As nuclear, biological and chemical threats continue to evolve worldwide, partnership between the United States and European Union countries to counter such threats remains critical, a senior Defense Department official said May 28 in Helsinki.
Andrew C. Weber, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, spoke at a meeting of the Atlantic Council on U.S.-European Union cooperation in countering the use of weapons of mass destruction.
The Atlantic Council is a public policy institution founded in 1961 to promote transatlantic cooperation and international security.
“In the coming years,” Weber said, “our countries must continue to work together to raise safety and security standards, strengthen the Global Partnership and the [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons], detect and report threats in real time, and promote disarmament.”
The Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction consists of 25 countries, including 12 members of the European Union, works to reduce the global risk.
Such threats, Weber added, “are evolving in ways that affect all of our countries.”
Increasing globalization, advances in dual-use technologies, and the emergence of new microbes and drug-resistant pathogens are complicating the ability to meet nonproliferation and counterproliferation goals, the assistant secretary observed.
Advances in technology and the work of illicit networks are making it easier for nonstate actors to access materials needed to produce weapons of mass destruction, he added, and the regimes in Syria and North Korea “are proving that we must maintain our focus on state-sponsored programs.”
The European Union and the United States have made firm commitments to addressing the full range of concerns about weapons of mass destruction, Weber said.
“As Finland’s 2012 Security and Defense Policy report points out,” he continued, ‘In the era of global challenges the EU and the United States, being close strategic partners, are expected to cooperate to achieve lasting solutions.’”
Cooperation is especially important in addressing threats of this magnitude and complexity, he said. “As Finland’s defense policy report notes,” he added, “the U.S. administration believes strongly in using partnerships and cooperation to mitigate global threats.”
Weber called this a guiding principle for efforts to counter weapons of mass destruction threats.
In December, he noted, President Barack Obama said the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction, or CTR, program to reduce nuclear, biological and chemical threats is one of the most important U.S. national security programs and a perfect example of the kind of partnerships needed to meet challenges that no nation can address on its own.
“For two decades, our cooperative threat reduction work focused on the former Soviet Union and on reducing nuclear threats. Since then, it has evolved both geographically and by focus area,” Weber said. That evolution, along with other collaborative efforts, is increasing the cooperative threat reduction focus on biological threats, he noted.
“The United States looks forward to working with international partners to launch, enhance and link global networks for real-time biosurveillance, expanding International Health Regulation capabilities across the globe and developing novel diagnostics,” he said, adding that many European Union countries with advanced biological-science sectors are helping to build global reporting networks.
Weber said that uniting the health, security and emergency-response sectors in the United States and European Union countries is critical to preparedness for any kind of threat.
“By applying this principal to our international partnerships, both the EU and the United States are contributing to more resilient communities around the world,” he added.
The European Union and the United States also lead the world on a path toward disarmament, the assistant secretary said, and strengthening the nonproliferation treaty and other nonproliferation initiatives remains a core principle of their defense strategies.
Weber recognized Finland’s leadership on this and its commitment to moving toward a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East. He also commended the efforts of Ambassador Jaakko Laajava, Finnish undersecretary of state for foreign and security policy, to set the conditions for making this vision a reality.
“For the United States,” he said, “President Obama has set a bold vision for disarmament and continues to prioritize the Nuclear Security Summit process … [and] established ambitious goals for a world safe and secure from biological threats.”
The assistant secretary quoted part of Obama’s 2012 address before the U.N. General Assembly: “We must come together to prevent and detect and fight every kind of biological danger — whether it’s a pandemic like H1N1, or a terrorist threat, or a treatable disease.’”
Under the president’s leadership, Weber said, “the United States now has national strategies for countering biological threats and advancing global biosurveillance capabilities.”