Vladimir Putin and Polonium-210

alexander lit photo

By: Tiffany Walker

Nearly a decade ago an ex KGB officer, Russian intelligence service, was poisoned with polonium-210. Alexander Litvinenko defected to the United Kingdom and worked with the British intelligence services. This event is making the news again because a British Parliamentary inquiry into the death of Litvinenko was released as a report called the Owen Report. The report provides details as to how the Polonium-210 made its way into Mr. Litvinenko’s body.

The assassination alone is not that shocking, however the use of polonium-210 has many people worried. The lawyer for Litvinenko’s family called his assassination as “an act of nuclear terrorism.” The Owen Report highlights links between the former KGB officer and the Russian government. The report even goes so far as to accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of sanctioning the murder.

More importantly, the modern use of chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) weapons has been discouraged through global norms. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Conventions are just two norms that have been limited the use of both chemical and nuclear weapons as tools of war. However, there has been a recent increase in the use of CBRN weapons.

Unfortunately, the use of weapons of mass destruction has been estimated to have killed thousands since 2000. One famous example of the use of CBRN weapons against civilians is the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians back in 2013. More recently, the Islamic State is believed to be using chemical weapons against government forces and civilian populations.