Russia Loses Bid for UN Probe of Ukraine, United States

December 2022

After months of using international forums to accuse Ukraine and the United States of prohibited biological weapons activities, Russia failed to garner support on Nov. 2 for a UN Security Council resolution that would have established a formal commission to investigate its claims. (See ACT, September 2022.)

China and Russia were the sole supporters of the draft resolution, which invoked Article VI of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). France, the United Kingdom, and the United States voted against the resolution, and the remaining 10 council members abstained.

Article VI allows any member state to request that the Security Council investigate an alleged breach of the BWC, which provides no explanation of the modalities of such an investigation. Russia’s draft resolution marked the first time any nation has called on the council to organize a commission to investigate compliance concerns. The draft did not contain any insight into how the commission or the investigation would have operated.

The draft resolution came on the heels of a special session of the BWC, convened in September at Russia’s request, which ended inconclusively. (See ACT, October 2022.) Ukraine and the United States formally responded to each of Russia’s accusations during the week-long meeting, but in an Oct. 24 letter to the Security Council president, Russia claimed that the two accused nations did not provide the “necessary explanations” and that its questions about treaty compliance remain unanswered.

Following the vote, U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield discounted Russia’s pursuit of “answers” as disingenuous, stating that “We know this, because for nearly two decades, Russia participated in this very kind of cooperation with us, including on biological threats.”

It is likely that this issue will dominate discussion at the BWC review conference Nov. 28–Dec. 16 in Geneva.—LEANNE QUINN