Security Studies Program Seminar
Nonproliferation and Chemical Weapons: Challenges in Implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention
Global Green USA
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Paul Walker manages the Security and Sustainability Program for Global Green USA, the US national affiliate of Green Cross International. This international program is called the Legacy of the Cold War Program in Green Cross affiliates. He became interested in the problem of destroying chemical weapons stockpiles in 1994 when he participated in the first on-site inspection by the US of a Russian stockpile. At that time, chemical weapons stockpiles were not considered a terrorist threat.
History of Chemical weapons threats
- Chemical weapons (CW) have been used in the past:
- World War I
- Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s
- Iraq attack on Halabja in 1988
- In 1995, a terrorist group, Aum Shinrikyo, used Sarin in the Tokyo subway
- During the 1991 Gulf War, the US believed the Iraqis might use chemical weapons and reportedly destroyed many weapons during the conflict.
- Today, we face an ongoing terrorist threat of use of WMD (weapons of mass destruction)
Declared CW stockpiles
- States with declared CW stockpiles
- South Korea
- Iraq (joined the treaty about 6 months ago)
- Iraq has legacy stockpiles but no one really knows how much there is. There are some unexploded bombs in bunkers. The US sealed these bunkers during the war in 2003.
- The US has 9 stockpiles (8 states) declared since the late 1980s.
- Russia has 7 stockpiles in 5 Oblasts and the Udmurt Republic
- America keeps all the propellants and explosives with the weapons, making them harder to destroy safely and a hazard while they sit in stockpiles. The Russians store the chemical weapons separate from the explosives.
Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
- The CWC is the largest and most successful arms control treaty with 188 signatories
- Half the nations of the world signed in 1993.
- Some Senators in Congress were against CWC ratification in 1997 and wanted to save CWs as a deterrent.
- The American military saw CWs as militarily useless, dangerous, and expensive.
- Under the CWC, all stockpiles are supposed to be destroyed by 2012.
- The regime allows inspections of the commercial chemical industry
- The third five-year Review Conference of the CWC will take place in 2012.
CW Destruction in the US
- U.S. unilaterally announced it would destroy its stockpiles in the 1980s.
- Incinerator on Johnson Atoll came online in 1990.
- The US destroys about 1000 tons per year.
- 3 stockpiles have been fully destroyed.
- The US will need another 10-15 years to finish stockpile destruction.
CW destruction in Russia
- Their CW destruction began in 2002.
- They have destroyed close to 17,000 metric tons to date which includes two entire stockpiles.
- They have spent about $5 billion (including around $1 billion in funds from the US).
- They say they will finish by 2012, but expert observers indicate it may take until 2015.
Destruction programs are ongoing in other nations
- Completed its destruction program in 2007 with support from the US, Germany, and other countries.
- South Korea
- The South Koreans kept their program and destruction secret – we do not know how they got their stockpile, but it was destroyed by 2008.
- Also secretive but they have publicly discussed their stockpile which completed destruction in 2009.
- Hasn’t started destruction, but have requested extension of their deadline to 2011.
- Just declared their CWs, so they have no timeline for destruction yet.
Challenges to Stockpile Destruction Programs
- The US initially estimated it would cost about $2 billion to destroy its CW stockpile, but today is approaching $40 billion for the total
- Destruction was a low budget priority by the military until 9-11 terrorist attacks
- Russia thought it would cost $3 billion and it is now looking to be over $10 billion
- Experts originally thought the best approach would be incineration but some state governments and environmental groups have opposed this approach
3. Emergency Preparedness
- Some communities feel under-prepared for any CW accidents.
4. Community Investment and Involvement
- Green Cross has been educating the Russian public about the stockpiles and destruction processes and has helped facilitate local community development.
- Green Cross has worked with the Russian and American militaries to provide more information to communities.
- Both the Russian and American militaries have done better at talking to the local communities in the past 15 years.
- Most recently Green Cross Russia was ordered to close three of their local outreach offices by the Russian military and was told that the Russian military would now manage public outreach.
6. CWC deadlines
- No CWC State Party has met all original treaty deadlines
- US and Russia will probably miss the final 2012 deadline
- The US, Russia, and other possessor states have requested extended deadlines.
7. Congressional deadline
- Mandate to finish by 2017
- The U.S. needs to spend $400-500 million per year for construction of demilitarization facilities. The Obama Administration requested this level of funding in its FY10 budget request.
- The Cooperative Threat Reduction program needs at least $50 million per year to help the Russians, but Congress hasn’t funded it and the Administration has not requested it.
- Governments need to do better at including all stakeholders in the destruction programs.
- The seven countries outside of the CWC need to be convinced to join.
- Many nations need to address buried “non-stockpile” chemical weapons.
- Example: American University was the “Manhattan Project” of chemical weapons development after WWI. There were tests done in the northwest area of Washington DC. Before this area, “Spring Valley,” was cleaned up, houses were built. Army has very limited funds to proactively survey sites like this.
- Example: Many Japanese CWs remain buried in Manchuria
- We need to learn more about the problem of sea-dumped chemical weapons
- No one really knows the long-term health and environmental impact of these weapons. Most sea-dumped weapons are very deep, but some come up in fishing nets in shallower areas or wash up on local beaches.
Is the CWC a model for international inspection and verification?
- Almost universal
- Inspectors are on site all the time at destruction sites. Complete transparency (unlike IAEA) and equality in the inspection regime (unlike the NPT).
- Need fully funded inspection regime – US has not been timely in recent years with annual payments to the OPCW.
- Any state party can raise suspicions and the CW inspectors have right to inspect within 48 hours. This “challenge inspection” has never been requested.
Why not transport chemical weapons to one facility instead of building one at each stockpile location?
- It is true that building more destruction sites has driven up the costs.
- But, Congress prohibited transportation to centralized incinerators. Partly because the CWs are old and have explosives attached. Congress was worried about the possibility of self-ignition. As a result they worried that the military would have to evacuate areas as the weapons were transported to centralized destruction sites.
Is there evidence of a terrorist threat with CWs?
- Al Qaeda has expressed interest in using CWs
- Sarin was used in the Tokyo Subway attack, but this episode showed that dispersing these weapons is difficult
- Russian sites may remain relatively insecure but the Americans are safer since Sept 11th.
- Libya’s bulk stockpiles are a major concern.
What about suppliers groups?
- Dual-use chemicals can be sold, but some chemicals are prohibited.
- Chemical industries have to declare to the OPCW annually what they produce and what they are capable of producing. That is only fulfilled by about 50% of the industry right now. Once destruction activities have been completed, the CWC will have more resources to inspect industry.
- The chemical industry has been more cooperative than pharmaceutical industry has been on biological weapons regimes.
- If states aren’t in the treaty, they cannot import dual-use chemicals. So they have a good reason to join.
- Taiwan is not a member of the treaty, nor can they be. But, they have enormous industry that uses dual-use chemicals. They have had to put their industries in China to get legal import for some chemicals they need.
What do we know about CWs and Pakistan?
- Pakistan joined the treaty, but supposedly destroyed all of their chemical weapons before they joined. Some people are suspicious of Iran too.
Under what scenarios might CWs be used?
- A terrorist group could make a chemical weapon including Sarin or VX.
- A terrorist group might even steal a weapon in Russia. Biological weapons are harder to control and develop.
Rapporteur: Miranda Priebe
back to Wednesday Seminar Series, Fall 2009