On Tuesday, Under Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher was in Geneva at the Biological Weapons Convention talks. Her primary purpose was to announce President Obama’s long-expected “National Security for Countering Biological Threats.”
Given the president’s predilection for arms control issues (like his “no nukes” speech in Prague), many people expected that this new strategy would address the past administration’s refusal to negotiate on a verification regime for the treaty. And they were right… in a sense.
The first clue that something was wrong was when Ms. Tauscher (pictured) decided to use language that most people associated with bioterrorist alarmists such as Dr. Tara O’Toole and former Senators Graham and Talent. “President Obama fully recognizes that a major biological weapons attack on one of the world’s major cities could cause as much death and economic and psychological damage as a nuclear attack could,” she said. Wow! Holey overstatement, Batman! Then she told the convention attendees that the U.S. government “would not seek to revive negotiations on a verification protocol to the Convention.”
Needless to say, this was not received well. Swedish Ambassador Magnus Hellgren, representing the 27-nation European Union, commented “Our long-term goal is to develop mechanisms to verify compliance with this convention.” Most are disappointed in the language, which doesn’t appear to be significantly different than the previous administration.