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The Facts —
- Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Ahmet Üzümcü announced on Wednesday that Russia had completed the destruction of its entire chemical weapons stockpile, about 44,000 US tons.
- He said in a statement:
“The completion of the verified destruction of Russia’s chemical weapons program is a major milestone in the achievement of the goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
I congratulate Russia and I commend all of their experts who were involved for their professionalism and dedication. I also express my appreciation to the States Parties that assisted the Russian Federation with its destruction program and thank the OPCW staff who verified the destruction.”
- Elisa Harris, Senior Research Associate at the Center for International & Security Studies at Maryland and former Director for Nonproliferation and Export Controls at the National Security Council, told The Whim:
“The US has destroyed nearly 90% of its stockpile of some 30,000 tons of chemical weapons, and is expected to complete destruction operations by 2023.”
The Context —
- Disarmament of chemical weapons was first actively considered in 1968, when the issue was added to the agenda of the Eighteen Nations Disarmament Committee, which later became the Geneva disarmament conference, according to OPCW.
- The Eighteen Nations Disarmament Committee, established in 1962, was comprised of a mixture of Eastern and Western Bloc countries like the USSR and the US.
- In 1975, the Biological Weapons Convention was created by the Eighteen Nations Disarmament Committee after Article IX of the Biological Weapons Convention charter effectively banned the use of chemical weapons among member States.
- In August 1987, the USSR and the US began negotiations on the disarmament of their stockpiles of chemical weapons.
- In 1990, the USSR and the US signed a bilateral agreement to stop the production of chemical weapons, reduce their current stockpiles to 20% of their original size, and to begin destroying their chemical weapons by 1992.
- Harris also told The Whim:
“I agree that the elimination of Russia’s declared stockpile of nearly 40,000 tons of chemical weapons is a major accomplishment in the history of disarmament. The US played an important role in helping jumpstart the Russian program by agreeing in the 1990s to design and construct a chemical weapons destruction facility in Schuchye, where some 2 million chemical artillery shells and 1,000 chemical missile warheads were stored. These poorly guarded munitions posed a very serious proliferation risk…
Syria’s use of chemical weapons against opposition forces makes clear that the chemical weapons threat has not been eliminated. But the disposal of the world’s largest stockpile, in Russia, will help ensure that Russian chemical weapons do not fall into the hands of other rogue states or terrorists groups.”
- President Vladimir Putin criticized the US for postponing the complete elimination of its chemical weapons, telling Russian news outlet Interfax on Wednesday:
“As you know, the biggest holders and owners of chemical weapons were just Russia and are still the United States, which unfortunately do not fulfill their obligations on the timing of the destruction of chemical weapons, already three times postpone the time for its elimination, including on the pretext of lack of the necessary amount of budgetary funds, which, frankly, sounds somehow weird…
We expect that Russia’s efforts to eliminate chemical weapons will serve as an example for other countries.”
Seamus Anderson contributed to this report.