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Ted Whiteside: Head of NATO’s WMD Centre

Ted Whiteside has headed NATO’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Centre since its creation in autumn 2000. He joined NATO’s Political Affairs Division in September 1999 as deputy head of the Disarmament, Arms Control and Cooperative Security Section, having served in the Canadian Delegation to NATO and the Canadian Embassy in Bonn.

NATO Review: What is the WMD Centre and why was it set up? Ted Whiteside: The WMD Centre is an interdisciplinary team in the Political Affairs Division of NATO. It was estab- lished in order to support the work of com- mittees and working groups dealing with proliferation issues. The WMD Centre draws its mandate directly from the Alliance’s 1999 Washington Summit and the WMD Initiative. There are basically six broad objectives. These are: to ensure a more vigorous debate at NATO leading to strengthened common understanding among Allies on WMD issues and how to respond to them; to improve the quality and quantity of intelligence and information sharing among Allies on pro- liferation issues; to support the development of a public- information strategy by Allies to increase awareness of pro- liferation issues and Allies’ efforts to support non-proliferation efforts; to enhance military readiness to operate in a WMD environment and to counter WMD threats; to exchange information concerning national pro- grammes for bilateral WMD destruction and assistance — specifically how to help Russia destroy its stockpiles of chemical weapons; and to enhance the possibilities for Allies to assist one another in the protection of their civil populations against WMD risks. As you see from these objectives, the Alliance has a very active programme of work regarding WMD risks and threats, and the Centre is the focal point for support to these efforts.

NR: How does the WMD Centre function? How many NATO staff and how many national experts work there? TW: There are three international staff and seven national experts. The seven national experts bring with them a very wide experience. We have expertise in chemical weapons, biological agents, ballistic missiles, knowledge and experi- ence in force protection, intelligence, and political aspects of arms control and non-proliferation regimes. We support a number of NATO committees. The two principal ones are the Senior Politico-Military Group on Proliferation and the


Senior Defence Group on Proliferation. In addition, the WMD Centre actively sup- ports the Senior Political Committee in its work dealing with theatre missile defence, cooperation with Russia and issues related to the Alliance’s response to terrorism fol- lowing the 11 September 2001 attacks against the United States.

NR: How has the WMD Centre’s agenda changed since 11 September? TW: In the wake of 11 September, there is clearly an increased awareness of the potential use of weapons of mass destruc- tion by non-state actors. As a result of this increased awareness, the Centre has adapted its work pro- gramme to the evolving demands of the Committees we support. That said, there is a great deal of continuity in the work of a committee such as the Senior Defence Group on Proliferation — in terms of what it has been doing over recent years to enhance military readiness to operate in a WMD environment. Many of the practical steps that have been taken by Allies with respect to force protection, detec- tion, identification and medical counter-measures can be adapted to the risks associated with the potential use of weapons of mass destruction by non-state actors. We are therefore seeking to build upon existing work and initia- tives. Although our agenda has not changed markedly, there is clearly a different emphasis on the risks associated with biological agents. Indeed, we will have to get to know more about the potential use of biological, chemical and radiological devices by non-state actors and to build this in as an important part of our thinking. In addition, we need to review how best to work together to protect civilian popu- lations against these risks.

NR: Media appear obsessed about bioterrorism as a result of the spate of anthrax letters in the United States. How serious a threat is this form of warfare? TW: The potential use of biological agents by non-state actors is a significant problem. Non-state actors have shown the potential to create and use some of these

22 NATO review

Winter 2001/2002

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