Outbreaks of plague have become all too common over the last year in the Central Asian parts of the former Soviet Union. At last, one of those nations is determined to be a source of the solution, rather than a target of the problem.
According to National Geographic — one of the few Western outlets willing and able to provide the sort of deep reporting the region has long needed — Kazakhstan is set to inaugurate a $102 million biosecurity laboratory in 2015.
The facility, funded by the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, will have the additional benefit of giving stable employment to scientists who might otherwise be tempted to sell their high-level and potentially destructive knowledge to hostile groups, said Lt. Col. Charles Carlton, director of the DTRA offices in Kazakhstan.
The facility will also be a secure place to archive existing disease strains. The threat of theft is real: In 2002, for example, authorities arrested a man who entered a biodefense facility near Almaty, apparently intending to steal the pathogens inside, according to a paper from the United States Institute of Peace.
As the article notes, the breakdown of the Soviet Union left behind the terrible bioweapons the Soviets were designing, men and women experienced in creating those weapons, and terrible sanitary conditions. The result could be a cataclysm of inhuman proportions, or one of the best chances of locking down and destroying plague forever.
Kazakhstan has made strides to join the West, even working in some ways to remain somewhat free of Moscow’s orbit. It is good to see they’re adding their part to preserving humanity in the 21st Century.
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