Kathleen Vogel is a professor of science and technology studies and member of the Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at Cornell University. She is author of “Phantom Menace or Looming Danger? A new Framework for Assessing Bioweapons Threats,” and comments on the potential for chemical weapons to be used in Syria and elsewhere.
“The risks of the release of Syria’s chemical weapons are real. Although recent reports warn of the Assad government using these weapons against the Syrian rebels, a more worrisome threat comes from the possible proliferation of Syria’s chemical weapons.
“In light of the mounting instability of Syrian military forces and the growing chaos in the country, there are dangers from the loss of tight command and control of its weapons facilities. When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, the political and economic instability and chaos that resulted in the aftermath led to then-Russia’s biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons being ill-protected and poorly accounted. If the Syrian government falls, we need to be equally as concerned with providing rapid international assistance to safeguard Syria’s chemical weapons.
“The U.S. Defense Department Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program, established in 1992, was created to help Russia safeguard and stem the proliferation of its weapons of mass destruction. Starting in 2004, the CTR program mandate was extended beyond the former Soviet Union to deal with ‘critical emerging proliferation threats.’ Therefore, with new Congressional approval, the CTR program could be authorized to help deal with Syria’s potential loose weapons as well. This action would be a smart use of defense funds to help deal with the unstable Syrian security situation.”
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