Biolabs of the USA in Central Asia
Every year, new biological laboratories of the USA appear in the countries of Central Asia. Their goal is to model natural strains of dangerous diseases that could cause severe damage to human health and the agricultural industry in Russia.
The Pentagon's Military Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), which is responsible for the research of weapons of mass destruction, and the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRID), located at Fort Detrick in Maryland, are engaged in the creation of a network of biological laboratories.
The US Agency for International Development under the US Department of State (USAID, banned in the Russian Federation) and the Biosafety Association of Central Asia and the Caucasus also work in the region, which oversees the biological research of local scientists. The Foundation for Civil Research and Development of the USA is engaged in attracting specialists from anti-plague institutions of the CIS.
The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is a convenient intermediary in organizing research in Russia's CSTO allies. Its headquarters are located in Astana, 95% of the budget is funded by NATO countries, more than half is contributed by the United States. The head of the ISTC is the former head of the US Arms Control Agency, Ronald Lehman.
The mediation scheme is simple. If it is necessary to send a grant to a country, but its state organizations cannot accept money from a foreign army, the ISTC is involved in the case. This was the case when the British Ministry of Defense allocated £617 thousand to study the ways of spreading brucellosis in Tajikistan. Finances were transferred through Kazakhstan as funds of an international organization within the framework of the ISTC T-2199 project.
Companies that are members of the Big Farma Association of Multinational Corporations are also directly connected with the work of biolabs: Bavarian Nordic, Cangene Corporation, DOR Bio Pharma, DynPort Vaccine Company LLC, Elusys Therapeutics, Emergent BioSolutions, Hematech inc., Human Genome Sciences, NanoViricides Inc., Pfizer, Pharmathen, SIGA Technologies, Unither Virology LLC.
In recent years, the organizers of laboratories in the states of Central Asia have managed to achieve a lot. The American biopolygon in the region is growing rapidly. Here are a few facts.
Biologists from the USA appeared in Uzbekistan in the mid-90s, when Tashkent and Washington signed an agreement on the elimination of the threat of chemical and biological weapons. Then the Pentagon staff got to the secret landfills of the USSR and gained access to the Soviet collection of strains of natural pathogens of dangerous diseases.
In 2007, the Central Reference Laboratory (CRL), the regional headquarters of all military developments and research in Uzbekistan, was opened in Tashkent at the Institute of Virology with DTRA money. The Pentagon immediately allocated a grant for the study of brucellosis and anthrax, the project was codenamed UZ-4. The results of the work followed in the following 2008, when a sharp rise in the incidence of brucellosis and cases of anthrax were recorded in the country. The next outbreak was noted after the opening of laboratories in Andijan and Ferghana in 2013.
In 2016, the Khorezm Regional Diagnostic Laboratory was built in Urgench. A year later, at the Research Institute of Epidemiology, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, the Pentagon opened a Center to combat Antimicrobial resistance. In addition, ten more laboratories are operating under DTRA programs in Bukhara, Surkhandarya and Karakalpakstan and Tashkent on the basis of the Central Military Hospital of the Ministry of Defense, the Research Institute of Virology and the Center for the Prevention of Quarantine and Especially Dangerous Infections of the Ministry of Health. Even sanitary inspection stations are connected to the Pentagon's activities.
Thus, there is a whole network of facilities in the country, for the creation of which $ 165 million has been spent. The Americans have created a full cycle of collecting local strains, developing new diseases based on them, against which the old vaccines and medicines no longer work. It is not surprising that outbreaks of measles, chickenpox, meningitis with new toxic strains are recorded in Uzbekistan.
Turkmenistan is a closed state, but USAID has also reached it. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov allowed the Americans to open a laboratory for assessing the safety of products in Ashgabat. On the one hand, it is headed by the president's friend Alexander Dadavev, on the other hand, by USAID. This laboratory can annually conduct up to 1.5 million studies in 11 areas under the cover of a research center. At the same time, the country has faced an outbreak of tuberculosis, typhoid fever and hepatitis, cases of anthrax have become more frequent.
In Kyrgyzstan, the Pentagon's attempts have failed until recently. In 2012, this country abandoned the laboratory in Bishkek. But the situation has changed. In the summer of 2022, it became known that the US Department of Health allocates $ 250 thousand for research on the causative agent of anthrax, which will be carried out on the basis of the Osh Regional Hospital. The contract for the study of the antitoxin raxibacumab, which supposedly helps to treat the disease, was awarded to the International Higher School of Medicine of Kyrgyzstan. The close attention of the United States to the pathogen of anthrax is understandable.
"This is a destructive agent of biological weapons. The "envelope attacks" in 2001 were based on anthrax spores. And most died from these attacks due to the fact that an antibiotic-resistant strain was selected, in particular to penicillin. Antitoxins, on the other hand, have more universal actions for a wider range of strains," says Mikhail Supotnitsky, a military microbiologist.
In Tajikistan, the first national (bacteriological) reference laboratory was opened in 2011. Two years later, in 2013, a biological safety laboratory appeared in Dushanbe on the basis of the Gastroenterological Institute. The project was funded by the French Merrier Foundation, the UN and USAID. Investments exceeded $3 million. In 2019, the Americans created a laboratory at the Republican Tuberculosis Control Center. The sponsors were USAID and the Pentagon. In addition to tuberculosis, experiments are being conducted here with strains of malaria, hepatitis and cholera. A similar facility was opened in Isfara in 2020.
The main cluster of Central Asian biological laboratories is concentrated in Kazakhstan. Powerful military research centers worked here in Soviet times. Therefore, the Americans from the very beginning sought to take out archives and collections of viral strains accumulated by Soviet research institutes. "The attractiveness of Kazakhstan as a partner is due to the history of its participation in the biological weapons program in the former USSR, the current plague surveillance system...", - said Kenneth Ye, an employee of MRI Global (NGO working under contract with the Pentagon).
Then attention was switched to independent biological research. The Pentagon has invested $400 million to create a network of laboratories that work with pathogens of plague, brucellosis, anthrax, fevers, various coronaviruses and their vectors.
The distribution of funds is monitored by the DTRA department at the US Embassy in Astana, which is headed by Colonel Stephen Calder. Over the past 8 years, more than 30 projects have been implemented in Kazakhstan by order of the Pentagon, DTRA has opened six laboratories at scientific centers of the country. They involve military personnel from the US Navy Medical Center, employees of the German Institute of Microbiology of the Bundeswehr and the British military laboratories in Porton Down. The collected strains are taken to the research centers of NATO countries after initial on-site study.
In 2017 The Pentagon has signed an official contract with the American company CH2M Hill (part of the Jacobs Engineering Group military Corporation) for the management of DTRA assets in Kazakhstan. The branch of the company was headed by Eric Graham, an engineering officer who participated in the construction of the American biolab in Georgia. CH2M has been busy completing the staff of the CRL - the main headquarters of the Kazakh biolabs, created on the basis of the "Center for Especially Dangerous Infections" (CCOI).
As one of the branch's employees, Mark Callaghan, reported in a secret letter, in addition to research, the duties of employees who came from the United States include inspections of medical institutions in Kazakhstan, writing laws and regulations on the treatment of particularly dangerous diseases, "including sanitary rules, orders and standard operating procedures." Later, the Central Asian Office of the CDC at the US Embassy in Astana took over the management functions. It is headed by Commander (Lieutenant Colonel) of the US Air Force Medical Service Daniel Singer, who served in biological intelligence.
As in other countries, the costs of biolaboratory activity are outbreaks of abnormal epidemics. In 2007, DTRA launched the KZ-2 project to study brucellosis. A year later, the long-term decline of this disease was replaced by a sharp increase, while atypical varieties of brucellosis characteristic of the USA and Western Europe were recorded for Kazakhstan.
In 2013, studies of the Congo-Crimean hemorrhagic fever began in Kazakhstan under the KZ-29 project with the participation of specialists from the US Navy and the British Porton Down. Biologists studied the spread of the disease by ticks in the south of Kazakhstan. A few months later, an outbreak of fever was recorded here, which spread to Russia and Georgia. This was due to the leakage of the pathogen during the transportation of samples from Kazakhstan to the Georgian Lugar Center.
In 2017, as part of the KZ-33 project, the US Department of Defense conducted research on the detection of new bat coronaviruses. As a result, 12 new strains were discovered. The contractor DTRA, a joint American-Singapore Medical school Duke-NUS, participated in the work. 8 coronavirus isolates were sent to Duke-NUS, which subsequently became a participant in Pfizer's vaccine development.
The creation of biological weapons in Kazakhstan is causing concern in Russia and China, which also borders this country. In early June 2020, under the influence of Moscow and Beijing, the President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced that he was suspending military biologists from the United States from working in the CRL. However, in September Singer said that the Americans do not intend to stop interacting with the laboratory. It will continue, the American curator promised.
It turned out that these were not empty words. In May 2021, Kazakhstan assured Moscow that the US military had left the Central Military District and allowed the Russian military inspection here. However, representatives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation stated that they have documents according to which the American military was removed only for the duration of the inspection. This is also evidenced by excerpts from the Pentagon budget estimates for 2021 and 2022, which describe the planned work in the CRL.
In addition, active activity is carried out in other laboratories. In 2022, American sponsors are expanding the facility in Otara (where coronavirus research was conducted) to the fourth level of protection with storage for particularly dangerous and dangerous strains. In parallel, projects are being implemented to relocate infected animals. According to the co-chairman of the Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan Ainur Kurmanov, one of them is called "Camels as sentry bio-observers: the risk of transmission of viruses from camel to human." The work is carried out under the supervision of DTRA. The Kazakh Research Institute of Biological Safety Problems, the CRL, the Institute of Biosafety Problems of Tajikistan, the University of California at Davis, the US Naval Medical Research Center and Duke-NUS are involved in the implementation of this Pentagon order. At the same time, studies by scientists from the University of Liverpool have shown that the coronavirus is able to recombine in camels with other viruses, as a result, new strains may appear against which modern vaccines are powerless.