by Keith Hartzler for the Saker Blog
Are there American-run bio-weapon labs in Ukraine? After reading Dilyana Gaytandzhieva’s 29 April 2018 article “The Pentagon Bio-Weapons,” my answer is “Yes, but with caveats & qualifiers.” Gaytandzhieva claims there are eleven—three in Lviv; two in Dnipro; one each in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Vinnytsia, Ternopil, & Uzhgorod. The fact sheets she provides appear to be from a United States government website, though she does not specify. According to the fact sheets, each lab was built between 2010 & 2013, & each cost American taxpayers $2–$3 million. They are each called either a Diagnostic Lab or a Research Institute, except for the Institute of Veterinary Medicine in Kyiv.
In her opening paragraph, after more or less accusing the United States of crimes against humanity, Gaytandzhieva references the Defense Threat-Reduction Agency & its Cooperative Biological-Engagement Program. The document she links to from Congressional Research Service describes “cooperative threat-reduction programs” as an “emergency response to impending chaos in the Soviet Union” that has since broadened to address chemical, biological, radiological, & nuclear threats from rogue nations & terrorist groups. The document “Summary” also says the Department of Defense biological threat-reduction program, which once focused on “dismantling the vast biological-weapons complex in Russia,” is now used “to promote ‘best practices’ at biological laboratories with dangerous pathogens & to develop disease surveillance systems on several continents.” Nearly 75% of its fiscal-year 2016 budget request was devoted to this program, called “Cooperative Biological Engagement.” So the agency & its program, at its inception at least, seems to have filled a real need. Keeping chemical, biological, radiological, & nuclear weapons away from rogue nations & terrorist groups also seems like a worthwhile endeavor. There is no indication anywhere in Gaytandzhieva’s article that “cooperative biological engagement” might be necessary or have merit. In this way, the article is misleading & apt to give the false impression that the sole purpose of these labs is bio-weapon testing & experimentation by the Pentagon. Her blinders & lack of context were also evident when she confronted (7 March 2018) Robert Kadlec at a conference in Brussels, where he answered her insinuating questions with some of the aforementioned, aboveboard context. However, he also said “the U.S. does not have a military biological-weapons program. Period. End of statement.” He described his statement as “unequivocal & undeniable.” That, to me, is reminiscent of Anthony Fauci’s slippery parsing with regard to gain-of-function research. The use of subcontractors does not absolve funding agencies of responsibility for actions taken in their name, be that the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases or the Defense Threat-Reduction Agency. Nor does parsing the definition of terms to circumvent common-sense, good-faith understanding of a subject.
The outsourcing of work to private companies—in this case, Southern Research Institute; Black & Veatch; Metabiota; Parsons Government Services International; CH2M Hill; & Battelle Memorial Institute—raises issues that call into question the plain truth of Kadlec’s statement. Are these companies accountable to Congress, both in theory & in practice? If employees of these companies are given diplomatic immunity—as Gaytandzhieva alleges vis-à-vis The Lugar Center in Tbilisi, Georgia—what say do host countries have in what these U.S. government proxies are doing? According to Gaytandzhieva, citing a 2005 agreement, “Ukraine has no control over the military bio-laboratories on its own territory.” In which case, we are left uncomfortably close to taking Mr. Kadlec at his word. That requires a level of trust in American government—on a dangerous & far-reaching subject—I do not have. Not even close. And surely a policy of “trust us” is laughable to Russia.
I am certainly not an epidemiologist, nor do I know much about the development & use of biological weapons, including my country’s once-active, now supposedly defunct bio-warfare program. But I am sensitive to the air of deceit, of pretense that pervades institutional pronouncements such as Mr. Kadlec’s. The absence of an official “military biological-weapons program” does not preclude all manner of activities that give every indication of belonging to some sort of unofficial program. Gaytandzhieva presents alarming evidence that a wide range of biological agents are produced &/or tested at Fort Detrick in Maryland, Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, & Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.
It is probably the most persuasive aspect of her article. Less persuasive, to me at least, but still striking is the litany of atypical disease outbreaks in regions of Ukraine where these labs have so recently proliferated. She mentions swine flu in Kharkiv (2016); Hepatitis A in Mykolaiv, Zaporizhia, Odessa, & Kharkiv (all 2017—apparently, the virus was “isolated in contaminated drinking water”); & cholera in Mariupol (2011), Mykolaiv (2014–’15), & Odessa (2015). She suggests The Lugar Center is to blame for both the appearance of certain species of tropical mosquito in Georgia; Krasnodar, Russia; & Turkey & for the changing attributes of Phlebotomine sand flies in Tbilisi & nearby Dagestan, Russia. She suspects the recent appearance of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever in Georgia & Afghanistan is tied to Pentagon contractors & she calls attention to the recent studies of Tularemia—also known as Rabbit Fever & a known bio-agent—in Georgia under the rubric of Cooperative Biological Engagement. The problem with her argument is that proximity to these outbreaks & appearances & changing attributes does not constitute damning evidence against the labs, & the U.S. Army reports she cites from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, & ’80s don’t either. I’m not saying such information is irrelevant. If I lived in Russia or China, the Department of Defense map showing American labs in twenty-five countries would definitely be cause for concern (assuming it is accurate), & the prospect of bio-weapon encirclement would strike me as antagonistic & threatening. I am saying her evidence is far from incontrovertible proof of the wrongdoing she alleges.
As I was finishing my response to Gaytandzhieva’s article, I learned of Victoria Nuland’s testimony at Tuesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Asked by Marco Rubio if Ukraine has chemical or biological weapons, Nuland answered
Ukraine has biological research facilities, which in fact we are now quite concerned Russian troops, Russian forces may be seeking to gain control of. So we are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces should they approach.
Then, smoothly & yet somehow jarringly, Rubio & Nuland joined together like synchronized swimmers to agree that if there is an incident or attack stemming from one of these facilities, “the Russians will be behind it” & they will engage in blame-shifting. Wow. Watching that video is a jolt. Rather than deny the presence of such weapons, Nuland basically acknowledged it. She called them “research materials.” Both her words & her manner of speaking suggest that Russia & China & Dilyana Gaytandzhieva are correct when they accuse the United States of harboring dangerous pathogens in Ukrainian labs. If Russia gains control of the labs, & the pathogens have not been either removed or destroyed, Putin will have proof that the United States has been disingenuous if not criminal regarding its bio-weapons program. No wonder Nuland is “concerned!” The effort to pre-emptively blame Russia for prospective issues with pathogens we are still lying about induces intellectual whiplash & suggests, more ominously, a false flag is forthcoming.