The Threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction

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By Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe, ASM.

NATO Deputy Assistant General Guy Roberts talks to ASM Journalist, Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe about the threat posed by Weapons of Mass Destruction and the means to prevent and counter their proliferation.

As an issue of critical importance to Western strategic planners, the threat posed by Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and the means to prevent and counter their proliferation remain a matter of the utmost concern according to Guy Roberts (GR) the former NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for WMD Policy, and now occupying the role of Deputy Assistant Secretary General at NATO.

Q: How prepared is NATO to deal with a WMD attack of one of its member states? And how does NATO shares information and strategies on dealing with WMD’s with other ‘contact nations’, such as Australia?

Guy Roberts (GR): NATO places a high priority on preventing the proliferation of WMD and defending against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats.  The 2009 Comprehensive Policy for Preventing the Proliferation of WMD and Defending Against CBRN Threats identified that NATO will work actively to prevent the proliferation of WMD by State and non-State actors, to protect the Alliance from WMD threats should prevention fail, and be prepared for recovery efforts should the Alliance suffer a WMD attack or CBRN event.

However, NATO defence capabilities continue to lag. NATO has reduced the size of its international and military staff and the consequence of this is that staff working in CBRN defence and counter-proliferation have been dangerously reduced making it increasingly difficult to plan for and respond to WMD crises.  Budget constraints have also lowered NATO’s readiness and lengthened response times.

All NATO nations and Australia are participating in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), designed to interdict shipments of materials and technology for illicit WMD programs. We have shared training and technology on how to detect, interdict and disrupt smuggling routes and stopping terrorists and rogue nations from acquiring these materials.

Q: How is NATO working with Russia and the newly independent former Soviet states to ensure the security of nuclear materials and technology?

GR: NATO is pursuing a number of avenues to ensure nuclear materials and technology does not fall into the wrong hands. Probably the most robust programme is NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme.  Two core objectives of the programme are defence against terrorist threats, and defence against CBRN agents.

NATO provides training, equipment and funding for enhancing border and port security funding for securing orphan radioactive sources in Ukraine and central Asia. NATO works with Russia primarily through the NATO-Russia Council and its subordinate groups and has engaged Russia on safety and security issues to ensure that all nuclear weapons throughout Europe are safe and secure.

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