US tries to refute 'rumors' about its bio-labs in Ukraine, but can we believe it?
Published: Mar 10, 2022 01:46 AM
Ukrainian soldiers set up roadblocks in Irpin, Ukraine, on March 4, 2022.Photo:Xinhua

Ukrainian soldiers set up roadblocks in Irpin, Ukraine, on March 4, 2022. Photo:Xinhua

Many topics on the Russia-Ukraine conflict have popped up since it began on February 24. One of them refers to US-controlled bio-labs in Ukraine, which have attracted the attention of netizens in Russia, the US and China.

During a routine press conference on Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson mentioned the 26 bio-labs and other related facilities in Ukraine, under the absolute control of the US Department of Defense, as well as the US' 336 biological labs in 30 countries, asking "what is the true intention of the US?"

The US authorities have tried to refute so-called rumors about these labs, but can we believe them? 

Before answering this question, let us go over the two latest events that happened in February during the Beijing Winter Olympic Games.  

First, on February 3, one day before the opening of the Games, some politicians from the US House of Representatives called on seven scientists who initially believed COVID-19 might have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) to provide answers under oath. They said these scientists suddenly reversed course after privately speaking with Dr. Francis Collins, former director of the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. These politicians also reportedly sent harassing emails to these scientists to force them to smear Collins and Fauci.  

Second, on February 4, 21 scientists from the US and its allies like Japan released a co-signed open letter to smear China for "disturbing the investigation into virus origins" and called for "a new investigation" into the WIV, which they claimed to be "a true expression for the ideals underlying the Olympic movement." 

In the past two years of the COVID-10 pandemic, China has repeatedly explained that the virus came from nature and the West's accusations about the WIV are totally groundless. China has also invited experts from the World Health Organization and US media outlets like NBC to come and see the WIV.    

However, the US government and many US media reports kept hyping the lab leak theory and threatened scientists and journalists who did not agree with that. But the US is now facing its own lab leak questions on its bio labs in Ukraine.     

Unlike the groundless US slandering about the WIV, there are genuine concerns about the US labs in Ukraine.  

The US has said that these labs are run by the Ukrainian government and sponsored by the US. It said that it supports these labs in order to reduce biological weapons proliferation. The US also said these labs conduct research on some dangerous pathogens and provide support for Ukraine's medical and public health research.  

An agreement signed by the US Department of Defense and the Ministry of Health of Ukraine in 2005, was aimed to prevent bio-weapons and pathogens from being abused, and Ukraine seems to run those labs. 

However, interesting details can be seen upon close examination. The agreement said that the US Department of Defense has the right to audit and examine materials, training of personnel and services provided in accordance with the agreement. 

The most important part is that the agreement says that the Ministry of Health of Ukraine shall transfer to the US Department of Defense copies of dangerous pathogen strains collected in Ukraine. 

Moreover, the information transmitted under this agreement or developed as a result of its implementation and considered by the US Department of Defense as "sensitive" shall be withheld from public disclosure.

These details seem to overturn the statement by the US that the labs are run by the Ukraine, and that the US is simply a sponsor. 

Some international experts have said that the real purpose of the cooperation between the US and Ukraine is to let Ukraine take responsibility for any security accidents at the labs. Anatoly Tsyganok, a member of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences and associate professor at the Faculty of World Politics at Lomonosov Moscow State University, told the Global Times previously that the US has banned testing of bio-weapons on its territory, so it is choosing other countries as test fields for its potential biological arsenal. 

This is why the US moves to establish similar labs in Central Asian countries have stirred controversy and concerns over public security accidents. An article published on US website in 2013 said that residents of Almaty, Kazakhstan had opposed a lab that was built in "cooperation" with the US.

The US also claims that the labs are used to prevent the dangers of biological weapons and only engage in medical research, which is equally unconvincing.   

An article published in US media outlet Politico said that North Korea may try to weaponize the coronavirus. North Korea "could use this legitimate vaccine aspiration as a way to enhance their biotechnology capability," Andrew Weber, former assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs during the Obama administration, was quoted by Politico as saying.

"They could buy equipment from Western or Chinese sources that would be necessary for their vaccine effort, and then next year they could turn around and use it to produce biological weapons," said Weber. 

Moreover, the US has plenty of history in this regard. According to Insider, a US-based website, the US military has conducted dangerous bio-warfare experiments on Americans, using the guise of medical research.

Considering the US and NATO's pressure on Russia via NATO's eastward expansion, which pushed Russia into conflict with Ukraine, the possibility of the labs turning into US factories for making bio-weapons cannot be ruled out. 

"The US Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction Program has provided technical support to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health since 2005 to improve public health laboratories, whose mission is analogous to that of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention," Weber said in a recent interview.

The US has a rich repertoire of measures to pressure its rivals. As long as the country does not forego its ambition of creating a unipolar world, its actions under the cover of "peace" and "protection" cannot be trusted. Other countries, such as China, who are independent from US geopolitical influence, should examine its purposes. 

This is the fundamental difference between the US and China, a country that seeks to uphold multilateralism, and seeks to build a community with a shared future for mankind.