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Leitenberg Publishes Timely Research on Russian Bioweapon Disinformation

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New research published in the Nonproliferation Review by CISSM research associate, Milton Leitenberg, examines the history of the Soviet Union and Russian Federation’s campaigns of false allegations charging the United States with biological weapons (BW) development and use. Leitenberg’s article has gained recent attention after Russian officials accused the United States of operating biowarfare labs in Ukraine, an escalation in Russia’s long-running biological weapons (BW) disinformation campaign against the United States. Understanding the importance and timeliness of Leitenberg’s research, the Nonproliferation Review has temporarily made “False allegations of Biological Weapons from Putin’s Russia,” available to the public.

In the article, Leitenberg asserts that the Soviet Union led a “nearly continuous” BW disinformation campaign from 1949 to 1988. After a brief respite, the pattern of false accusations reemerged in 2007 when senior Russian government officials sought to undermine the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programs that saw the United States and Commonwealth of Independent States’ countries cooperate in transforming former Soviet BW facilities for civilian public health use.

Leitenberg also describes how the Russian disinformation campaign expanded following the outbreak of COVID-19. The Russian government made a series of accusations including that the SARS-Cov-2 virus was a U.S. made bioweapon. According to Leitenberg, the propaganda is meant to distract from Russia’s own activities and ambiguous compliance record with both the Biological Weapons Convention and Chemical Weapons Convention and, among other reasons, to undermine U.S. relations with Georgia and other Commonwealth of Independent States’ member countries with ongoing CTR programs.

"In conjunction with its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the Russian government extended the false BW allegations attacking both the United States and Ukraine, alleging that both countries in collusion were developing biological weapons in the converted Nunn-Lugar facilities in Ukraine. The Russian government knows with absolute certainty that none of the charges leveled at any of the facilities in Ukraine, or at the United States, are true—in the same way it knew with absolute certainty that the similar charges that it leveled for many years at Georgia’s Lugar Laboratory were not true." said Leitenberg.

Leitenberg added, "False allegations undermine the authority and legitimacy of international treaties such as the Biological Weapons Convention, whose purpose is to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, in this case, biological weapons".

You can access Milton Leitenberg’s, “False Allegations of Biological Weapons from Putin’s Russia,” article here.

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