UNITED NATIONS, Nov 20 (IPS) – The major military powers of the world exert their dominance largely because of their massive arsenals, including sophisticated combat aircraft, drones, ballistic missiles, warships, battle tanks, heavy artillery, and weapons of mass destruction (weapons of mass destruction).
But last week’s sudden surge in the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in the US and Europe, has revived the lingering question that needs an answer: Will overwhelming firepower and weapons of mass destruction become obsolete if biological weapons, currently being used by a UN Convention are forbidden, are out of date? used in wars in the distant future?
According to the latest figures from the Cable News Network (CNN), dismal coronavirus pandemic statistics include 56.4 million infections and 1.5 million deaths worldwide.
As of last week, the United States alone has set records: more than 11.5 million pandemic cases and over 250,500 deaths since last March with more than 193,000 infections per day.
The New York Times quoted nameless experts as predicting that the US will soon be reporting over 2,000 deaths a day and that 100,000 to 200,000 more Americans could die in the coming months. One prognosis projected a US death toll of 471,000 by next March – in the absence of an effective vaccine.
The pandemic has also destabilized the global economy, and global poverty and hunger have risen to new highs. And all of this without a single shot being fired in an eight-month war against a spreading virus.
Dr. Natalie J. Goldring, Senior Fellow and Associate Professor in the Security Studies Program at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, told IPS that the world is facing several crises, “with the potential to destroy our communities, including the threat of climate change and the risk of nuclear war ”
And UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had warned of another possible crisis, namely that terrorists could use biological weapons to achieve catastrophic results. He pointed out that this type of weapon use could be even more harmful than COVID-19.
“If a terrorist group could perform the complex tasks of making and using biological weapons, a deliberate release of a biological weapon could be even more deadly than COVID-19,” said Dr. Goldring, who is also a visiting professor of the practice in the Washington DC program at Duke University and represents the Acronym Institute at the United Nations on issues relating to the conventional arms and arms trade.
She said Guterres makes the important point: “We need to focus immediately on preventing this type of development. We also need to significantly improve our communities’ ability to respond to infectious diseases. ”
“Countries with large armed forces often threaten to use these forces to achieve foreign policy and other goals. One question is whether the use of biological weapons could actually make these conventional and nuclear forces obsolete? “, She asked.
“I would argue that nuclear weapons are already obsolete and counterproductive. By developing and using these weapons, states increase the risk of nuclear theft and give other countries incentives to develop nuclear weapons in response,” said Dr. Goldring.
Guterres warned last month of the possibility of an even worse catastrophe: the risk of bioterrorist attacks with deadly germs.
He said it had already pointed out some ways in which readiness could fall short “when a disease is intentionally manipulated to be more virulent or deliberately released in multiple locations at once.”
“When considering how we can better respond to future disease threats, we should also take serious care to prevent the deliberate use of disease as weapons,” he said at a meeting of the Security Council on the maintenance of international peace and security – – and the effects of COVID-19
If terrorist groups, as Guterres fears, acquire the knowledge to use biological weapons, suicide bombers and AK-47 assault rifles, which are used in accidental killings, they may become obsolete in future attacks.
Professor Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, told IPS, “It’s not the terrorist groups that are the problem here.”
“It is the terrorist regimes like the US, China, Russia, UK, Israel etc. that have the most advanced biological warfare and biological weapons facilities in the world that are threatening the very existence of all humanity, like Covid-19 is now doing. ” said Professor Boyle, who has advised numerous international bodies on human rights, war crimes, genocide, nuclear policy and bio-warfare.
Dr. Filippa Lentzos, Associate Senior Researcher, Arms and Disarmament Program at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), told IPS: “I don’t think bio-weapons will be the wave of the future.”
“Many could turn away from bombs, guns, and other explosive weapons – we’re already seeing hybrid warfare and a greater reliance on cyber, disinformation, etc. – but adoption will be mixed across the world.”
She said, “I suspect that there would also be differences in reception between state and non-state actors. The way I view potential future biological weapons is an extreme niche form of weapon that is potentially “suitable” only in very limited circumstances. ”
When asked about the use of biological weapons in the context of germ warfare during the First World War, she said in an interview with IPS in March last year that Germany had used covertly during the First World War to infect horses with biological agents in order to block their use Allied forces.
“During World War II there were significant covert attacks by Japan on China and some clandestine attacks in Europe against Germany. Very limited use has been known since 1945, ”said Dr. Lentzos, who is also co-editor of BioSocieties magazine and NGO coordinator for the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.
According to the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the first multilateral disarmament treaty to prohibit the development, manufacture and storage of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction, was opened for signature and entered into on April 10, 1972 in force on March 26, 1975.
Guterres said last week he never imagined hunger would pick up again during his tenure as general secretary.
And according to the Rome-based World Food Program (WFP), 130 million people are at risk of being pushed to the brink of hunger by the end of the year.
“That is completely unacceptable,” said Guterres. The recovery from COVID-19 needs to eradicate inequalities and fragility, and nutrition will be central to sustainable and inclusive recovery
David Beasley, executive director of WFP, said the socio-economic impact of the pandemic was more devastating than the disease itself.
He pointed out that many people in low and middle income countries who were poor a few months ago but just got through are now finding their livelihoods destroyed.
Remittances from overseas workers to their domestic families have also dried up and are causing immense trouble. As a result, hunger rates are skyrocketing around the world, he said.
Thalif Deen is a former Director of Foreign Military Markets for Defense Marketing Services. Senior Defense Analyst at Forecast International; and Military Editor Middle East / Africa at Jane’s Information Group, USA. He is also a co-author of How to Survive a Nuclear Disaster (New Century).
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