In September, the UN held a Consultative Meeting between the State Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention (“BTWC”), under Article V. This is the first time in history that Article V has been used and only the second time a Formal Consultative Meeting has been convened.
The Meeting was invoked through Russia triggering Article V in June 2022 due to the activities of biological laboratories (“biolabs”) in Ukraine. The final determination was that “no consensus was reached” during the Meeting.
Last week, dated 18 but published on 19 October, several countries issued a joint statement on the results of the Meeting:
“We have to conclude that the questions as to the military biological activities conducted by the United States in the context of the functioning of biological laboratories on the Ukrainian territory still remain unresolved … The Consultative Meeting has confirmed the need to resume the negotiations on a legally binding protocol … during the Ninth Review Conference of the BTWC.”
The Ninth Review Conference is due to be held towards the end of this year.
In mid-September, the BTWC completed a Formal Consultative Meeting of BTWC States Parties. This Formal Consultative Meeting mechanism, which has only been used once before in the history of the BTWC, was invoked on 29 June 2022, through Russia’s triggering of Article V.
The United Kingdom’s experts analysed the supporting evidence Russia provided, UK Ambassador Aidan Liddle said in his speech at the Consultative Meeting. Liddle had chaired a meeting in July to discuss the arrangements for the Formal Consultative Meeting.
At the Consultative Meeting, the UK Ambassador argued that cholera, anthrax and avian flu stored in Ukrainian biolabs were for “peaceful purposes,” in other words biodefence, and not for biological warfare.
However, the use of the words “peaceful,” “defence” or “security” is a moot point when arguing for the justification of biolab activities. The concepts of biodefence and biowarfare are largely indistinguishable. “Biodefence” implies tacit biowarfare, as they typically create dangerous pathogens under the guise of finding a cure in case such a pathogen was to develop naturally or be created by an enemy.
Regarding Russia’s accusations of drones with the ability to be equipped with aerosol-generating systems with a 20+ litre capacity to “spray bioagents,” Liddle said that the manufacturer “has explicitly written that the drones do not have this capacity.” “The drones “appear to be the type used in agriculture … No evidence has been presented that demonstrates any non-compliance with the Convention by Ukraine,” he said.
The final determination of the Meeting was, prosaically, that “no consensus was reached regarding the outcome of the Formal Consultative Meeting.”
This Formal Consultative Meeting provides a potential foreshadowing of what may occur as countries prepare for the Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention through late November and December of this year. The Review Conference, which is held every five years, is a critical mechanism of the treaty for both planning the next five years of the institution, as well as potentially propelling major policy advances to address biological weapons issues.
Whether it is inconclusive or incremental, the BTWC is a keystone that helps build and reinforce norms against the research, development, and use of biological weapons. Further, it serves as a critical diplomatic forum for States Parties to communicate and come together to keep working toward a world where biological weapons are normatively and politically inconceivable.
- Did the US Fund Biolabs in Ukraine for biodefence or biowarfare? The Exposé, 28 March 2022
- Outcomes of Biological Weapons Convention 2022 Consultative Meeting: No Countries Support Russia’s False Allegations , Council on Strategic Risks ,13 September 2022
- “Questions still remain”: Russia at the UN called for clarification of the situation with US military biological activities, Teller Report, 20 October 2022
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Russia and China Push to Enact Article VI of The Biological Weapons Convention to Investigate the United States/Ukraine
A joint statement was delivered by Russia, China, Belarus, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria; pertaining to the unresolved US biological laboratories in Ukraine on 18 October 2022.
Essentially, these countries are pointing out that the UN Security Council have done nothing to resolve this pressing matter, and are demanding the UN Security Council do their job:
We have to conclude that the questions as to the military biological activities conducted by the United States in the context of the functioning of biological laboratories on the Ukrainian territory still remain unresolved. We have not received exhaustive explanations that could completely allay the doubts concerning the said activities and thus straighten out the situation that had prompted the Russian side to convene the Consultative meeting under BTWC Article V. This is regrettable.Joint Statement on the Results of the Consultative meeting of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological and Toxin Weapons (BTWC) under BTWC Article V, New York, October 18, 2022
Now, your first reaction might be, “the UN is corrupt! This is pointless!” And you would be partially correct.
However, the joint statement addresses this as well. Stating that the UN need to enact Article VI, which would be a cooperative formal investigation into alleged biological malfeasance by the Security Council, which is what we want.
In addition, given the outcomes of the Consultative meeting as well as to facilitate the resolution of the existing situation, we call for making use |of all opportunities available within the framework of the BTWC, including the mechanism under Article VI of the Convention.Joint Statement on the Results of the Consultative meeting of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological and Toxin Weapons (BTWC) under BTWC Article V, New York, October 18, 2022
The State Parties go on to address that the efficiency and mechanisms behind the BTWC may need to be evaluated at the upcoming Ninth Review of the Biological Weapons Conference on 28 November – 16 December 2022.
The outcomes of the event demonstrate the potential for strengthening the BTWC and improving its efficiency. The consultative meeting has confirmed the need to resume the negotiations on a legally binding protocol to the Convention, which should have a comprehensive nature and offer an effective verification mechanism. We hope that the States Parties will be able to adopt a relevant decision during the Ninth Review Conference of the BTWC.Joint Statement on the Results of the Consultative meeting of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological and Toxin Weapons (BTWC) under BTWC Article V, New York, October 18, 2022
So come December, all the world governments will be having a debate on the highest diplomatic stage, pertaining to the US Biological malfeasance in Ukraine. Russia, China, and many of their allies, are looking to make changes to the mechanisms behind the BTWC, to generate some efficiency in holding the US/Ukraine accountable for their violations of international law. As the US are one of the permanent seats in the UN Security Council, they can veto any attempts by other nations to investigate their biological activity. Essentially making the “Big 5” Nations (US, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France), impervious to an investigation.
This situation is giving rise to the reality that there needs to be unprecedented solutions to an unprecedented problem. The current system is flawed, and intervention/adaptation may be necessary to move forward as a society and as a People.
In conclusion, Russia have done their due diligence and gone through the proper diplomatic channels to air their grievances. They have much of the world’s support, but the systems in place are being abused by corrupt entities.
Russia Reiterates Call to Address Unresolved Issues
The next day, Konstantin Vorontsov, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the Russian Federation, delivered a statement at the UN General Assembly’s ‘Discussion on Other Weapons of Mass Destruction’ and repeated Russia’s call to discuss the outcomes of the Consultative Meeting at the Ninth Review Conference of the Convention:
With reference to the military and biological activities in the Ukrainian territory, Russia … initiated a Consultative Meeting of the States Parties. Despite all our efforts, we have not received exhaustive answers to the submitted detailed specific claims regarding those States’ compliance with the provisions of Articles I and IV of the Convention. The issues remain open and pending solutions.
To settle the current outrageous state of affairs, it is imperative to continue with their meaningful consideration within the BTWC, and specifically discuss the outcomes of the Consultative Meeting and follow-up activities at the Ninth Review Conference of the Convention.
It is important, at the same time, not to be limited to consultations and exchange of views only but to engage the entire toolbox envisaged by the Convention, including Article VI of the BTWC, in order to investigate the violation of provisions of the Convention by the US and Ukraine.Statement by Mr. Konstantin Vorontsov, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the Russian Federation, Deputy Director of the Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, at the Thematic Discussion on Other Weapons of Mass Destruction in the First Committee of the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly, New York, 19 October 2022
Vorontsov also urged the United States to destroy stockpiles of toxic substances:
“Our country is implementing in good faith the obligations assumed under this international treaty. In 2017, we destroyed one of the largest arsenals of chemical weapons three years ahead of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) deadline. We urge the United States, that have the financial and technological capacity to eliminate the remaining stockpiles of toxic substances as quickly as possible, to follow our example.”
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