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Lawmakers, General: U.S. Not Ready for Biological, Chemical Weapons

Joni Ernst speaks at a news briefing after a weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on July 12. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Joni Ernst speaks at a news briefing after a weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on July 12. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The United States is under a national threat of biological and chemical weapons, including to the nation’s food supply, but it is not prepared for that possibility, lawmakers and a key military leader warned this weekend.

“If we look at food security, what can our adversaries do with biological weapons that are directed at our animal agriculture, at our agricultural sector?” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said during a panel discussion at the Aspen Security Forum, reports Axios.

“Highly pathogenic avian influenza, African swine fever, all of these things have circulated around the globe, but if targeted by an adversary, we know that it brings about food insecurity. Food insecurity drives a lot of other insecurities around the globe,” Ernst, a member of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities and Armed Services Committee, said.’

Ernst said she thinks food will be weaponized even more in the future and said there are a “number of ways we can look at biological weapons and the need to make sure not only are we securing human beings, but then also the food that will sustain us.”

She used Russia as an example, noting how it has used food as a weapon in the war against Ukraine.

Meanwhile, U.S. Army Gen. Richard Clarke, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, said at the Aspen summit that as recently as 2014-2016, non-state actors such as ISIS in Syria and Iraq have used chemical weapons like chlorine gas and mustard gas in their attacks.

Those weapons are used “because they instill fear,” said Clarke, adding that the United States is working to develop the capability to protect troops that are near such attacks.

There are also countries such as Russia that pose a threat with the use of chemical weapons, the general pointed out.

“Russia is willing to use those against political opponents,” he said. “They’re willing to use them on their own soil, but then to go in on the soil of a NATO ally in the UK and use those,” referring to the nerve agent used against Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer who had served as a double agent for the U.K.’s intelligence services during the 1990s, and his daughter Yulia in 2018.

“As we go into the future, we have to be prepared for that eventuality, and I don’t think we talk about it as much as we should and look for methods to continue to combat it,” said Clarke.

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