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Chemical and Biological Weapons

Exploring the Acquisition and Use of CBN weapons

Our ability to influence decisions about the acquisition and use of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons depends on an understanding of the factors that drive those decisions. CSSS academics are engaged in a range of research on these issues.

Dr Susan Martin has used international relations theory to examination the incentives and disincentives to acquire and use these weapons. In an award-winning article published in the Journal of Strategic Studies, Dr Martin examined US decision-making regarding anti-plant and irritant agents in the Vietnam War.

Elsewhere, in a volume co-edited by Dr Martin, experts on biological weapons history and policy explore, through the use of detailed case studies, the complex political, military, legal, and scientific challenges involved in determining when BW have been used and who has used them.

In an article published in the Journal of Strategic Studies, Dr Martin has also considered why states might want biological weapons, exploring their value as counterforce weapons on the battlefield as well as their ability to serve as a strategic deterrent.

For more information please contact: Dr Susan Martin

Syria and chemical weapons

As the first major use of chemical weapons since the Iran-Iraq War, an understanding of the role of chemical weapons in the on-going Syrian conflict is essential for thinking about the future of chemical weapons. The motives and indeed even the effects of chemical weapons use in Syria remain obscure, in part because of the difficulty of verifying chemical weapons use and in part because of the on-going nature of the war. Yet, the Syrian case is likely to serve as a future guide to states and non-state actors considering the political and military utility of chemical weapons.

Geoffery Chapman, Hassan Elbahtimy and Susan Martin are examining the lessons actors might draw about the political and military utility of chemical weapons. Does the elimination of Syria’s official chemical weapons capabilities mean that henceforth chemical weapons can only be a liability for states? Does the Syrian case highlight a role for chemical weapons in civil war and insurgencies? To what extent does the Syrian case herald a new era of chemical weapons proliferation and use, for state and/or non-state actors?

For more information please contact: Dr Hassan Elbhatimy or Dr Susan Martin

Biosecurity & Responsible Science

There has been a dramatic increase in biodefence activities and in the number of facilities and researchers working with dangerous pathogens around the world. This has generated trade-off risks related to safety, security, responsible science and transparency. Dr Filippa Lentzos outlines these risks and what states parties can do to mitigate against them in an ILPI policy brief to the 2016 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) Review Conference. Regular reviews and exchanges of information on national biodefence activities have a key role to play, as laid out in the King’s policy brief on BWC compliance. On-site peer review and transparency visits also play a significant role, detailed in the EU Non-Proliferation Consortium Papers No.45 presenting a conceptual framework to declare, document and demonstrate biodefence activities, and No.52 providing on the ground observations of a two-day transparency exercise to a German biodefence facility involving experts from 20 state parties.

A more public form of transparency can be provided through investigative journalism and public debate. Dr Filippa Lentzos contributed to the BBC4 documentary ‘Inside Porton Down: Britain’s Secret Weapons Research Facility,’ and she moderated a film screening and panel discussion with the director and producer of the documentary and a senior representative from Dstl, Porton Down at the United Nations in Geneva. Launched in autumn 2016 in London, Geneva and Washington DC, Dr Filippa Lentzos new book, Biological Threats in the 21st Century, introduces readers to the politics, people, science and historical roots of contemporary biological threats.

In 2015 CSSS hosted a workshop for the Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative (ELBI) Fellows. This brought together 2015 ELBI Fellows with US and UK policymakers, academics, industry representatives and biosecurity professionals for discussion and analysis of current and anticipated biosecurity challenges. With a focus on the importance and role of biosecurity; the role of national governments in biosecurity policy; risk assessment; the burdens of biosecurity; risk perception and communication, and governing new and emerging technology. A workshop summary can be downloaded here.

For more information please contact: Dr Filippa Lentzos or Dr Susan Martin


Academic Articles

Susan B. Martin, ‘Norms, Military Utility, and the Use/Non-use of Weapons: The Case of Anti-plant and Irritant Agents in the Vietnam War’, Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 39, Issue 3, pp. 321-264 (2016). - Winner of the Amos Perlmutter Prize Essay

Anne L Clunan, Peter Lavoy and Susan B Martin, editors. Terrorism, War or Disease? Unraveling the Use of Biological Weapons (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008)

Susan B Martin, ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction: A Brief Overview’ in Ethics and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Religious and Secular Perspectives eds. Sohail H. Hashmi and Steven P. Lee. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004, 16-42.

Susan B Martin, ‘The Role of Biological Weapons in International Politics: The Real Military Revolution.’ Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 25, #1 (March 2002), 63-98.

Susan B Martin, ‘Realism and Weapons of Mass Destruction: A Consequentialist Analysis’ in Ethics and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Religious and Secular Perspectives eds. Sohail H. Hashmi and Steven P. Lee. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004, 96-110.

Susan B Martin, ‘Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Weapons: Lessons from the Conflict in Iraq’ in The Conflict in Iraq, 2003. ed. Paul Cornish. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 175-199 (2004).

Susan B Martin, ‘Correspondence: Responding to Chemical and Biological Threats.’ International Security, Vol. 25, #4 (Spring 2001), 193-196.

Policy papers & Op-Eds

Lentzos, Filippa & Koblentz, Gregory D. (2016) “It’s time to modernize the bioweapons convention” The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, online 4 November 2016.

Lentzos, Filippa & Evans, Nicholas (2016) “Four steps to rebuild trust in biology” The Guardian, published online 23 May 2016.

Lentzos, Filippa (2016) “Don’t single out the DIY community” part of the STAT news First Opinion feature Is do-it-yourself CRISPR as scary as it sounds?, published online 14 March 2016.

Lentzos, Filippa (2015) “Synthetic Biology’s Defence Dollars: Signals and Perceptions” PLOS Blog, published online 24 December 2015.

Lentzos, Filippa, van der Bruggen, Koos & Nixdorff, Kathryn (2015) “Can we trust scientists’ self-control?” The Guardian, published online 26 April 2015.

Lentzos, Filippa (2014) “Preventing a man-made pandemic” The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, online 18 December 2014.

Lentzos, Filippa, Jefferson,Catherine & Marris, Claire (2014) “The myths (and realities) of synthetic bioweapons” The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, published online 18 September 2014.

Martin, Susan B., Salisbury, Daniel and Tackas, David, 'Chemical weapons and trade: preventing the next Syria,' with, The Conversation (8 November 2013) 

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