What were the total amount of biological weapons agents storehoused?|
Nobody calculated these weapons in such a way. The problem was that some
weapons were stockpiled and some weapons were just prepared for stockpiling.
The amount of weapons stored was dozens or even hundreds of tons. There were
several facilities there that were considered mobilization capacities. They
could manufacture biological weapons in case of getting a special order.
If you have the production facilities, the technology and the knowledge, do
you need to storehouse biological weaponry? How does it differ from nuclear or
[It] depend[s] on what kind of offensive biological concept one or another
country has. If a given country wants to use biological weapons immediately in
any war or military conflict, it would store biological weapons. Some countries
can develop production techniques, can have mobilization capacities, and they
can start manufacturing biological weapons in case of getting orders.
But in Russia, with production facilities still existing, would they have to
stockpile weapons? If at some point in the future they wanted to use agents,
how quickly could they produce the agents for use?
First of all, I don't believe that Russia has biological weapons stockpiled.
These weapons were destroyed somewhere at the end of 80s. But if Russia does
have a desire to start manufacturing biological weapons, it would take no more
than two to three months to start this activity again.
Why would it be so short a period of time?
Russia has at least four military facilities that could be used for
manufacturing biological weapons. These facilities have not been opened for any
visits. These facilities could be considered top secret offensive facilities
and they have the capability to manufacture biological weapons. In addition to
these facilities, Russia continues [running] several facilities, so-called
Biopreparat facilities. They were considered mobilization capacities. And we
know that Russia stores all production documentation for manufacturing
biological weapons. It wouldn't be a big problem to start this production
activity if there is desire or if there is an order.
Which U.S. cities were targeted, as far as you know, back in the days when
the Soviets had these weapons stockpiled?
Biological weapons were considered strategic weapons. The targets ... in the
United States, [would be] large cities, large military bases--these type of
facilities ... we can assume New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago--these type of
What kind of agents were thought of as useful in this situation?
According to the Soviet Union's philosophy ... smallpox, plague and anthrax
were considered strategic operational biological weapons. In future wars, if
Marburg was finished, Marburg was to be used as a strategic weapon. But what
was complete and ready for application were the smallpox biological weapons,
plague biological weapons and anthrax biological weapons.
If, for instance, New York City had become a target, what would have been
the expected mortality rates with the use of biological weaponry?
In this case, it's very easy to calculate. This work was done many years ago by
an American scientist. According to this calculation, about 50 kilos of anthrax
biological weapon that covers a territory with the population of about 500,000
people, would cause 100,000 deaths. I calculated, with the data we had in
Sverdlovsk when the accident occurred and the amount of people dead was about
100 people, between 65-100 people. But the amount of anthrax agent released in
the city of Sverdlovsk was no more than 100 grams. In this case, [with] the
efficiency of these weapons, if a sufficient amount of this weapon was used,
mortality rate would be hundred of thousands of people.
In New York City, with millions of people, what would one expect to
Depending on the type of weapons, depending on the mode of applying, but if we
use the worst case scenario, probably half the population. If the entire
territory of New York City was covered with sufficient amount of this weapon,
the amount of people dead would be millions.
What biological agents were worked on at the time that you were involved
with the program?
The completely finished and accomplished biological weapons were as follows:
smallpox biological weapon, then plague biological weapon, anthrax biological
weapon, Venezuelan equine encephalitis biological weapon, tularemia biological
weapon, brucellosis biological weapon, and some others. In the 70s and
beginning of 80s the Soviet Union started developing new biological
weapons--Marburg infection biological weapon, Ebola infection biological
weapon, Machupo infection, [or] Bolivian hemorrhagic biological weapon, and
Why smallpox? How important was that considered to be as a biological
Yes, it's a good question, because smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980.
And just immediately after, the Soviet Union government realized that nobody
would have defense in the future against this agent, because it was declared
[that] there was no necessity to vaccinate people any more. This weapon became
one of the most important weapons, because the entire population of the Earth
became absolutely vulnerable to this agent and to this weapon ... smallpox is
very contagious. A relatively high mortality rate: 35-40%. And if the entire
population of the Earth doesn't have immunity against this agent, possible
consequences after applying these weapons would be horrible.
How could that even be considered as a weapon, with the reality of the
epidemics that could occur and could get back to harm your own people?
First of all, when we are talking about strategic weapons, strategic weapons
would never be used close to the territory of the country that is going to
apply these weapons. Second, smallpox is very contagious. It's transmittable
from person to person. Of course, the first effect would be from so-called
primary aerosols, immediately after aerosolization. Then people who have been
infected would start infecting other people. We know that smallpox is a very
transmittable, contagious disease and it can cause epidemics or even pandemics.
Smallpox is very efficient weapon because it could cause a lot of infected and
Was it assumed that before the weapon would be used, the Russian people
would be vaccinated to protect them against blowback from people who traveled
In my opinion, nobody cared what would happen to the Russians, because this
weapon would be used just in case of, according to the Soviet Union's concept,
a total war. And when we're talking about total war, of course, nobody would
considered the several hundred thousands of dead Russians.
Why was the smallpox transferred from the Ivanovsky Institute in Moscow down
to Vector in Koltsovo?
There was, according to the World Health Organization's decision, just two
repositories: one of them in the city of Atlanta, CDC [Center for Disease
Control], and another one in the city of Moscow, Ivanovsky Institute. But in
the late 80s, the Soviet Union had a desire to relocate these stocks from
Ivanovsky to Vector, to cover offensive biological works, because even at that
time, officially Vector couldn't conduct any work with smallpox. But in
reality, [they] did. At least, for that period of time, transferring smallpox
stocks from Ivanovsky Institute to Vector could cover some of these works.
The main reason that it was transferred was so that it could be used in
further research on biological weaponry?
At least at that time. In the beginning of 90s, when I was the first deputy
chief of Biopreparat, I had several visits to the minister of health, just
asking to relocate the stocks from Ivanovsky Institute to the Vector. The main
reason was to develop a cover story for conducting [official] biological work
at the Vector facility.
Why was research done to genetically alter smallpox?
Why was it necessary to develop a 100-megaton bomb, when the United States and
the Soviet Union had 10-, 20-, 50-megaton bombs? This was just a logic of
developing weapons. You know? If you've got a weapon, your next step [is] to
develop a more sophisticated weapon.
Smallpox is a fine weapon. But it could be more fine, just by adding some
foreign genes. In this case ... I am asking the scientific community here in
the United States, in the world, just watch such works very carefully, because
in many cases, these works are conducted in ... I call them dark zones. We
cannot say when we look at one another's work, what is the real purpose of this
work. This could be used for developing new agents, for developing new weapons.
This is a very sensitive area and situation. We need to be very careful and
What are dark zones?
I call the area [a dark zone] when the result obtained could be used for
defensive purposes and could be used for offensive purposes. Let's analyze this
situation: the genetic alteration of vaccinia [cowpox] virus. In many cases,
you would never find any publication about genetic alteration of smallpox
virus, because when we conduct the work with smallpox virus, it's very
dangerous and you need to explain why you are genetically altering such virus.
... [however] smallpox virus (variola major) and vaccinia virus are very close
genetically. When you conduct genetic engineering work with a vaccinia virus,
the result of such a work would be applied to variola major. When we conduct
this work, we cannot say what could be the real purpose or real result of this
work. But some results obtained when you conduct work with vaccinia virus,
could be applied for smallpox virus.
Was there ever a fear, during the time that you were there, that the U.S.
was going to discover the program and therefore bring pressure against the
Somewhere in 1986-1987, we started feeling some pressure. We could understand
what was the primary source for this pressure. We were asked by the government
of the Soviet Union to analyze whether or not it would be possible to open some
facilities [without] revealing the real purposes of these facilities. We
conducted this work for several years. And a lot of scientists, a lot of
leaders didn't believe it would be possible to open, because these facilities
were clearly offensive facilities. But in 1989, we started feeling severe
pressure from the United States and Great Britain. We were forced to open our
facilities because in 1989, the United States and Great Britain realized that
the Soviet Union had a very sophisticated and powerful offensive program. When
these countries started pressuring the Soviet Union very hard, it was a kind of
starting point for the destruction, for the dismantling of this program.
What do you think the ramifications are of the long-term program that did
exist--the amount of material and the amount of knowledge that was
The problem now is [that] practically all the countries in the world understand
that biological weapons are a very serious threat ... a lot of countries are
trying to develop biological weapons, and for these countries, the Soviet Union
was some kind of role model for developing these weapons, because the Soviet
Union was able to develop one of the most powerful and sophisticated programs
in the world. A lot of countries are following the Soviet Union's program. I
strongly believe that some Asian countries, Arabic countries ... are trying to
develop their own offensive program. In my opinion, for them, this country (I
mean the Soviet Union) was some kind of example, some kind of role model for
these programs' development.
Besides being a role model, what about the issue of actual information
and/or samples from the stockpiles that existed? Should we also fear the
transfer of knowledge and/or actual agents?
I'm very doubtful that the Russian government would sell any equipment (I mean
sophisticated equipment), technologies, or strains to any other country.
Thousands of scientists who were involved in developing biological weapons are
now under-employed and unemployed, and this is the biggest threat. If you are
under-employed and unemployed, in some cases, you will try to sell your
knowledge, your expertise to people or to countries that are interested in such
In 1991, what were your impressions when you came and toured the U.S.
facilities of what had once been an offensive program?
First of all, before I came, I strongly believed that this country [U.S.] had
such a program. But when I came and I saw the abandoned facilities, and I knew
that Soviet Union intelligence services didn't have any information regarding
any other facilities but these ones. When I saw that everything was abandoned,
of course, for me it was great that this country didn't have such a program any
When you went back to the Soviet Union, is that what you reported?
When I came back, and when I was asked to prepare my personal report about this
program's existence, I said, "No" because I didn't believe that this country
had such a program.
And then what happened?
... within two weeks I resigned commission and because I was a colonel of
[Russian] army, in January of 1992, I resigned from the Russian army. And in
February, I left all my scientific and administrative positions and quit.
You were asked to lie about what you saw?
I'll give you this example. General Yevstigneyev, who was in charge of this
15th Directorate, and a part of our visiting group formed by the 15th
Directorate, said directly to his subordinates, "If you don't find any evidence
that could be considered this country offensive program existence, you'll be
Where is he today?
He was a major general. Now he's lieutenant general. He has received a
promotion, and now he's in charge of first deputy chief of the Nuclear,
Chemical and Biological Directorate of the Minister of Defense. All of the
people who were responsible for research and developing and manufacturing such
weapons, are now in that place. Former colonels became generals and they
continue managing these facilities and enterprises.
The fact that the general, who told you to lie or else you would lose your
job, is now in charge of the entire program in the Soviet Union--is that not
That's what I say all the time. Just take a look at Russia ... the country
itself and this program. The people who were in charge of this program continue
working in this area. All the colonels who were in charge of these facilities
became generals. All the documentation is stored at some places to manufacture
biological weapons. All these facilities are still top secret facilities. And
in my opinion, until Russia opens these facilities and reveals everything
regarding this program, we cannot believe this country.
Why do you think they will not open these facilities?
Because they conduct work in this area. Until we see these facilities, we
cannot say what kind of capability this country does have. I am saying (and
maybe it would be very important to say directly to Russians): Open these
facilities. I would be glad just to visit these facilities in a group of
visitors from the United States and international community. And we'll be able
to say what is the real activity of these facilities ... if we see these
facilities inside, we can say whether or not they conduct offensive work, and
what kind of offensive work.
How is a bio-agent created and turned into a weaponized dust form? How easy
is it to create a weaponized biological agent?
It's a long technological process. If we are talking about sophisticated
weapons, it's quite difficult. If we are talking about genetically altered
agents, it's quite difficult. Regular ordinary terrorists wouldn't do this and
cannot do this. But if we are talking about some primitive forms of biological
weapons capable [of] kill[ing] thousands of people, [this is] not very
How would it be done?
A lot of ways. For each weapon, a technique to manufacture would be different.
In many cases, we are talking about culture collections, just how to get this
bacteria or viruses from culture collections. In many cases, unfortunately, [it
is] not a necessity. A lot of agents can be isolated from nature. And if one or
another person, one or another group has knowledge how to do this work, how to
transform bacteria and viruses into weapons, even primitive weapons, they could
do this without any significant difficulties.
Telling me just the basics, what do you have to do?
This group has to know several main points and techniques: how to isolate
agent, how to cultivate it, how to concentrate, how to dry, how to mill, and
how to aerosolize. If they know this, it wouldn't be a problem.
If a terrorist group were to get material (in the case of the table top
exercise that was in March), a smallpox and Marburg virus, and they dispersed
it on the border of the U.S. and Mexico, down in the El Paso area, what would you
assume the effects would be from some operation like that?
In this case, I wouldn't assume any significant damage. The problem with
biological weapons [is that] you need to have a very concentrated agent to
cover large territories. But if terrorist groups uses biological agents, they
would find more vulnerable targets, in my opinion. What kind of targets? Mostly
in the cities--metro systems, administrative buildings, commercial buildings,
stadiums, shopping malls. These type of places would be the most vulnerable to
biological terrorist act.
Worst case scenario, what could happen?
Just to be scientifically correct, let me give you an example. Some[time] in
the 60s here in the United States, and in the 80s in the Soviet Union, there
were so-called [modern] experiments using some non-pathogenic bacteria spread
in some metro systems. After this, calculations were completed. What we would
see, for example, in case of applying a small amount of some agents in metro
systems, up to 10,000 infected and dead people. And we can give many more
examples, but you know, this is a real capability of biological weapons.
If they had been infectious viruses?
If they had been infectious viruses, the amount of people infected and dead
would average dozens of thousands.
How much of a concern is this? Is this just a group of old Cold War warriors
that are worried about the next thing. It seems that we are safe from a nuclear
war now that the Cold War is over.
No. Let's analyze the logic of weapons development, the history of weapons
development ... the problem with biological weapons [is that] they are very
complex. But any weapon that has been developed eventually was used in
terrorist attacks. Until recently, we hadn't seen anything with applying
chemical weapons, but we've seen it recently. Now we can say, if we follow this
logic, biological agents, biological weapons could be used in the future. In my
opinion, that's not a matter of if; that's a matter of when.
What are the ramifications of this type of weapon being used on a
As I said before, the logic of developing weapons and, eventually us[ing] these
weapons in terrorist acts, then biological weapons could be undetected. A
person or group of people who use it can escape from a place of appl[ication],
even from a country of application, undetected. In my opinion, biological
agents and biological weapons are very terrifying weapons ... we don't have a
capability to detect these weapons before they're applied, before they're used.
They're very attractive for possible application, they're not very expensive
and [they're] relatively easy to manufacture.
What would happen to New York City, for instance, if a smallpox attack
It might be a full destruction of any vital activity. A lot of dead people.
Full paralysis of medical system. Huge panic. People would try to escape from
the city. And because they're contagious, they would form new foci of epidemics
around. We would see a fast developing epidemic.
Could the Aum Shinrikyo have been successful in the use of biological
weapons? How close did they come and what are the effects of the existence of
such a group and what they tried to do?
In my opinion, ... it was just a matter of time that this group (I mean Aum
Shinrikyo group) [became] successful. Because after each application you learn
what was done incorrectly. Eventually you come to a right decision [about] how
to apply effectively. For example, if this knowledge becomes common knowledge
for some other groups, they would study what was done incorrectly. For them it
was a new starting point, because they wouldn't do anything that was done
incorrectly by Aum Shinrikyo ... year by year, these groups would get more
information [on] how to use these weapons more effectively.
The problem is that the 21st century is the century of information technologies
and biotechnology. More people and more countries will get knowledge by
technology. But when a level of general biotechnology becomes high, it's [said]
that the level of so-called military biotechnology is high as well. More people
would know how to manufacture, how to develop and manufacture biological
devices, biological weapons. And this situation will be changing very seriously
in the future.
Was the Aum Shinrikyo group a wake-up call for us? What was the effect of
We need to stop a discussion whether or not biological weapons are efficient or
inefficient. They're efficient. It's clear. And if we start analyzing what can
be done and what we need to do to fight these weapons, we would see very
serious consequences in the future. We need to develop a national program on
how to develop protection against biological weapons, against biological
terrorist acts. We have a lot of scientists who have a good knowledge of how to
develop protection against biological weapons. Even now we can say that it
would be possible to develop a comprehensive bio-defense. We are capable now.
At least this country is capable to make these weapons useless. We need to
choose the right directions, and we need to make right decisions.
So what's the first thing that needs to be done?
In my opinion, we need to stop thinking that biological weapons are very
terrifying and that we can't find any protection. We can't forget the ultimate
objective ... when we talk about bio-defense ... to save peoples' lives ... we
need to start developing medical defense, because medical defense is able to
protect people against biological weapons. If we understand that not just
vaccines are capable to protect people, because in many cases it's impossible
to vaccinate the entire population of the country against all possible agents.
It's absolutely impossible. But there are some approaches, and these approaches
could be used for developing medical defense against biological weapons.
Can you explain what is that defense? What do we need to do? Is it
For now, vaccines [are] a temporary solution. But for the military, maybe it's
a good solution. But even for the military, I don't believe it's a
comprehensive solution. We need to start thinking [about] using some different
ways, because there is our own so-called protection system, immune system. If
we are able to boost our immune system, non-specific immune system, that's the
most appropriate and the only way to develop protection. If we are able to
develop special protective preparations, so-called pre-exposure, post-exposure
preparations, treatment regimens based on boosting non-specific immune system,
probably that's the only way to develop comprehensive protection against BW.
But that doesn't exist now.
It now doesn't exist, but we are very close to developing these approaches. And
we have started working in this area, and I believe, if the United States
government decides to study this approach very seriously and starts discussing
this approach with scientists, we will be capable in three to five years of
making biological weapons absolutely useless.
Have we, at this point, put enough scientists, money and effort into trying
to find a solution to this?
If we analyze the level of development of biological weapons, and the level of
development of bio-defense, probably the gap is about 20-25 years. Now we are
developing protection against the weapons developed 20-25 years ago. We have
absolutely nothing against modern versions of biological weapons. If we
continue this approach, we would never be able to catch up. What we need to do
is stop for a second and think what is the best way. In my opinion, there is a
way and I say this all the time: Vaccines are not a magic bullet. We wouldn't
be able to protect a population using vaccines, because they are capable to do
this work in some cases, but this is not a comprehensive protection. If we do
not understand that there are other ways, and we don't start analyzing and
researching these ways, we will never be able to develop a good protection. We
need to start developing so-called immune boosting protective preparations.
That's the only way to make these weapons useless.
Can you compare the number of scientists that are now working in the field
here in the U.S., compared to the number of scientists or facilities that were
involved in the Soviet program?
Let me give this example, anthrax. In the Soviet Union, thousands of people
were involved in developing an anthrax biological weapon. Here in the United
States, maybe two or three people were involved in developing protection
against anthrax. The amount of people who do something just to develop real
protection against plague here in the United States is less than amount of
institutions and organizations in the Soviet Union (the former Soviet Union)
that were involved in plague problem as well.
Because of the power of these weapons, how good a tool of blackmail is it to
Yes, that's a problem for this country ... because it's a very powerful country
and unfortunately this type of country is not liked very often. There is a very
high probability that biological weapons in the future could be some kind of
instrument for blackmailing. Just imagine this type of scenario. A group of
possible terrorists, now located here in the United States. They have some
devices. And for example, if the United States tries to organize some kind of
military action against an Arab country (because this country supports
terrorist groups and such), and the leader of that country declares that if the
United States tries just to fight this country, 50 terrorist groups armed with
biological weapons would commit these acts, how would the United States behave
in this situation? Nobody knows. And what kind of consequences this government
should expect if they really used biological agents and biological weapons, is
relatively severe consequences. This is a possible way just to blackmail a
When you first started telling the details of the programs, how were you
received in the United States by government officials?
It was a shock. A shock because this country stopped this program in 1969. It's
not naiveté, but you know, what the mentality is here in the United
States--if [you] signed a treaty, [you] cannot do anything in this case. But
this type of mentality couldn't be applied to other countries. For some
countries, just the process of signing one or another treaty is some kind of
secret permission to activate to ... intensify this activity, because it gives
some kind of cover. For example, a country now understands that it has some
kind of a weapon that could be used in future war without any serious
What else should be done immediately? What else do you consider to be
absolutely necessary to start out?
The best way is to organize a special panel of scientists, intelligence people,
government, and develop a national program of bio-defense.
Your suggestion is to begin the process and the research--what would be the
Probably not just the first step. We need to make several steps. Political
steps first of all. We need to develop a procedure [on] how to organize
mandatory inspections, not just between the United States and Russia. We
[can't] forget that there are several countries that are interested in
developing biological weapons. That's why we need to undertake some political
Second, we need to continue developing vaccines, but we don't have to rely on
vaccines ... we need to start developing something else.
Is one problem with the vaccines that there is always a variety of bugs that
could be used?
First of all, the amount of agents [that] could be used in biological weapons
averages 50-70. But if we add possible genetically altered agents, this figure
reaches 100 and more. Could somebody imagine 100 vaccines? Could somebody
imagine that groups or population vaccinated against dozens or even hundreds
possible diseases? That's impossible.
Why? What would happen to somebody who is vaccinated?
First of all, we don't have such amount of vaccines. Second, if you vaccinate
simultaneously against five, six, seven or ten diseases, this person could die
just after such huge amount of vaccination. Of course, if you vaccinate against
one or two diseases, that's not a problem.
And another problem we need to discuss: What is possible for the troops, is
absolutely impossible for civilian population. I cannot imagine how we can
vaccinate the entire population of the United States against agents. And even
if we had all these vaccines, it wouldn't be possible to vaccinate because it's
impossible. We need to start thinking using some other ways.
In many cases, [there is] no necessity to develop vaccines. We [can't] forget
that our bodies have so-called non-specific immune system. If we are able to
develop preparations to boost our non-specific immune system, it would be
helpful to develop so-called pre-exposure, post-exposure preparations. It would
be not to use for civilian population. If we're talking about treatment when a
set of symptoms appears, for example, after using biological weapons, we need
to develop specific treatments based on so-called direct action drugs and then
substances that could boost non-specific immune system as well.
But that could take many years. Are we in danger until that point?
I don't believe it. It would take just two or three, maximum five years, if we
start analyzing this situation, if we start putting some money in such
Do we need to bring experts together in Washington to analyze the situation,
to figure out a direction? Where are we now?
Now, we are working mostly on developing vaccines. But what our government
needs to do is gather the scientists who are knowledgeable in the area of
bio-defense, ... people who are knowledgeable in bio-offensive issues and we
need to develop a national program of medical bio-defense. That's the only way
to make these weapons useless, maybe for a relatively short period of time, for
three to five years.
How important is it to immediately create a system to defend against this?
Are we ready as a country, right now, to defend against the use of these
This country is the only country now in the world that is capable to do this
work. If we are able to gather those people to organize a series of meetings,
scientific meetings to develop this type of program, we will be capable of
solving this problem.
The problem is [that] we usually don't do anything until something happens.
But, when it happens, it's too late. I'm not a psychic. I cannot predict what
will happen in a year, in two years. The problem is that it will happen,
unfortunately. But maybe for the first time, let's try just to do something
before it happens.
Right now, with what the Soviet Union is going through, the instability of
the government, the problem with the economy, does that scare you? Could that
have an effect on the problem of proliferation?
If you imagine an angry country, a country that is collapsing, but this country
has a huge military capability, of manufacturing and applying weapons of mass
destruction--that's very scary. What we need to do, until this government is in
power, to solve this problem, to reduce a possible threat from this country in
the future, by developing something to control these weapons better, to destroy
some capabilities. And specifically, when you are talking about my area of
biological weapons, we need to do everything possible to destroy this country's
offensive biological capabilities.