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Courtney Thomas

on 27 July 2018

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Transcript of Biohazard

photo credit Nasa / Goddard Space Flight Center / Reto Stöckli
World Politics Lecture 12
Soviet Threat
The Soviet strategy always emphasized a first strike against the U.S. and NATO
The Soviets believed that a “superpower conflict was inevitable”
Especially true in the 1980s with Reagan’s arms buildup undermining détente and threatening the Soviet deterrent

US Bioweapons Program
The US officially ended all offensive biological weapons testing in 1969
But DEFENSIVE research often yields OFFENSIVE information
The United States Army Military Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, MD is a primary biological testing facility as are the CDC in Atlanta, Plum Island in NY, and private laboratories throughout the country
BUT the US program must have been limited as they were willing to engage in reciprocal visits to suspected Soviet bioweapons facilities

The Soviet Players
Biopreparat: The “System:
The Soviet state pharmaceutical agency whose primary function was to develop and produce viral, bacterial, and toxic weapons
Coordinated by the Military-Industrial Commission (VPK)
Effective control over 2/3 of the USSR’s industrial enterprises
The Ministry of Defense: The “Customer”
The KGB: Capturing Agency One
The Ministries of Agriculture and Health: “Ecology”
Anti-crop and anti-livestock programs and agents

Usefulness as Weapons
How to aerosolize, dry, or micro-encapsulate particles and keep them from losing virulence or dissipating quickly?
How to work around temperature, weather, sunlight, rain, snow, wind currents, humidity?
Does the agent have a human vector?

You want stable, reliable weapons but that also means more lethal agents
“The manufacturing technique is the real weapon and it is harder to develop than the individual agents” (pgs. 97-99)

The Collapse of the
Soviet Program
Perestroika undermined the bioweapons program
Defection was a constant threat
Nationalist tides and economic woes that beset the USSR threatened all government programs
Even when it looked as though the bioweapons program was doomed AND its leaders thought it best abandoned the USSR wanted to keep production ready for a resurrection –REMEMBER DEFECTION!!

Context for the Future
“With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the danger once posed by our weapons work has sharply diminished. Bioreparat claims that it no longer conducts offensive research, and Russia’s stockpile of germs and viruses has been destroyed. But the threat of a biological attack has increased as the knowledge developed in our labs…has spread to rogue regimes and terrorist groups. Bioweapons are no longer contained within the bipolar world of the Cold War. They are cheap, easy to make, and easy to use.”

The Defection
1972: Moscow endorses the Biological Weapons Convention
140 signatories
Pledge “not to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain” biological agents for offensive military purposes
Enter “The System”
“We had been taught as schoolchildren and it was drummed into us as young military officers that the capitalist world was united in only one aim: to destroy the Soviet Union. It was not difficult for me to believe that the United States would use any conceivable weapon against us, and that our own survival depended on matching their duplicity.”

The Bugs
The U.S. bioweapons had vaccines and treatments to protect troops and civilians from accidental exposure (Sverdlovsk)
The Soviets used agents for which there was no cure
Researchers had to create vaccine resistant strains of viruses and more virulent bacteria and toxins
Anthrax (symptoms pg. 7-8; pgs. 76-78)
Weaponized to be more potent and need fewer spores in an attack
Smallpox (pg. 109-110)
Marburg (obtained from Germany) and Ebola
Lassa fever
Tularemia (pg. 25)
Typhus (pg. 33)
Machupo (Bolivian hemorrhagic fever obtained from the US)
AIDS (too long an incubation period)

Genetically Altered Weapons
Venom of snakes and spiders and poisonous secretions of plants, fungi, and bacteria were initially considered too difficult to manufacture in the quantities necessary for modern warfare
New genetic engineering techniques made peptides and myelin toxins potential weapons by the late 1980s AND led to research in antibiotic resistance
By producing weapons based on chemicals the body produces naturally, the agents could be hidden and untraceable
Ideal for assassinations

Delivery Systems
Reliability is key—how to prevent biological agents from losing virulence when dispersed
The vector for transmission
1920s: Crop sprayers on low flying planes
1940s and 1950s: Bombers
1970s: Single warhead ICBMs
1980s: Cruise Missiles/SS-18 Missiles (pg. 141)
Carried ten five-hundred-kiloton warheads over a range of six thousand miles
Could be filled by one twenty-ton fermenter working at full capacity in one to two days

The Targets
The US and its Western Allies
New York
Los Angeles

Learning from Enemies
Just as we learned about missile technology from the Nazis, the Soviets learned from Water Purification Unit 731
The Japanese germ warfare program

The Role of Eradication
In 1980 the WHO eradicated smallpox because of an initiative begun by the USSR in 1958
This was a historic triumph for liberal institutionalism, one of the greatest moments of international cooperation in history
Eradication gave the USSR a perfect weapon, one for which vaccines would be unavailable but which had proven itself to be a superb killer

Useful Weapons
Biological agents are difficult to detect
Excellent for assassinations, covert operations, terrorism, and strategic warfare
All of the research conducted by the USSR survived the fall of the government
Much has been released under the guise of “civilian research” since 1991 that indicates that the research planned by the USSR continues
Smallpox-Ebola weapon
Proliferation is inexpensive, easy, and VERY tempting, especially in a newly “capitalist’ state
Far easier than nuclear proliferation
Full transcript