March 21, 2022

The Truth About Ukrainian Biolabs

Some folks have taken to peddling Putin’s propaganda about these facilities.

Why have some folks on the Right fallen for Russian disinformation propaganda, specifically regarding U.S. funding of biolabs in Ukraine? Individuals who ought to know better, such as Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, have promulgated the erroneous claim, crafted by Vladimir Putin’s propagandists in 2014, that the U.S. has been engaged in secretly funding bioweapons research in several labs across Ukraine. Carlson suggests that Under Secretary of State Victory Nuland’s recent acknowledgement in a Senate hearing of concern about the dangerous prospect of Ukrainian biolabs falling into Russian hands was tantamount to an admission that the Russian propaganda claims of America supporting bioweapons research are true.

As Carlson put it: “Does Ukraine have biological weapons? Oh, Ukraine has biological research facilities. What? You mean secret biolabs like the secret biolabs Ukraine definitely doesn’t have? Ukraine has those? Yes, it does.” He continues, “Under oath in an open committee hearing, Toria Nuland just confirmed that the Russian disinformation they’ve been telling us for days is a lie and a conspiracy theory and crazy and immoral to believe is, in fact, totally and completely true. Whoa.”

The problem is that Nuland did not do as Carlson claims; she never admitted that the U.S. was secretly funding bioweapons labs. What Nuland did was acknowledge what has long been known — that the U.S. has been involved with biolabs in Ukraine following a program established in 2005 to help prevent the development of bioweapons. Pathogen research is not equivalent to a bioweapons research and development program.

Following the fall and collapse of the Soviet Union, which had secretly engaged in a vast array of biological and chemical weapons programs, the U.S. was concerned that these dangerous materials might fall into the wrong hands and worked to access, contain, and eliminate these bioweapons. In 1991, the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program was established to do just that.

There is no nefarious secret agenda when it comes to the U.S. State Department’s concern regarding the biolabs in Ukraine. So, why are individuals like Carlson and Tulsi Gabbard spinning it as such? Why are they essentially carrying Putin’s water on this?

The answer may lie in part in Wuhan, China. When a high-ranking government bureaucrat like Dr. Anthony Fauci lies about the U.S. funding gain-of-function research in a lab that just happens to be studying bat coronaviruses, in a city that just happens to be the epicenter for a global coronavirus pandemic, then it would be easy to assume that another high-ranking government official is doing the same thing. It is tempting to conclude that all government officials are corrupt and deceitful, and therefore none are to be believed.

Furthermore, Carlson holds an anti-globalist worldview. That’s not a bad thing, of course, but he does tend to champion American isolationism as a solution to avoiding foreign conflicts. Unfortunately, Carlson has let his ideology rather than the facts direct his opinions when it comes to Ukraine. Because he is rightly loathe to see the U.S. pulled into another war, he seems eager to suggest that Putin’s actions against Ukraine are not clearly wrong and may even be justifiable. That’s at least partly why he conflated Nuland acknowledging the existence of biolabs in Ukraine to her supposedly admitting to the U.S. funding bioweapons research programs. Rather than noting the distinction, Carlson extrapolates nefarious activities.

Conservatives are not blind to government corruption, and the fact is that there are many things in Washington that need to be cleaned up. However, to promote misinformation in order to more easily demonize a political opponent does nothing to solve the problem. If someone on the Left, including a government official, is telling the truth, it does conservatives no good to claim otherwise simply because the other guy is on the wrong team. While Joe Biden’s leadership is abysmal and virtually all of his agenda is terrible for America, that doesn’t quite give us leeway to preemptively reject every single thing his administration says. Truth, not team, should be what conservatives are most committed to.

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