AIn view of the devastating consequences of the corona pandemic, NATO is increasing its efforts in the field of biological weapons defense. The coronavirus is not a virus created in a laboratory, but it does show the dangers that exist in connection with the use of biological warfare agents, said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in an interview with the German Press Agency in Brussels. 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 banned under international law, but we have to be prepared for their use because we know that these weapons are still available,” said Stoltenberg. They could be used by state actors, but also by terrorists.
In addition, Stoltenberg did not rule out the possibility that a widespread bioweapons attack that could kill hundreds of thousands of people could also result in a retaliatory strike with conventional or nuclear weapons. “NATO has no prohibited weapons, but we have a range of capabilities to respond appropriately,” he said. If Article 5 on collective defense were to be triggered after a biological weapons attack, NATO could use all of these capabilities.
Coronaviruses as possible biological weapons
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.
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 horror scenario is that biological warfare agents are used by fanatics who think, for example, that the world can only be saved from its end by a drastic reduction in population.
UN Secretary General António Guterres had already warned of the dangers of terrorist attacks with biological weapons in July. The pandemic had shown that preparations for the disaster could not be sufficient. 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.
With a view to the current corona pandemic, Stoltenberg emphasized that NATO was still ready to help. “NATO and the military could provide support in distributing the vaccines,” said the Norwegian. The NATO center for disaster control has been coordinating aid in other areas for months. For example, recently numerous ventilators were delivered to Balkan countries and other allied states.