The Nunn-Lugar Central Public Health Research Laboratory (CPHRL) continues to be a source for Russian conspiracy theories designed to create fear of the U.S. and a secret bio-weapons program on Russia's doorstep.
The U.S. and Russia both have a long history of development of deadly biological and chemical weapons and have not hesitated to experiment on humans and use biological and chemical weapons in targeted assasinations. Both countries were supposed to have abandoned such programs, but haven't. Russia has been fingered recently in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal with the nerve agent Novichok and has been trying to deflect attention from its actions by stirring up conspiracy theories about American bio-weapons.
Nunn-Lugar Central Public Health Research Laboratory
Tucked away in Tbilisi, Georgia is an American-Georgian facility currently named the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (დაავადებათა კონტროლისა და საზოგადოებრივი ჯანმრთელობის ეროვნული ცენტრი). It was formerly called the Nunn-Lugar Central Public Health Research Laboratory and is supposed to be a center for disease surveillance, reference, and research into bio-weapons.
The lab stores an extensive repository of live pathogens accumulated over the last century. So there is a high degree of security and secrecy around its operations. Because it stores highly virulent pathogens it remains a target of terrorists.
Groundbreaking for the CPHRL occurred back in 2004 and was the result of the sustained efforts of former U.S. Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who travelled to Tbilisi on numerous occasions to encourage the development of the lab. The lab was built by the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency and was not completed until 18 March 2011.
“We cannot wait for threats to come to our shores,” Lugar said. “Nunn-Lugar projects make Americans safer, day by day, by working cooperatively with nations around the globe.”
The lab’s stated mission has been to promote infectious disease detection, epidemiological surveillance, and research for the benefit of the United States, Georgia, the Caucasus region, and the global community. It is supposed to expand knowledge of the Georgian and regional infectious disease baseline, promote international scientific diplomacy, and support the mission of intergovernmental organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
But why put such a lab in Georgia when it duplicates the function of many other such facilities across Europe and in the U.S.? Surely there are countries that are more stable and less corrupt than Georgia.
Another curious aspect of the facility is the heavy involvement of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command (MRMC), which has committed to maintaining a long-term presence at the facility.
Based on Kremlin propaganda channels, the lab is actually focused on the manufacture and storage of bio-weapons that could be used to target Russia. They could be right. Even if they aren't right, the positioning of the lab so close to Russia is a provocation guaranteed to fuel speculation and conspiracy theories.