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Countering CBRN At Home and Abroad

23 September 2020, 9:00 to 16:30
This Virtual Conference saw speakers from academia, the military, security organisations, and allies discuss the interaction and cross-dependencies between military and civillian agencies in tackling CBRN threats both above and below the threshold of high intensity warfare.


The use of Chemical Weapons is a war crime. Yet chemical weapons have been used widely during the Syrian conflict, including the use of nerve agents, while in 2018 Russia conducted a nerve agent attack on British soil. Although there has not yet been a shift in norms regarding the employment of biological weapons, the extent of the damage resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic is a chilling reminder of the potential of such capabilities. Ensuring resilience for the military and society requires preparedness.

While Britain and NATO maintains enclaves of exceptional expertise on countering chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear attacks, the belief that the use of such weapons is beyond the pale has arguably led awareness of the threat, and the implications of dealing with a CBRN incident, to wither. Furthermore the absence of widespread expertise makes responding at scale a challenge.

This conference - organised by RUSI in partnership with the Institution of Royal Engineers and Royal Engineers Historical Society - provided an opportunity to examine the new norms of CBRN use, their implications in the future operating environment for both military and civilian organisations, and to think about how the UK can ensure deterrence, and demonstrate its resilience, in a new era of great power competition.

Speakers Included:

  • Lord Sedwill KCMG, Former UK Cabinet Secretary and National Security Advisor
  • Lieutenant General Tyrone Urch CBE, Commander Home Command
  • Professor Gary Sheffield, Professor of War Studies, University of Wolverhampton
  • Colonel Hamish de Bretton Gordon, author of Chemical Warrior: Saving Lives on the Frontline of Modern Warfare
  • Colonel Klaus Werner Schiff, Commander of German CBRN Troops
  • Lieutenant Colonel David Robbins, CO 28 Eng Regt, British Army
  • Dr Amy Smithson, Senior Fellow, Monterey Institute for International Studies
  • Rebecca Hersman, Director of the Project on Nuclear Issues, CSIS
  • Dan Kaszeta, Author of Toxic: A History of Nerve Agents from Hitler’s Germany to Putin’s Russia
  • Nick Waters, Bellingcat

Others to be announced in due course.

In light of the ongoing threat posed by Covid-19 this conference will be held virtually. Those who register will have access to the sessions online, will be able to engage in the Q&A, and chat. The cost of registration is £20 +VAT.

Open to All

Conference Manager

Sabrina Downey
Director, Projects and Events
+44 (0)20 7747 2622

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