Past as prologue? The risk of adoption of chemical and biological weapons by non-state actors in the EU

Revill, James (2017) Past as prologue? The risk of adoption of chemical and biological weapons by non-state actors in the EU. European Journal of Risk Regulation. ISSN 1867-299X

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There have been relatively few serious incidents of chemical or biological terrorism in Europe; however, there is growing concern over how non-state groups might exploit chemistry and biology for hostile purposes in the future. This article uses the historical record of past incidents of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) adoption by non-state actors to inform understandings of the current and future risks. To achieve this, the article analyses six interlinked clusters of factors that can be seen as important in assessing the risk of whether or not to adopt such weapons. These are: the perceived relative advantage of CBW and their utilities; the complexity of such weapons; their ideological compatibility; the role of organisational structures; the visibility and ‘fashionability’ of such weapons; and the wider environmental context. Drawing from past cases of CBW adoption and the present European context, an analysis of these factors suggests that sophisticated CBW with gigantic effect are possible, but unlikely; however, the adoption and use of scruffy low-level chemical weapons is a distinct possibility. Accordingly, European public health agencies need to prepare for the possibility of a variety of CBW, not all of which are likely to be weapons of “mass destruction”.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Chemical Weapons; Biological Weapons; Terrorism; Bioterrorism; Syria
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Research Centres and Groups: Harvard Sussex Program
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology > HV6001 Criminology > HV6251 Crimes and offences > HV6431 Terrorism
J Political Science > JZ International relations > JZ5511.2 Promotion of peace. Peaceful change > JZ5587 International security. Disarmament. Global survival
Depositing User: James Revill
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2017 15:03
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2017 15:03

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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
Pathways towards Security: what pathways are being realised in technology infrastructureG1107ESRC-ECONOMIC & SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCILES/K011324/1
Urgency Grant: Data Capture of Syria Chemical Weapons AllegationsG1335ESRC-ECONOMIC & SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCILES/L014505/1