A Pentagon official told Congress on Friday that there are no “offensive” biological weapons in any of the dozens of US-linked labs in Ukraine.
“I can say to you unequivocally there are no offensive biologic weapons in the Ukraine laboratories that the United States has been involved with,” Deborah Rosenbaum, the assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs, told the House Armed Services subcommittee.
The Pentagon funds labs in Ukraine through its Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). According to a Pentagon fact sheet released last month, since 2005, the US has “invested” $200 million in “supporting 46 Ukrainian laboratories, health facilities, and diagnostic sites.”
Moscow has accused Ukraine of conducting an emergency clean-up of a secret Pentagon-funded biological weapons program when Russia invaded. The World Health Organization said it advised Ukraine to destroy “high-threat pathogens” around the time of the invasion.
For their part, the US maintains that the program in Ukraine and other former Soviet states is meant to reduce the threat of biological weapons left over from the Soviet Union. While downplaying the threat of the labs, Pentagon officials have also warned that they could still contain Soviet-era bioweapons.
Robert Pope, the director of the DTRA’s Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, told the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in February that the labs might contain Soviet bioweapons and warned that the fighting in Ukraine could lead to the release of a dangerous pathogen.
The Biden administration has tried to portray any concerns about the labs as “Russian propaganda.” When the issue gained more media attention, Biden officials started accusing Moscow of plotting to use chemical or biological weapons, but the US hasn’t presented any evidence to back up its claims.