U.S. Biological Weapons - Geneva Protocol and BWC

Geneva Protocol and BWC

The 1925 Geneva Protocol, ratified by most major powers in the 1920s and 30s, had still not been ratified by the United States at the dawn of World War II. Among the Protocol's provisions, was a ban on bacteriological warfare. The Geneva Protocol had encountered opposition in the U.S. Senate, in part due to strong lobbying against it by the Chemical Warfare Service, and it was never brought to the floor for a vote when originally introduced. Regardless, on June 8, 1943 President Roosevelt affirmed a no-first-use policy for the United States concerning biological weapons. Even with Roosevelt's declaration opposition to the Protocol remained strong; in 1949 the Protocol was among several old treaties returned to President Harry S. Truman unratified.

When Nixon ended the U.S. bio-weapons program in 1969 he also announced that he would resubmit the Geneva Protocol to the U.S. Senate. This was a move Nixon was considering as early as July 1969. The announcement included language that indicated the Nixon administration was moving toward an international agreement on an outright ban on bio-weapons. Thus, the Nixon administration became the world's leading anti-biological weapons voice calling for an international treaty. The Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee was discussing a British draft of a biological weapons treaty which the United Nations General Assembly approved in 1968 and that NATO supported. These arms control talks would eventually lead to the Biological Weapons Convention, the international treaty outlawing biological warfare. Prior, to the Nixon announcement only Canada supported the British draft. Beginning in 1972, the Soviet Union, United States and more than 100 other countries signed the BWC. The United States ratified the Geneva Protocol in 1975.

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