By Julio Cesar Rivas
Toronto, May 30 (efe-epa).- The Covid-19 crisis will have military repercussions worldwide and trigger a geopolitical realignment, according to a pair of experts interviewed by Efe, who concurred that Russia will come out on the losing end but were at odds over the impact of the pandemic on China and the United States.
Military strategists for centuries have clearly understood the destructive capacity of biological weapons.
In antiquity, the Romans dumped animal carcasses into wells to sicken their military rivals. But perhaps the best example of an army using pathogens to cripple its adversary occurred in Kaffa (now known as Feodosia), a city in the now-disputed Crimean Peninsula.
Purchased in the late 13th century by traders from the Republic of Genoa, Kaffa was besieged on several occasions by Mongol armies until in 1347 the Tatar forces of the Golden Horde – who were being battered by the Black Death, a disease that originated in Asia – catapulted infected corpses of soldiers over the city’s walls.
Generally believed to have been caused by the bubonic plague bacterium Yersinia pestis, the Black Death is the most fatal pandemic in recorded human history, resulting in between 75 million and 100 million deaths worldwide (or around 15-20 percent of the human population at that time).
That tragic episode lasting from 1346 to 1353 underscored the potential that biological agents have for uncontrolled devastation, and for that reason instances of bioweapons being employed in modern history are exceedingly rare.
But military strategists still remain wary of their dangers.
The US’s National Biodefense Strategy, a document drafted in 2018, states that “biological threats – whether naturally occurring, accidental or deliberate in origin – are among the most serious threats facing the United States and the international community.”
It added that “multiple nations have pursued clandestine biological weapons programs and a number of terrorist groups have sought to acquire biological weapons.”
The geopolitical experts consulted by Efe agreed that none of the world’s leading military powers currently have any interest in employing these types of weapons, citing among other reasons their unpredictable impact and the difficulty in containing their spread.
But even though the multilateral 1975 Biological Weapons Convention prohibits these weapons of mass destruction from being developed, produced or stockpiled, the world’s foremost military powers – the US, Russia and China – all maintain programs for studying the military use of pathogens.
The director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Dan Smith, explained how countries get around the convention and conduct their investigations.
“The problem with the BWC is you can research countermeasures,” he told Efe. “In order to protect yourself against (biological weapons), you need to understand which (offensive) measures are possible.”
Even though the former Soviet Union is believed to have operated a large-scale military bioweapons program and the existence of biological weapons arsenals – or lack thereof – is perhaps the world’s biggest military secret, Smith said none of the three current military superpowers are presently pursuing any such program.
Michael Mazarr, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, an American global policy think tank, and former professor of national security strategy and associate dean for academics at the prestigious National War College in the US capital, also agrees that biological warfare is not being contemplated by Washington, Moscow and Beijing in their military doctrines.
“My best understanding is that neither China nor Russia have any kind of doctrine that envisions the significant use of biological weapons in any kind of warfare. Both of them are pursuing a whole range of emergent and innovative military doctrines. None of them to my knowledge involve bioweapons,” he said.
The same is true of intermediate military powers, he added.
Even nations the US regards as irrational actors, particularly North Korea and Iran, would not consider the possibility of using biological weapons, according to Mazarr.
“If somebody is thinking about getting into a fight with the US and wants to disrupt life in the US, there are other ways of doing that, particularly going after information networks through cyberattacks,” he said.