THE ENIGMA OF SOVIET BW

Created: 4/1/1965

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INTELLIGENCE

A colleclion ol articles on the historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects ol inlolligcnco.

All statements of faci, opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in Intelligence are those of

the authors They do not necessarily reflect official positions or views of ihe Central Intelligence Agency or any other US Government entity, past or present. Nothing in the conienis should be construed as asserting or implying US Govcmmcnt endorsement of an article's factual statements and interpretations.

A dearth of information continue* to keep open the Soviet germ uur-fare intelligence gap.

THE ENIGMA OF SOVIET BW Wilton E. Uvow and

Julian Hoptnun

Despiteconsiderable expenditure of time end resources, the pursuit of intelligence on biological warfare activities to tbe USSR has been unrewarding. There is no firm evidence of the existence of an offensive Soviet BW program. Some Soviet biomedical research transcends normal public health requirements, and from time to time top Soviet oiilitary officials have boasted publicly that they have the means to. attack with nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. We know that tbe Soviet militaryIs eoooerned. BW research, and we have some insight into their organization and activities for medical defense against BW attack- But we still do not know their precise defense readiness posture or their specific logistical preparations.

The paucity of real evidence has forced us to resort to Indirect signs. Attempts have been made to examine all military-related activity in the fields of biology and medicine, all technical publications which appeared to be censored by security considerations, and all biomedical studies which did aot jibe with Soviet public health requirements as we know them. Analysts have used speculation, analogy, and parallels with other nations' BW research, development, and practice in recent times and in tho historical past They have analyzed Soviet, Satellite, and Chinese propaganda charges. germ warfare for clues as to the Communists' sophistication and familiarity with BW hardware and agents.

The Crim Presumption

The accepted premise had been that the. BW commit -ment which has been public knowledge, along with the Japanese World Warffort as known to the Soviets, would probably haveomparable program in the USSR. Postwar defector

SxaatwtT

BW

reports and Cerman Intelligence finding! implicated several persons and locations inoviet program. It was with this premise in mind that available sources, primarily the open literature, had been closely screened for indications such as those cited above. But It seemed that good Soviet security, censorship, and care not to mar the Image of their well-advertised adherence to the Genevahad eliminated from the scientific literature all trace except of defensive preparations and attitudes. The same was true ofon military doctrine. Sensitization of expert travelers to the problem and the evaluation of such evidence as there was byost laiowledgeable sources fn the United States brought^no^new insights. Then suddenly new photographic and other intelligence seemedime to confirm our worst suspicions with hard evidence of elaborate BW test range activities.

The foremost suspectiological warfare center had long been Vozrozhdenlya Island in the Aral Sea. The finger was first put on this Island1 by tbe "Ilirschlirsch, who haderman intelligence officer during the war. compiled his report on Soviet BW and chemical warfare activities from data in Cerman Intelligence files. The bulk of its great volume was devoted to CW, and since much of this agreed with other. intelligence, the entire report gained some credence.

Hirsch declared that the Soviets had been engaged In BW research in the, carrying out experimentsoscow laboratory and on Corodomlya Island in Lake Seliger northwest of Moscow. BW field trials were at first held at the CW proving ground at Shikhany near the city of Volsk, But the proximity of this proving ground to the city limits made it too hazardous for BW, and thev were shifted6 to Vooozhdeniya Island and reportedly again

The Island Is well suited to BW experimentation. It Is locatedistance from the nearest shore of the Aral Sea, which itself lies in an arid, barren, and sparsely settled region of the USSR. Animal ecology difficulties which wouldainland facility are virtually nonexistent;ransient bird populationroblem In containing the spread of experimental diseases. Security against observation and accidental or Intentional intrusion by unauthorized persons isaximum. The climate Is suitable for testing the influenceariety of environmental conditions.

Trials could be carried out over water, as the British hadduring their offshore BW trials at Bermuda. The site offers few of the restrict ions which. mainland facility has had to overcome.

Targe* Anaujtit

With this first clue to an intelligence target, BW analysts in the community embarked upon an intensive search of Soviet literature dealing with the Aral Sea region. Requirements were levied upon all collectors,omprehensive survey was made of all the economic aod scientific aspects of the area. Jo support of collection and analysis, surveys were made of fishing, transportstioo. geography, scientific expeditions, hydrochcniistry, marine biology, geology, and climate and weather in tbe area. It Is probably safe to say that some of the analysts came to know this region and its problems better than the inhabitants.

Despite all this area research, little was found specifically about Vozrozhdeniya Island. It had been surveyedcientificin theS; thererison camp theremall fishing village, uninhabited during the winter months,existed on the island ins. But the paucity of information about this island could not be an indicator of anything particularly sinister, for there was very little known about any of the many islands in the Sea, including the largest one, Barsa-Kelmes.

Other sources than literature yielded little information. Tworeports noted physical security measures to prohibit access to the island but revealed nothing of the nature of any facility on K.

Then7 high-level photography brought the first bigPhotographs of the island revealed the rather extensiveshown on the model pictured onhere were moreuddings of various sizes grouped into two settlements about 2Vz miles apart. The northern and largest group of buddings appeared to be the administration, housing, and logistics area, marked "operational headquarters" on the model Its barrackdike buildings were large enough to accommodateeople Thegroup was containedigh walled area which appeared to be the work or naboratory* site South from the "laboratory" area tangled roads and tracks led to five centers, called "test sites" on the modeL At each of these centersower and one or two

Soviet BW

small buildings About tluee miles to trio south, oot ihown, lay the small island of Korutantin. with someuildings on its northern tip

Return to Enigma

The fact that Vonorhdeniya Island had been carried for yeanuspect BW site so oriented the thinking of PI analystsW function was immediately hypothesized. Many of the parametersW research and tot area do fit the picture of the island, but It was soon realizedew do not, some of them too critical to be discounted. The whole range of other possible functions was therefore examined with all the background information on the area In mind. CW research oruided missile or electronic installation, fishing and fish processing, geologicalecret police training establishment,aramilitary training area were considered and discarded. The only certain finding was that the general layout of the buddings, parade ground and other features distinguished itilitary rather than civilian establishment.

The Island wasecond timelthough there were changes such as additional building, there were no new clues to its function. Three major obstacles remained before it could be classifiedW installation. First, the apparent "grideeded for measuring dispersion of test agents, were small, ill-defined as to configuration and purpose, and not comparable to those at the Soviet CW proving ground and US. BW-CW proving grounds. Second there were no indications of the necessary air support for BW test activities. For example there was no evidenceophisticated landing strip, decontamination facilities for aircraft, or night landing fadlilies. Thud the buildings and presumedof Korutantin Island just to the south were in the path of tbe prevailing winds, precluding tests with Uve BW agents.

9 renewed efforts oa an all-source basis have turned up no other indications of the nature of the activity oa the island. In recent years the Soviets haveonsiderable amount of material on the Aral area and its economic problems, especially the fishing industry. In this connection they have occasionally mentioned some of the smaller islands. The largest island. Barsa-Kelmes. has been given some pubbcity in the Soviet and British pressnique game preserve. But about Vorrozhdeniya Island tbe enigmatic silence holds.

BW

New Directions

Despite tightighly developed Soviet BW weapons system and technology should have surfaced sometime during the years since the war. just as the nuclear and chemical warfare efforts have. Current analyses, therefore, while clearly stating our lack of positive knowledge, depart radically from the old assumptions and look at Soviet military doctrine realistically in terms ot limited BW activity and tho unsure potential of BW weapons.

This reappraisal has not lessened the need for an alert analytical thrust into Soviet capabilities and fatcntions with respect to BW weaponry. Rather, it points the way for greater emphasis on the possibdity of Soviet covert action with such weapons in the light. vulnerability to clandestine attack. It calls for more intensive scrutiny ofenchmarks for BW activity and of medical defense applications that could also be used for offensive purposes. Intelligence oo the biomedical aspects of unconventional warfare in the USSR will also continue to contribute to other relatedcontamination of aircraft and spacecraft, bloastro-nautics applications of BW-related technology, estimates of Soviet vulnerability to BW attack and tho socio-economic consequences.

Retrenchment and reorientation arc thus helping us make the best of our few resources. Nonetheless, the BW intelligence effort needs new overt collection methods and more emphasis on covertin order to improve the low-quality information now available from reliance on collective experience and sensitivity to Indicators.

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