Inter-American problems and regional policy
Comment by the Information and Press Department on the Georgian Foreign Ministry’s response apropos of the Richard Lugar Centre for Public Health Research
We noted the Georgian Foreign Ministry’s response to our May 26 comment on the situation involving the Richard Lugar Centre for Public Health Research at Alekseyevka, a suburb of Tbilisi.
The Georgian side is circulating unfounded charges against Russia, accusing it of “gross and aggressive disinformation.” These provocative allegations are aimed at diverting the attention of the international public from the military biological activity conducted by foreign states at this Centre, an activity that is raising a good deal of questions in the context of compliance with the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (BWC). There is also a distinct tendency to gloss over the activities of the US Army Medical Research Directorate, Georgia located on the premises.
Despite claims that the Government of Georgia is “in full control” of this biological laboratory and in charge of its funding, the research conducted thereat (along with the operational and security costs) is actually supervised and bankrolled by the US Department of Defence and its affiliated organisations. This is confirmed by the fact that this biological facility has experimented with using insects as highly dangerous biological agents and pathogens, as well as with arming ammunition with toxic substances or infectious agents.
We welcome the Georgian side’s readiness to arrange a visit to Georgia for the relevant Russian experts “in keeping with the mechanism stipulated by the BWC,” but it will be recalled that the only “arbitration” tool under the Convention is the commitment by the States Parties “to consult one another and to cooperate in solving any problems which may arise in relation to the objective of, or in the application of the provisions of, the Convention” (Article V).
There are no other verification mechanisms. As is common knowledge, the United States that supervises the Alekseyevka facility has been blocking for two decades all the efforts to develop and adopt a binding Protocol to the Convention with an effective verification mechanism. Thus, grievances with regard to States Parties performing their obligations under the Convention can only be solved on the basis of mutually acceptable agreements between all the parties concerned.
We believe that it is expedient to organise Russian experts’ visit to the Lugar Centre only if there are guarantees of access to all of the laboratory buildings (including the premises occupied by the US specialists), as well as to all documents. But we will not participate in a PR campaign designed to conceal the true substance of the work being conducted by US Department of Defence biologists in the vicinity of Russian borders. We proceed from the assumption that the visit should be bilateral and involve no representatives of other countries (we are ready to make an exception for the Pentagon staff accredited at the Lugar Centre), nor of any other international or regional organisations. We are expecting the Georgian side’s official response to our note of June 2019 with a request to provide the necessary explanations as to the modalities of a possible visit.
Promoted by a number of Western countries, a “peer review” mechanism for visits to double-purpose microbiological facilities has no relation to assessing a BWC State Party’s compliance with its obligations. It has never been approved by a consensus decision of the States Parties, as the Georgian side is attempting to make believe.
We still have significant questions regarding the “peer reviews.” There is no doubt that these visits are preprogrammed by the Western countries. Neither their aims, nor methodology, not still the criteria for the assessment of the information obtained are coordinated under the BWC. All of this creates a high risk of subsequent politically motivated manipulations.
The visit to the Lugar Centre that was paid by a group of foreign experts on November 14 ̶ 15, 2018, had nothing to do with BWC compliance. This undertaking was aimed at deceiving the visitors as to the true status of this facility. The visit’s schedule did not envisage any elements of verification that would have enabled an objective conclusion regarding the real BWC compliance situation or confirmed information contained in Georgian declarations on confidence-building measures.
Nor did the visit answer the main question: Why the Georgian health laboratory is financed by the US military and permanently houses the US Army Medical Research Directorate, Georgia? Submitted to the 2018 Meeting of the States Parties to the BWC, a report on the visit was not approved by consensus and only received “support” from a very limited number of states (mostly Western).
To remove our concerns, we are ready to collaborate with Tbilisi on a bilateral basis.