that dialogue between the science, technology and industry community on the one hand, and the arms control and security community on the other, is needed if the conventions are to be implemented in depth, and made to adapt to new requirements emanating from advances in the life sciences.
Uranium enrichment refers to a process to alter the isotopic composition of uranium. This is to produce fuel for nuclear power reactors, which requires a 235U content of about 3–5%, and to produce material for a nuclear weapon, which requires a 235U concentration of about 93%. A process that enriches reactor fuel can also enrich weapons material, which makes uranium enrichment a dual-use process. The line between civil and military purposes is very thin, and ways to broaden the line are being investigated. In this chapter, the fundamentals of uranium enrichment for these two purposes are discussed, the current Iranian nuclear situation assessed, and possible ways forward suggested for countries wanting to develop peaceful nuclear energy.
There is growing international concern about the use of nuclear materials for the purposes of terrorism. This chapter examines the possible threats, the strengths and weaknesses of the current defences against these, and the steps which the international community needs to take to address these concerns.
Efforts to erect a defense against attacking missiles were considered and pushed forward from the beginning of the missile age by the superpowers. Cold War deterrence was based on massive nuclear deterrent arsenals and offensive missiles with intercontinental ranges. Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) advocates argue that missile defense is feasible and necessary to discourage proliferation. Opponents claim that missile defenses can be easily fooled and would lead to new arms races. This chapter describes the history and development of BMD programmes, the role scientists played in these developments, and the current debate to establish BMD systems, which reflects the old arguments about invulnerability, feasibility, costs and the implications for arms control.
The role of independent scientists in evaluating the threat posed by the development of ballistic missiles is reviewed. This includes assisting the legislative branch, informing the public debate, and, in particular, countering the military's inflation of the threat that the missiles of developing countries present. The last of these issues is covered in more detail as a special case. Following a long history of threat inflation by government agencies intent on increasing their budgets, the present US Missile Defense Agency continues this tradition and takes a number of opportunities to inflate the threat from Iran's missile development program. These financial motivations are not, unfortunately, limited to government agencies and affect even supposedly independent analysts. One way of preventing this is for independent scientists to publish their research results in peer-reviewed journals or, because such journals are fairly rare, subject their research to other review mechanisms. A new way of doing this is to present results on established blogs. Finally the funding and career paths of independent scientists are reviewed and it is found that universities are fundamentally ill-suited for supporting new, multidisciplinary areas of study. Without some sort of academic home, this field is likely to dry up in the coming harsh funding environment.
This chapter examines the role of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in the present security environment from the point of view of a small transitional state like Croatia. Attention is focused on the existing contemporary strategic documents, their approach to the possible WMD threat, and the kinds of instruments and tools they prescribe to deal with this threat. We explore the similarities and differences within society, from the political institutions to the general public, regarding the NATO accession discussions and what specific role WMD played in these discussions. Finally, we attempt to clarify the interaction between the politics and the science that followed, or preceded, discussions connected with the eventual Croatian membership, especially those in NATO. Finally we offer some favourable and not so favourable conclusions based on first hand experience of these discussions, with the emphasis on what might have been, or still may be, improved in order to reach a better understanding between the public, science and politics in the Croatian social and political spheres, and try to reconsider the importance of the WMD threat in the future world.