This was initally written as a Twitter thread, but it is worth expounding on further, and also requires a greater understanding of the role of Russian actions in the global economy and global security.
12/30/2020 FireEye, a cybersecurity company, discovered that Russia had hacked into both business and government systems using a Trojan horse in a SolarWinds software update. “Among those who use SolarWinds software are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State Department, the Justice Department, parts of the Pentagon and a number of utility companies.” Of course, these activities predated this for a very long time, which has been a part of the division in the US today.
If this isn’t bad enough, Russia has a history of hacking into power grids to shut them down, including a successful attack bringing down the power for 230,000 people in 2015, which should serve as a warning of potential future attacks. It’s also worth noting that this recent attack was by Sandworm, a part of the Russian GRU, more formally known as the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. This is the same group behind the US cyberattack discovered in 2020.
Energy is a vulnerability for a number of countries given that Russia is the third largest exporter of crude oil and the second largest producer of natural gas. The EU gets 38% of their natural gas from Russia. This can pose a particularly large problem this winter. If Russia has achieved a method to either disrupt energy though cutting off supply or directly disabling power, that could lead to some deadly consequences in the colder months.
More current Russian actions and statements also suggest that Russia is taking a threatening stance toward countries supporting Ukraine through military aid or economic sanctions against Russia.
2/23/2022 The Russian Foreign Ministry states “There should be no doubt – sanctions will be met with a strong response, not necessarily symmetrical, but measured and sensitive for the US side.”
3/5/2022 Putin described the sanctions placed on Russia in response to the Ukraine invasion as “declaring war.”
The monkeypox pandemic is thought to have started at a pride festival in the Canary Islands. This may not seem significant, but Putin has taken a very anti-LGBT stance, signing a “Gay Propaganda” law on June 11, 2013, which has led to further hostility toward minority groups. The pride festival then becomes an ideal vehicle to use the LGBT community both as a scapegoat for a pandemic but also as a means to spread it primarily to the West (most countries of the European Union as well as the U.K., Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand). The timing of this during the war in Ukraine is notable, potentially as a diversion from the war crimes committed by Russia.
This table was created on 6/27/2022. It is the WHO list of countries with unusual cases of monkeypox this year (those that don’t have endemic disease). It is also notable how many of these countries belong to NATO (yellow) and the highest case counts are all among NATO countries. Finland and Sweden applied to join on 5/18. A few others are a part of the NATO Partnership for Peace (blue). What remains looks like spillover cases.
6/22/2022 Putin has pushed for more trade through BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) countries, all notably free of monkeypox cases. He states “At the same time more and more politically motivated sanctions are continuously introduced, mechanisms of exerting pressure on competitors are further strengthened. There is intentional destruction of cooperation ties; transport and logistics chains are destroyed. And all this is contrary to common sense and basic economic logic, it undermines business interests on a global scale, negatively affecting the wellbeing of people, in effect, of all countries.
As a result, the problems in the world economy become recurrent. What we see is an economic slowdown, growing unemployment, shortages in raw materials and components. Problems with ensuring global food security are getting worse; prices for grain crops and other basic agricultural products are being inflated…Together with BRICS partners, we are developing reliable alternative mechanisms for international settlements.”
Of course, the question remains as to why someone would intentionally launch a monkeypox attack, since that could easily spread to one’s own country. That would take some very unstable thinking, or would it?
What could be the purpose of such an attack? That takes a little more history. The USSR had a massive bioweapons program called Biopreparat. The deputy director defected to the US in 1992. His book has a great deal of information about their program.
“In the 1970s, smallpox was considered so important to our biological arsenal that the Soviet military command issued an order to maintain an annual stockpile of twenty tons.” Smallpox vaccines “must be administered before the first symptoms appear. The smallpox weapons we developed sharply reduced this comfort period. When we exposed monkeys to an aerosol of the highly virulent India-1, they contracted smallpox within one to five days.”
“In December 1987, three months after I arrived in Moscow, Kalinin presented me with my first big assignment: I was to supervise plans to create a new smallpox weapon…Considering that outsiders might be suspicious if they saw hundreds of people with the distinctive marks of flesh smallpox inoculations on their arms years after the Soviet Union had discontinued all immunization, we decided, after some deliberation, to issue a directive that workers be inoculated on their buttocks.”
“We calculated that the production line in the newly constructed Building 15 at Koltsovo was capable of manufacturing between eighty and one hundred tons of smallpox a year. Parallel to this, a group of arrogant young scientists at Vector were developing genetically altered strains of smallpox.”
To put tons of virus into context, “Fewer than five viral particles of smallpox were sufficient to infect 50 percent of the animals exposed to aerosols in our testing labs.” Nobody knows where all the manufactured smallpox went after the breakup of the USSR. Think of train tanker cars full.
In 2003, I arranged for the hospital I worked at to be one of 15 study sites across the US around vesicular pustular rashes for the CDC, which eventually led to an algorithm to assess smallpox risk. The concern was misdiagnosis leading to delays causing potential further spread.
The most puzzling piece is that the first case was on 5/6/2022 . On 5/20/2022 there were only 93 known cases outside of Africa, but Russia had already been vaccinating healthcare workers with smallpox vaccine, even with no monkeypox cases in the country. Mass vaccination programs require a lead time to ramp up. How did they know what was developing and how did they implement this so quickly? Why would researchers at VECTOR publish a study in 2019 titled “We should be prepared to smallpox re-emergence“?
Smallpox vaccination leaves a scar about the size of a nickel on the arm or leg after using a two-pronged needle dipped in vaccine and pressed into the skin 15 times.
Russia has one of the highest vaccine hesitancy rates in the world. This is also very evident in the lack of uptake of the Sputnik V vaccine that was developed by Russia.
How does one hide that they are vaccinating their population against a disease that isn’t present in the wild? One might combine it as an oral vaccine against both smallpox and Hep B, but tell the population that they are only getting Hep B vaccine as to stop rumors that this is being done. If one has been surreptitiously vaccinating their population against smallpox, then releasing monkeypox or smallpox as a biological weapon makes sense in a very weird, twisted way if one is willing to suppress the press and dissention.
Putin has stated “Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and co-patriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself.” It’s pretty clear his goal is to rebuild the Soviet Union. One way to accomplish that goal would be to undermine the abilities of his perceived enemies through traditional warfare, economic warfare, or biological warfare. Russia has been known to pose a smallpox threat to the world for a long time.
A monkeypox attack would be an ideal way to delay early detection of a smallpox attack, allowing further spread of this horrible, eradicated disease with a mortality rate of 30%. Who knows what that could be if it were weaponized.