MIA: History: USSR: Government

To Ban Chemical Weapons

Who Is For and Who Is Against the Banning of Nuclear Weapons

Mankind has long been familiar with chemical weapons. They were first used on a large scale during the First World War.

The particularly dangerous nature of these weapons of mass destruction forced the nations to conclude in 1925 the Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare.

The signing of the Protocol lessened but did not remove altogether the danger of chemical weapons. Though the use of such weapons is prohibited, its stockpiles continue to grow in capitalist countries and improvements are being made on the weapons themselves. A report, published in 1969, from the UN Secretary General on chemical and bacteriological weapons and the consequences of their possible use says in part: "The particular threat posed by chemical weapons today derives from the existence of new, and far more toxic, chemical compounds than were known fifty years ago."

After the Second World War the question of the prohibition of chemical weapons was raised on the initiative of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries which submitted in 1969 for consideration by the 24th Session of the UN General Assembly a joint draft convention to prohibit the development, production and stockpiling of chemical and bacteriological we and to destroy their existing stockpiles. However, the simultaneous prohibition of chemical and bacteriological weapons proved impossible because of the negative attitude adopted by the United States and some other Western countries.

Some progress was made, however, when the Soviet Union and other socialist countries agreed to tackle the problem stage by stage and proposed as the first step the banning of bacteriological and toxin weapons.

After an appropriate convention was signed the question of applying similar measures to chemical weapons came up again, especially since Article IX of the convention included a commitment by the signatory states to continue negotiations on chemical weapons.

In March 1972, the socialist member-countries of the Committee on Disarmament had submitted for its consideration a draft Convention on the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of chemical weapons and on their destruction.

The United States and other Western powers, which even then were attaching great importance to chemical weapons in their military programmes, continued to oppose their prohibition. The American side made pronouncements to the effect that the question of prohibiting the most dangerous, lethal chemical substances could be considered after all, while the prohibition of all types of chemical weapons was an unrealistic proposition.

In an attempt to find a way out of the deadlock at the summit meeting in July 1974, the Soviet Union agreed to consider together with the United States the question of submitting to the Committee on Disarmament a joint proposal on concluding as the first step an international convention concerning the most dangerous, lethal chemical weapons.

Although the United States had agreed to draft a joint proposal it was in no hurry to implement the accord. For two years the Soviet Union made persistent efforts to begin as quickly as possible the drafting o the joint proposal until eventually the United States agreed to start negotiations. The United States was under pressure to do so at various forums, first of all at the UN General Assembly and the Committee on Disarmament, where spokesmen from many states voiced their concern that the Soviet-American initiative be speedily implemented.

The Soviet-US talks on banning nuclear weapons continued from 1976 to 1980 when they were disrupted by the American side. "Since then we have returned to this matter on many occasions, specifying our proposals and making them more detailed," Konstantin Chernenko said in his replies to questions by a Pravda correspondent on April 9, 1984. "But all these years the United States has impeded the conclusion of a convention on the total prohibition o chemical weapons. It has simply engaged in obstruction."

After the bilateral talks had been broken off the draft of a Convention on the banning and destruction of chemical weapons was being worked out by the Committee on Disarmament. The discussion on the prohibition o chemical weapons also continued at the UN General Assembly, both at its two special sessions devoted to disarmament (1978 and 1982) and at each of the regular sessions. At all of these forums the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, supported by many nonaligned states, did all they could so that a convention on the banning and destruction of chemical weapons could be drawn up and concluded as soon as possible.