5 Things to Know About Strategic Risks From the Past Few Weeks

1. On North Korea, COVID-19 and Biological Weapons

In a long Politico examination, Andy Weber of the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) and other experts outline their concerns that North Korea’s recently-announced quest for a COVID-19 vaccine could also support the country’s biological weapons ambitions. 

The Kim regime “could use this legitimate vaccine aspiration as a way to enhance their biotechnology capability…They could buy equipment from Western or Chinese sources that would be necessary for their vaccine effort, and then next year they could turn around and use it to produce biological weapons,” as Weber, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs, described. 

2. Threats are Converging Part I: South Asia

India is being slammed by a combination of extensive flooding and the coronavirus, with floods that have displaced or otherwise affected more than 8 million people and COVID-19 cases spiking.

CSR’s Sarang Shidore has been monitoring such trends, and warned last week that the convergence of significant threats in South Asia could contribute to a disruptive transition in the region. As he wrote  “As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, the major historical challenges South Asia has faced are being magnified by a complex set of risks. These include earth systems risk (such as climate change and pandemics), economic risk, governance risk, and inter-state conflict risk; the latter also with a dangerous nuclear dimension.” 

3.  Threats are Converging Part II: Nuclear Weapons & World Order

The future of the nuclear order as viewed from the United States has been in sharp focus in recent weeks, with U.S.-Russia arms control talks, the release of the Democratic Party’s draft platform acknowledging the need for future arms control agreements to “reflect the emergence of new players like China” and “capture new technologies,” and a high level U.S. defense official arguing in The New York Times that “China’s Arms Buildup Threatens the Nuclear Balance.

What will shape the future nuclear order extends far beyond just nuclear trends, including trends in the world addressing climate change (or not) and emerging technologies such as lethal autonomous weapons. Check out members of the CSR team and guests discussing this set of issues in our new webinar, hosted by Dr. Natasha Bajema, and CSR’s work on the future of arms control.

4. Science Suppression is a Security Threat – Whether Climate or Covid

The White House’s decision to block testimony by the CDC Director on how to open schools safely has implications that go well beyond education and health, given that it follows a pattern of science suppression in general. Francesco Femia, Co-Founder of CSR and the Center for Climate and Security (CCS), published an article calling this science suppression a security threat, building from last year’s effort by CCS to block the White House’s multiple attempts to suppress both climate science, and climate security analysis by the intelligence and defense communities.

5. On Russia, Wheat Exports, and Political Leverage 

CSR Board Chair Sherri Goodman and Clara Summers noted in The National Interest that Russia sees climate change as beneficial to its agriculture sector, and based on past experiences we should be concerned that it may again leverage its large-scale wheat exports for political gain. Read more in their article, “Will Russia Weaponize Its Wheat As the World Combats the Coronavirus?


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