Questions and concerns surrounding US biolabs in Ukraine
Published: Mar 18, 2022 01:47 AM
Screengrab of Russian Defence Ministry briefing showing US-sponsored biolabs on Ukraininan territory. Photo : Russian Ministry of Defence

Screengrab of Russian Defence Ministry briefing showing US-sponsored biolabs on Ukraininan territory. Photo : Russian Ministry of Defence

Since Russia kick-started its military action toward Ukraine, a claim that there are more than 20 US biolabs in Ukraine has quickly attracted the attention of the international community.

The US said these were "false claims" made up by Russia, and argued that the US-funded biolabs were only used to deal with biological weapons left over from the Soviet Union. The US claimed the biolabs were "to report outbreaks caused by dangerous pathogens before they pose security or stability threats," according to Fox News.

More details are needed to decide what exactly is the purpose of these biolabs. But simply looking at the information about those biolabs released by the US government, mainstream media and think tanks, it is enough to make me fear these biolabs and worry about the US' role.

Such concern is mainly due to three reasons.

First, national security correspondent of US mainstream media CBS News David Martin said on Sunday that "a Pentagon official" said the US-funded biolabs in Ukraine are doing research on dangerous pathogens, and the US has supported these labs. "The concern is that the Russians will seize one of these biomedical research facilities that Ukraine has, where they do research on deadly pathogens like botulism and anthrax… because the US has been providing support for some of the research being done in those facilities," he said.

And on April 22, 2020, the US embassy in Ukraine also acknowledged that the US helped Ukraine in biolabs and there are "dangerous pathogens" in those labs - although Washington claimed the research was for "vaccine development."

But on July 28, 2020, Politico published a report entitled "How Covid-19 Could Give Kim Jong Un a Doomsday Weapon," in which Andrew Weber, a former Pentagon official, said "the beauty of biological weapons" is that people can "hide it within a legitimate biotechnology sector."

Second, according to a report published by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on June 25, 2020, the US launched a "Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction initiative" in 1991 to fund laboratories in the Soviet Union, and they were bioweapon labs during the Soviet Union era.

The report also mentioned that most of those labs were part of the "Soviet anti-plague system." This is exactly the same as the US' claim today that the biolabs aim at dealing with the pandemic.

And the report says that after the Soviet Union's collapse and the US intervention, "the legacies of Soviet bioweapons programs" were dismantled and "the dangerous pathogens left behind" were secured and ultimately destroyed. The report called it "one of the greatest achievements of US foreign policy." But this just shows that the US has a great say in the use of these labs. This is also reflected in the 2005 agreement signed between the US Department of Defense and the Ukrainian Ministry of Health.

The above two points show that even though the US claims these labs are used for "epidemic prevention" and the dangerous pathogens stored in these labs are for "vaccine development," it is entirely possible that these labs and their related research can be directly transformed into bioweapon labs under special circumstances. And the US will also have a direct impact on this process.

In fact, the US is aware of these situations, which is why they are so worried that these labs will fall under Russia's control. US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland recently expressed her concerns about Russia's control of these labs in response to questions in the US Congress.

The problem is that Ukraine and Russia have been in a tense relationship as early as 2014, and the two countries' relations have been deteriorating in the following eight years. More importantly, as early as 2014, Russia had already controlled two such US-funded biolabs in Ukraine. Pentagon is also aware of this.

But why does the US, which has a direct say toward these labs, still allow these biolabs to exist and continue to conduct research? Why did the US not express concern that the labs would fall into the hands of Russia until Russia and Ukraine went to war and the labs attracted the international community's attention? This is the third reason for my concern.

When former US congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard also expressed concerns and raised questions about these US-funded labs in Ukraine, why was she immediately labeled as a "treasonous liar" by some mainstream US media and politicians?

Why does the US show such an overreaction to this reasonable questioning, which completely comes from the US' own materials? I do not know what explanation the US will give, but the reaction just made me more worried about what happened inside these biolabs.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn