This week, the United States conducted virtual training with partners from Estonia to help national security policy-makers, first responders, and scientific leaders counter, respond to, and investigate assassinations involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This is part of a series of initiatives the Department of State plans to hold across Europe.
Recent events in Europe have highlighted the real threat of government-sanctioned, targeted weapons of mass destruction attacks. An effective national response to counter such heinous acts requires strong communication channels between technical experts, law enforcement, and policy makers. Experts on counter-WMD strategies from the United States and international partners provided Estonian officials the information necessary to create contingency plans, define roles and responsibilities, and foster an environment that allows authorities to conduct investigations quickly and effectively. Participants were encouraged to disseminate these best practices and lessons learned among their colleagues, resulting in an increased level of preparedness against potential targeted WMD attacks. Addressing such threats is a significant international security priority.
Russia has a particularly notorious history of using WMD to target adversaries for assassination, including using “Novichok” nerve agents in the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom in 2018 and Aleksey Navalny in Tomsk, Russia in 2020. The Soviet Union developed “Novichok” nerve agents in secret. We call on Russia to cease further use of chemical weapons and to fully declare and destroy its chemical weapons program in accordance with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
This is the second workshop conducted in the past few months focused on responding to incidents where the use of WMD as a tool of assassination is suspected. The United States is committed to helping our partners around the world counter malign activities and looks forward to continuing to work with them to help recognize, attribute, and respond effectively to incidents where use of WMD as a tool of assassination is suspected.