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Consequences of the corona pandemic: NATO wants to strengthen defense against biological weapons

The corona pandemic shows what catastrophic consequences the use of biological weapons could have. NATO therefore now wants to better arm itself against such possible dangers.

In view of the devastating consequences of the corona pandemic, NATO wants to intensify its efforts in the field of biological weapons defense. The coronavirus is not a virus created in a laboratory, but it shows the dangers that exist in connection with the use of biological warfare agents, said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of the dpa news agency. The defense alliance must therefore strengthen security.

For example, NATO is already in the process of improving the exchange of intelligence information in order to prevent possible attacks with biological weapons. “These weapons, like chemical weapons, are forbidden under international law, but we have to be prepared for their use because we know that these weapons still exist,” said Stoltenberg. They could be used by state actors, but also by terrorists.

Flu and coronaviruses as possible biological weapons

In addition, Stoltenberg did not rule out the possibility that a widespread bioweapons attack with hundreds of thousands of dead could also result in a retaliatory strike with conventional or nuclear weapons. “NATO has no banned weapons, but we have a range of capabilities to respond appropriately,” he said. If collective defense Article 5 were triggered after a biological weapons attack, NATO could use all of these capabilities.

In addition to smallpox and anthrax pathogens, influenza and corona viruses have also been considered possible biological weapons for years. The background is that researchers have repeatedly shown that viruses can be artificially made more dangerous in the laboratory. The background to such experiments are efforts to be better prepared for the consequences of natural virus mutations. At the same time, however, they also show what consequences it could have if, for example, terrorists were to gain access to such capabilities.

Worry about terrorist attacks with modified viruses

A horror scenario is that viruses could be modified in such a way that they are only fatal for selected groups of people – for example only for blacks or only for whites. Another scenario is that biological warfare agents are used by fanatics who, for example, think that the only way to save the world from its end is to drastically reduce its population.

UN Secretary General António Guterres had already warned of the dangers of terrorist attacks with biological weapons. The pandemic has shown that preparations for the disaster may not be enough, he said in July. He also called for the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological Weapons, which came into force in 1975, to be strengthened. So far, for example, this does not contain a monitoring mechanism.

In addition, 14 states have not acceded to the agreement to date. These include, for example, Eritrea, Israel, Egypt, Somalia and Syria.

NATO wants to support countries in the pandemic

With a view to the current corona pandemic, Stoltenberg emphasized that NATO was still ready to help. “NATO and the military could help distribute the vaccines,” said the Norwegian.

The NATO Center for Civil Protection has been coordinating aid in other areas for months. For example, recently numerous ventilators were delivered to Balkan countries and other allied states.

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