Soviet Biological Weapons

I’m reading a pretty good book right now called Scourge and its by Jonathan Tucker. It’s all about smallpox and it’s basically divided into two sections.

In the first section, Tucker talks about how the WHO staged a long campaign to eradicate smallpox from the world, which as we know, succeeded despite a lot of cynics and skeptics. There are some pretty cool stories here, like about how a group of Indian doctors came to vaccinate around one of few remaining smallpox cases on the planet and were met with resistance by a tribal elder. Both the doctors and the elder claimed that their respective positions were their “Dharma” (religious duty) but then when the doctors came to forcibly vaccinate everyone with soldiers, the elder relented and issued a proclamation saying that it must be god’s will that vaccination happened. He then offered the health workers a single cucumber as it was all he had to fulfill the guest-welcoming obligations that he had as elder.

Another fascinating tidbit about the elimination of smallpox is that it was almost entirely due to the Soviet Union which provided a lot of funding and vaccines for its accomplishment. In fact, there was an insightful little section where a U.S. diplomat is speaking with his Soviet counterpart and is trying to get a promise that the Soviet Union would continue to produce vaccines at their current rate. There was some fear that the Soviet would cut back on production, but the Soviet representative said that the Soviet economy was so inefficient that once it started producing something, it could not stop. This was a lucky fact for the international smallpox eradication effort.

Then the story turns to what happened after smallpox was eliminated, and basically the story is that the Soviets embarked on an INCREDIBLY stupid and silly bioweapons program. This stuff is wild.

First, the soviets thought about not having a bioweapons program, but they continued after receiving false information from U.S. double agents, they became convinced that WE had a growing bioweapons program. We were feeding this misinformation to the USSR and they ate it up, and so created a HUGE bioweapon program. Wow, big mistake on the part of the U.S.

Anyway, they created all these special facilities and sometimes specimens got lose and they had to suppress all the information. The USSR even has their own area 51 which is some island that I forget the name of. Pretty creepy. By 1989, they had HUGE factories dedicated to growing and processing very virulent forms of smallpox and they were experimenting with fusing smallpox with ebola. Yea, damn.

The most interesting thing of all though, was HOW STUPID the whole program was right from the start. I don’t mean stupid because it was horribly immoral and wasteful, but even stupid from the perspective of military relevance.

As a weapon, smallpox is kind of useless, because it works over 10 days and can be vaccinated against. It also won’t do anything to prevent the U.S. from firing all of its nuclear weapons in retaliation which, as we know, work right away to kill millions of people. So the soviets thought that they would use smallpox AFTER a nuclear conflict to MAKE SURE all of the U.S. people died.

This is unbelievably stupid because first, it doesn’t really make sense to think that many people would really survive an all out nuclear conflict with the USSR. Also, if they did survive, what on earth could be the benefit of showering plague down on the last remnants of human civilization? Certainly there is no military value since infrastructure and daily life is shattered beyond recognition. Further, the radiation from all the nuclear bombs would probably kill smallpox in the air preventing its effective transmission. And lastly, releasing smallpox back on the world is just as likely to eventually result in SOVIET citizens and military personal getting sick. Using bio warheads would have just re-introduced what the WHO had worked so hard to eliminate.

So basically, what this book has taught me is that the U.S. was really dumb to try to get the Soviet Union to believe that we had bioweapons (which we did not) and then the Soviet Union went BEYOND STUPID to build a huge bioweapon production chain solely for the purpose of making sure that an apocalyptic nuclear exchange between the US and the USSR DID IN FACT RESULT IN THE DEATH OF EVERYONE ON THE PLANET.

Another example of how people can, in the right circumstances, find the most ridiculous and bizarre courses of action attractive. Geez


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