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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 17, July - August 1997

CWC Developments

Russian Plans and Concerns

Following the entry-into-force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) on 29 April 1997, much attention has been focused on the prospects of Russian ratification. The US ratified the Treaty shortly before the entry-into-force deadline, but the Duma remains reluctant to follow the lead of the Senate, not least because of the high cost involved in destroying Russia's vast chemical weapons (CW) stockpile, estimated at 40,000 tons of CW agents. Reports in early July put this cost at around $5 billion. On 20 June, General Stanislav Petrov, head of Atomic, Chemical and Biological Defences, suggested that major Western States "are not hurrying to provide Russia with financial help."

On 6 July, a member of the Duma's Defence Committee, Albert Makhashov, made clear that there were other considerations involved, potentially more problematic:

"Before resuming the debate, Parliament will demand from the Government clear answers as to how Russia's joining the Convention would affect overall national defence, especially with NATO's eastward expansion."

According to Makhashov, the debate on ratification is unlikely to take place before the Autumn.

On 23 June, in an interview with Asian News International, India's Prime Minister, Kumar Gujral said: "I am given to understand that Russia has assured other major partners...that they will do so [ratify the treaty] by September... The informal information given to us was that possibly they are putting in place the technology and methodology for destruction because you have to do it gradually."

India Makes Detailed Declaration

On 26 June, India released a detailed inventory of its chemical weapons stocks and facilities. The declaration, mandated by the terms of the CWC, was accompanied by a statement clearly seeking to reassure those worried that India's ratification, in the absence of Pakistan's, had left the State exposed. The statement read:

"Adequate safeguards are in place for giving primacy to our national security interests. Should a situation threatening our national security arise, our response will not be found wanting and our compliance with the CWC will not in any way compromise the security of our country."

Speaking in Parliament on 6 August, Prime Minister Gujral sought to provide similar reassurance, arguing:

"We can manufacture them [chemical weapons] and this by itself is a deterrent. Moreover, the destruction of the chemical weapons under the convention would be gradual and we can have a second look at it." Indian officials also expressed confidence that Pakistan would shortly complete its ratification process.

Other Developments

The Executive Council of the CWC's implementing authority, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), met for its third session at the organisation's headquarters in The Hague from 28 July-1 August. Details of progress in conducting inspections since entry-into-force were given in a press release, showing that 30 inspections took place in June, with 35 inspections planned for August.

On 19 June, the US announced the go-ahead for a major component in its $12.4 billion CW-destruction plan. An incinerator costing $575 million will be constructed at Anniston Army base in Alabama. The facility is expected to destroy 661,000 weapons containing nerve gas and mustard gas agents. According to reports, this sum constitutes only 7% of the total US stockpile. Four other incinerator plants are planned, at Pine Bluff (Arkansas), Umatilla (Oregon), the Blue Grass Depot (Kentucky) and Pueblo (Colorado). The projectiles are scheduled to be removed to Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada for disassembly and destruction. This process was reportedly scheduled to commence before the end of August.

Reports: Alabama OKs weapons incinerator, AP Online National News Wire, 19 June; Russia needs $5b to destroy chemical weapons, Reuters World Service, 20 June; Scrapping chemical weapons to cost Russia over five billion dollars, Agence France-Presse International News, 20 June; Russia, Pakistan may ratify chemical pact - India, Reuters World Service, 23 June; India declares chemical weapons, The Hindu, 26 June; India says chemical arsenal revelations won't hit security, Agence France-Presse International News, 26 June; India puts its chemical weapons on the table, Asia Times, 4 July; Russia - no ratification of chemical weapons ban before Autumn, Inter Press Service International News, 7 July; India can walk out of chemical arms pact - PM, The Hindu, 7 August; Army to destroy binary weapons, Defense Cleanup, 8 August; OPCW to inspect 35 places in August, Xinhua English Language News Service, 11 August.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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