Counter Proliferation


The UK Government spends an increasing amount of time and resources dedicated to combat what has become a global proliferation of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Weapons (CBRN) and SIS plays a crucial role.


SIS obtains crucial intelligence on Foreign States that aim to get hold of these weapons, and it disrupts their efforts and stop the proliferation. One of its highest profile successes in the area was the role in putting AQ Khan, who ran the largest nuclear proliferation network the world has ever seen, completely out of business.


Working with the UK’s other intelligence agencies and partners overseas, SIS also helps to ensure UK weapons exports are rigorously controlled so they don’t get into the hands of terrorists or states.

National Counter Proliferation Strategy to 2020 (UK Gov)




The Counter Proliferation Strategy to 2020 provides a framework for the United Kingdom’s counter proliferation activity. Our overall aim is to prevent the spread or further development of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) capability or advanced military technology which could threaten UK interests or regional stability. The new strategy focuses UK action around three strands: influencing intent: encourage all states to adhere to norms on the possession and use of particular weapons, and to demonstrate the consequences of breaching those norms; controlling access: control access to materials and knowledge globally to make it as hard as possible for states or terrorists to acquire or develop capabilities; disrupting networks: disrupt illicit attempts to circumvent controls The Counter Proliferation Strategy to 2020 will be delivered by the cross-Government counter proliferation community. At the heart of this will be the new Counter Proliferation and Arms Control Centre and the Export Controls Joint Unit announced in the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015. The Foreign Secretary will retain overall Ministerial responsibility for the Strategy. Introduction The 2012-2015 Counter Proliferation Strategy1 guided the UK’s work during the last Parliament, with progress reported through the Annual Reports on the National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review2 . The National Security Council agreed an updated strategy to set the direction to 2020. Many of the challenges remain, but the new Counter Proliferation Strategy takes as its starting point the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review and National Security Risk Assessment. The Strategic Defence and Security Review states: “Rules and norms to counter the proliferation of illicit arms and weapons of mass destruction play a vital role in our security. The UK has consistently been at the forefront of international efforts to tackle proliferation. We devote substantial efforts to this and will continue to do so.”


The National Security Risk Assessment has two proliferation-related risks. Both are highlighted as risks which may become even more likely and/or more impactful over the longer term: CBRN attacks: attack using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons; Weapons Proliferation: increase in either advanced conventional armaments or CBRN technology. In the period 2012 to 2015 there has been progress against the previous Counter Proliferation Strategy in a number of important areas: a deal has been agreed with Iran on their nuclear programme; the declared Syrian chemical weapons stockpile has been destroyed; and the Arms Trade Treaty has entered into force.


The UK has played a leading role in all of these important achievements. But some of the issues identified in the 2012- 2015 Counter Proliferation Strategy remain of concern, highlighted most recently by the nuclear test on 6 January and continued launches using ballistic missile technology conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Other developments, such as credible reports that Daesh has used chemical weapons in attacks in Syria and Iraq and technological advances such as the proliferation of advanced conventional weapons and 3D printing, have added to the challenge. The Strategy guides our work to disrupt, mitigate and limit the spread of the capabilities that increase the proliferation-related risk to national security. We seek to ensure that we have the right controls and security in place domestically and to work internationally through the rules-based international system. The Strategy complements other government strategies which address elements of the challenge. These include the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy CONTEST, the UK Biosecurity Strategy and the UK Cyber Security Strategy. Aim The overall aim of the Counter Proliferation Strategy to 2020 is to prevent the spread or further development of CBRN capability or advanced military technology which could threaten UK interests or regional stability. Objectives The Strategy structures our effort around three strands. First, we seek to influence the intent of others, as the most effective way of controlling capabilities. Second, we seek to control global access to the materials and knowledge that would allow a hostile state or terrorist group to act on that intent. And third, we seek to identify and disrupt illicit attempts to circumvent those controls. In particular: We will continue to support the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran. The international safeguards regime, which underpins Iran’s commitment to enhanced verification and inspections, will give the international community confidence whether Iran’s nuclear programme is, and will remain, exclusively peaceful.


If at any time Iran fails to meet its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, international sanctions will be re-imposed. We will maintain pressure on Syria to comply fully with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. We will support the mechanisms established by the UN Security Council and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to ensure that all those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria are held to account, and that the chemical weapons programme is fully disclosed and destroyed. We will focus our efforts at the final Nuclear Security Summit in 2016 on reducing the risk of nuclear material and information falling into the hands of terrorists and criminals by working towards the full implementation of global standards for maintaining the security of nuclear material. We will continue our efforts under the Global Threat Reduction Programme to improve global long-term nuclear and radiological security in a sustainable manner. We will also continue to support the International Atomic Energy Agency as they take on a greater leadership role after the Summit has concluded. We remain committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and to the creation of a Middle East Zone free from nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction. We will continue to campaign for successful negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty in the Conference on Disarmament, the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and universal membership of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. We will campaign to increase the number of countries that have ratified and implemented the Arms Trade Treaty so it can deliver the expected step-change in the rules-based international system governing the trade in conventional arms. The UK contribution The extent to which the UK takes responsibility for a global threat such as counter proliferation flows from the policy as reflected in key Strategic Defence and Security Review decisions about the UK’s role in the world. Some threats may specifically target or affect the UK, but on most we share the risks and the burden with allies and relevant international organisations. We work closely with allies, deploying our diplomatic, intelligence, law enforcement and scientific expertise to tackle these challenges. The UK is at the heart of the international architecture on counter proliferation. We are an active member of the UN, International Atomic Energy Agency, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and other organisations which develop rules and guidance, and assist and verify compliance across counter proliferation and CBRN security. The UK provides direct assistance to countries to strengthen implementation of key international resolutions and to improve nuclear security. As active members of the key export control regimes, we seek to strengthen and harmonise controls. The delivery of the Counter Proliferation Strategy is a cross-government effort led by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with other departments contributing; this includes our security and intelligence agencies. The new Counter Proliferation and Arms Control Centre and the Export Controls Joint Unit announced in the Strategic Defence and Security Review will be at the heart of this work. We will evaluate and report progress as part of the implementation of the Strategic Defence and Security Review. The Foreign Secretary will retain overall Ministerial responsibility for the Strategy, with the National Security Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, ultimately overseeing its implementation. March 2016

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A Government Department of Virus Safety

A Government run, uniform and credible safety certificate to be used across the board, would benefit UK business greatly.

Wuhan conspiracy theories aside, diplomatic traction is the reward.


A week or two ago we wrote an article "Conspiracies & Ripples" which focused primarily on conspiracy theories and kicked off with the rather obvious statement that a conspiracy theory is simply a theory without the facts i.e. just a theory.  Within that we highlighted that ‘flavour of the month’ theorist’s delight, the origins of the Coronavirus and its links to Wuhan.  This echoed our views published in February which, as many did, ponder the chances of this remote coincidence maybe actually being true.  Since then there have been swathes of articles on the topic citing all sort of sources and from numerous ‘renowned’ scientists.  We have also recently had the opinions offered by those whose opinions really count, that this virus originating from the labs in Wuhan may not actually be so far-fetched after all.

We do tend to agree, or at least we did.  That was then and this is now and in the world of Politics things move quickly and one does have to look at the reality of the situation.  If there is enough fog between you and your destination, then sometimes the route you take can change, leaving you all sorts of options.  If the objective was originally to circumnavigate through uncertain waters to establish who, what, why and when the virus came about – then that is now lost in the fog.  It is arbitrary.  Now we have something that is far more concrete and tangible to use to our advantage – we have uncertainty.  We now have enough debate and conspiracy to render the findings of the scientists open to interpretation.  And that… is a diplomat’s dream come true.   This particular carcass will feed many and although the WHO will go in, on the ground, and no doubt find yet more uncertainty…it really is irrelevant.  You will certainly not find individual government’s chomping at the bit to send their representatives into Wuhan anytime soon, and even if they did, why?  Wuhan is not some sleepy suburb in leafy Northamptonshire… it is in China.  Whatever was there has long gone, if indeed it was ever even there.  So perhaps it would be wise to assume that at least for the next few decades this is a conspiracy that will never find out those salient facts. 

Now, listening to the scientists, there is an overwhelming urge to say, “shush now”.  Step back ladies and gentlemen and look at the bigger picture at play.  Nobody is actually interested whether or not the virus started in Wuhan, intentionally or not.  As long as it is open to debate, it is far more valuable.  The scientists have debated at length and argued, but there is still no unequivocal proof either way that satisfies all parties…and why could that be?  Scientific fact is not open to debate or questioning, that is a given.  However, to say Science is correct, is not true.  That is because Science has Scientists, and Scientists are human beings who in turn are fallible and motivated by many many other factors.  In China for example, one might say that scientific fact is exactly what they want it to be.  Indeed, who is to say it ends in China.


So why is uncertainty such a blessing in this case?  It provides an additional bargaining chip and a weapon in the armoury for all Governments to now use against the Chinese.  Maybe on the other side of the fence their own initial conspiracy theory that a foreign Government (the US) planted the virus in their midst, is being written about in their own press.  Or maybe not. The fact is it is a safe bet to assume that no body will ever know.  There will be no compensations or admissions of guilt in this case sadly…however the capillaceous network that is politics, diplomacy and economic negotiations will be the real beneficiaries.


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