Regimes of all types throughout history have sought to harness science for war. As a result, otherwise beneficial technology can become ‘dual-use’. Biological weapons are among the starker examples: research meant to save lives is used to take them. Now, in the run up to elections in Russia, and with concerns mounting about the nation’s role globally, biological-weapons specialists Raymond Zilinskas and Philippe Mauger deliver Biosecurity in Putin’s Russia.
Bioweapons research in Russia and its environs extends back as far as 1928. It took off in the 1970s, for example through the infamous clandestine Biopreparat network. There, the Soviets weaponized pathogens including the smallpox and Marburg viruses and the anthrax bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Zilinskas and Mauger focus on the years 2012–16, when political tensions between Russia and the West intensified markedly. Concerned by apparent shifts in Russia’s pronouncements and actions regarding dual-use activities related to biosecurity, Zilinskas and Mauger write that they wish to “move the discussion over Russian compliance concerns to the public sphere”, where an evaluation based on evidence becomes possible.