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Atlantic Storm

This training tabletop exercise is based on a fictional scenario. The inputs experts used for modeling the potential impact were fictional. It is a teaching and training resource for public health and government officials.


Decision-making during a bioterrorism crisis of the magnitude described during the Atlantic Storm exercise is not an easy task. The major public health, economic, and political stumbling blocks that proved challenging for players in the exercise would undoubtedly have an impact on the efforts of leaders attempting to coordinate an effective international response in an actual bioterrorism event.Atlantic Storm was designed to highlight the major international issues that would likely come into play and to provoke further thought, dialogue, and ultimately action to improve the transatlantic community's ability to prepare for and respond to biological terrorism. A brief description of the exercise follows.

The exercise was held in real-time using the world's current geopolitical context as a backdrop. Throughout the exercise, the summit principals received information in the format of: briefings by the "Summit Staff," periodic news videos from the "Global News Network," and personalized bulletins from their "national advisors." The exercise was designed to trigger intense discussions amongst the principals on a series of issues central to the international response to bioterrorism. While the epidemic caused by a bioterrorist attack would ultimately be a global crisis, the exercise focused on the transatlantic community since this r

egion has a high potential for a successful, collaborative bioterrorism response. It contains both closely aligned nations (NATO and the EU), and a high concentration of resources essential for an effective response. 

In the scenario, the transatlantic leaders had assembled for a long-planned "Transatlantic Security Summit" in Washington, DC. In attendance were the Presidents of the European Commission, France, and the United States, the Chancellor of Germany, the Prime Ministers of Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, and the Director-General of the World Health Organization. On January 13, the eve of the summit, smallpox cases were reported in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Turkey. The leaders decide to meet for a few hours on the 14th before heading home to deal with the emerging crisis.

During the six hour meeting, the transatlantic leaders wrestled with the enormity and rapid pace of the emerging epidemics of smallpox, the tension between domestic politics and international relations, the challenge of controlling the movement of people across borders, and an international shortage of critical medical resources such as smallpox vaccine.

The total number of reported smallpox cases rose throughout the day from 51 cases in four European countries at 9:00 am to 3,320 cases throughout Europe and North America just 4.5 hours later at 1:30 pm - with projections indicating the possibility of 660,000 cases worldwide within 30 days. Ultimately, the outbreaks were discovered to be the result of covert attacks on transportation hubs and centers of commerce in six cities: Istanbul, Rotterdam, Warsaw, Frankfurt, New York, and Los Angeles.

Throughout the day, the Summit Principals focused on a series of key issues:

  • How should nations in the transatlantic community work together to respond to this new type of security threat?
    • Is this a public health or an international security crisis, or both?
  • What is the role of multilateral organizations such as NATO, the EU, and the UN?
    • Should NATO's mutual defense clause ("Article 5") be invoked?
  • How will domestic political pressures affect the ability of leaders to work together internationally?
  • How should limited medical resources be shared among nations, when, for instance, some countries have enough vaccine to cover an entire population, but many more do not? Is sharing even possible?
    • Should the World Health Organization serve as the "honest broker" to distribute pooled stocks of vaccine and other medical resources?
  • Should leaders restrict the movement of people within their nations and across national borders? What would be the economic consequences?
  • What messages should be conveyed to the public and the media?

After deciding upon their message to the public, the Summit Principals convened a press conference with journalists from Europe and North America (played by current and former members of the international press). At the conclusion of the press conference, the exercise ended and the summit principals stepped out of their roles. To reflect on the day's events, the participants joined in a moderated discussion, led by Nik Gowing of the BBC, in which they discussed lessons learned, and what steps could be taken to resolve the dilemmas they faced throughout the day.

The organizers would like to thank the distinguished participants of Atlantic Storm who had the courage to immerse themselves in this unfamiliar and challenging scenario. We did not expect the participants to find the "right" answers. The hope was that the collective experience and wisdom of the group would illuminate the difficulties of a transatlantic response to bioterrorism and suggest possible paths forward, and in this, the Atlantic Storm players were successful.

Exercise Participants: Leaders

Players are listed alphabetically by country or organization • Read bio sketches

  • Prime Minister of Canada was played by Barbara McDougall, Advisor, Aird & Berlis; Former Foreign Minister of Canada
  • President of the European Commission was played by Erika Mann, Member of the European Parliament
  • Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany was played by Werner Hoyer, Member of the Bundestag, Foreign Policy Spokesman, FDP; Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • President of France was played by Bernard Kouchner, Member of the European Parliament; Former Minister of Health of France
  • Prime Minister of Italy was played by Stefano Silvestri, President, Instituto Affari Internazionale; Former Deputy Minister for Defense
  • Prime Minister of the Netherlands was played by Klaas de Vries, Member of House of Representatives of the States General; Former Minister of Interior of the Netherlands
  • Prime Minister of Poland was played by Jerzy Buzek, Member of the European Parliament; Former Prime Minister of Poland
  • Prime Minister of Sweden was played by Jan Eliasson, Ambassador of Sweden to the U.S.; Former Deputy Secretary of State and Former Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs at the United Nations
  • President of the United States was played by Madeleine Albright, Founder, The Albright Group, LLC; Former Secretary of State of the United States
  • Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was played by Sir Nigel Broomfield, Former Director of the Ditchley Foundation; Former Ambassador of the UK to Germany
  • Director General, World Health Organization was played by Gro Harlem Brundtland, Former Prime Minister of Norway; Former Director-General, WHO
  • Executive Secretary of the Summit was played by Eric Chevallier, Associate Professor, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris & the French Ecole Nationale d'Administration

Canada and the United States are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Sweden is a member of the European Union. Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and the United Kingdom are members of both NATO and the European Union.

Exercise Participants: Press

  • Jose Manuel Calvo, Chief Diplomatic Correspondent, El Pais; Spain
  • Marvin Kalb, Senior Fellow, The Shorenstein Center, Harvard University; United States
  • Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, Correspondent, Die Zeit (Washington); Germany
  • Corinne Lesnes, Correspondent, Le Monde (New York); France
  • Steve Monblatt, Executive Secretary, Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism; United States
  • Guido Olimpio, Corriere della Sera; Italy
  • Discussion Moderator: Nik Gowing, Main Presenter, BBC World Television; United Kingdom

Trial Run Participants

We are indebted to the following individuals who graciously gave of their time and expertise to participate in the trial run of Atlantic Storm, conducted on Monday, January 10, at the Center for Biosecurity.

  • Prime Minister of Canada was played by, Thomas Weston, Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University; Former U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission to Canada and former State Department Special Coordinator to Cyprus (Ambassador)
  • President of the European Commission was played by Richard Morningstar, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard University; Former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union
  • Chancellor, Federal Republic of Germany was played by Klaus-Peter Gottwald, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Germany
  • President of France was played by Donald Bandler, Partner, Kissinger-McLarty Associates; Vice President for Government Affairs for Monsanto; Former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Cyprus
  • Prime Minister of Italy was played by Aldo Amati, Political Counselor, Embassy of Italy, Washington, DC
  • Prime Minister of the Netherlands was played by Cynthia Schneider, Professor of Life Sciences, Georgetown University; Former U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands
  • Prime Minister of Poland was played by Stanislaw Majcherczyk, President, Foundation for Prevention of Terrorism and Biological Threats
  • Prime Minister of Sweden was played by Jesper Grönvall, Senior Analyst, Co-director Training Program, Crismart, Swedish National Defence College
  • Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was played by A.J.D. Neal, Member, UK Defence Scientific Advisory Council; High Level Expert to NATO Civil Emergency Planning Directorate
  • President of the United States was played by Jeffrey H. Smith, Partner, Arnold & Porter; Former CIA General Counsel
  • Director General, World Health Organization was played by Jacques Drucker, Counselor for Health Affairs, Embassy of France, Washington, DC
  • Executive Secretary was played by Eric Chevallier, Associate Professor, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris & l'Ecole Francais Nationale d'Administration

Center For Biosecurity Program Staff

  • Luciana Borio, MD; Senior Fellow
  • Molly D'Esopo; Communications and Publications Specialist
  • Jackie Fox; Director, Communications and Publications
  • Crystal Franco; Research Analyst
  • Mary Beth Hansen, MA; Chief Information and Administrative Officer
  • Tim Holmes; Web Communications Specialist
  • Elaine Hughes; Administrative Specialist
  • Brad Kramer; Research Analyst
  • Gigi Kwik Grönvall, PhD; Fellow
  • Andrea Lapp; Special Events Coordinator
  • Beth Maldin, MPH; Fellow
  • Jennifer Nuzzo, MS; Research Analyst
  • Ari Schuler; Research Analyst
  • Scott Stern; Research Analyst Intern
  • Eric Toner, MD; Senior Associate

Center For Transatlantic Relations Program Staff

  • Chantal de Jonge Oudraat, PhD; Senior Fellow
  • Katrien Maes, Program Coordinator
  • Jeanette Murphy, Administrative Assistant

Conference materials designed by Michael Bowers



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