MIA: History: USSR: Government

To Ban Chemical Weapons

Proposals from the Soviet Union

There is a whole series of proposals regarding the content of the future Convention on the negotiating table of the Conference on Disarmament, as the Geneva Committee on Disarmament has been called since January 1, 1984. The most comprehensive and detailed proposal which covers all aspects of such a Convention is the Soviet draft Basic Provisions of a Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction. This proposal, which was submitted to the Geneva Committee on Disarmament in 1982, takes into consideration the results of the Soviet-American talks and the views of other countries.

The draft envisages the ridding of mankind completely and effectively of all types of chemical weapons. In pursuance of certain provisions included in the draft the USSR made additional proposals in the course of further talks to facilitate agreement on the prohibition and destruction of chemical weapons. In fact, the Basic Provisions complemented by these proposals form a properly thought-out programme of an effective prohibition of chemical weapons which takes into consideration the opinions of other states and serves as a basis for concluding the required Convention.

The points which arise with regard to the preparation of the future Convention may be divided into three main groups: (1) definition of the scope of the prohibition; (2) various kinds of announcements and notifications designed to strengthen confidence in the Convention's implementation; (3) verification measures.

What should be banned? The Soviet Union believes that the ban should cover all types of chemical weapons and all their components: (1) super-toxic lethal chemicals, other lethal and harmful chemicals as well as their precursors (a precursor of a chemical is a source or intermediate substance directly used for manufacturing a chemical warfare agent), except those among them which are intended for non-hostile purposes or military purposes not involving the use of chemical weapons and of types and in quantities which are consistent with such purposes; (2) munitions or devices, specifically designed to cause death or other harm through the toxic properties of the chemicals released as a result of the employment of these munitions or devices, including those of binary or multi-component filling; (3) equipment specifically designed for use directly in connection with the employment of such munitions or devices.

Thus the Soviet Union proposes the broadest and most comprehensive approach. At the same time it should be remembered that a certain amount of chemicals including the super-toxic lethal variety may be required for purposes unrelated to the use of chemical weapons (industrial, agricultural, medical, research and other peaceful purposes as well as purposes directly linked with protection from chemical weapons). The total quantity of such chemicals should be minimal and should in no case exceed one ton for each signatory state. Each state wishing to produce such chemicals should concentrate their manufacture in one specialized facility in order to ensure the most effective monitoring.

The destruction of the available stockpiles of chemical weapons must now be given top priority. The plan is to carry out this operation within the space of nine and a half years beginning six months after the Convention takes effect. In view of the excessive danger of binary weapons its stocks are earmarked for destruction within the first 18 months and the conventional chemical weapons would be destroyed in the subsequent eight years. The period required for destruction has been calculated so as to enable a participant state, before commencing destruction, to set up special facilities for such destruction (each state is to have one such facility), and prepare the procedures for destruction which would not give any unilateral military advantages to any of the participant states and would ensure that the process be carried out in unison.

As soon as the Convention takes effect the development, production and also acquisition of chemical weapons must stop. At the same time the participant states will start preparing the demolition of facilities producing chemical weapons. This process of demolition should also begin with those factories which produce binary weapons and then should proceed to other facilities. All such facilities should be destroyed (or dismantled) at the same time as the chemical weapons' stockpiles. The result should be that within ten years alter the Convention takes effect chemical weapons will have been done away with once and for all. The proposed period of time is based on purely technical considerations, since the destruction of the stockpiles and the demolition or dismantling of facilities require a certain amount of preparation, while the process itself is far from simple technically.

In addition to these basic commitments the Soviet Union proposes a ban on transferring any chemical weapons to any other state. This proposal proceeds from the premise that the transfer of chemical weapons to another signatory state could only serve the purpose of concealing them from destruction and in any case could not be justifiable in terms of the Convention's aims. As for the transfer of chemical weapons to non-participants in the Convention, such a transfer would be even more contradictory to the goal of ridding mankind of chemical weapons.

A somewhat different procedure is planned for the transfer of chemicals, including the super-toxic lethal variety, for permitted purposes. Once the parties to the Convention have undertaken totally to reject chemical weapons, the exchange of such chemicals in small quantities between the said parties for research, medical and other permitted purposes will present no danger and may be allowed. The situation with states who are not signatories to the Convention is quite a different matter. The transfer to these states of chemicals which can be used for making weapons is certainly impermissible and must be prohibited.

The USSR believes that states signatories to the Convention should also undertake not to assist, encourage or incite anybody to commit actions prohibited by the Convention, i.e., to produce and store chemical weapons, etc. This provision has a practical value in view, for example, of the help given by Western states to South Africa in its preparation for waging chemical warfare against African countries.

The scope of prohibition as proposed by the Soviet Union is supplemented by its 1983 proposal to include in the Convention a provision prohibiting the use of chemical weapons. In making this proposal the Soviet Union took into account the opinions of several other countries to the effect that despite the existence of the 1925 Geneva Protocol it would be expedient to bring together in one act of international law the various kinds of bans concerning these weapons. The Geneva Protocol would certainly not lose its validity even after the concluding of a comprehensive convention: experience shows that the universalization of international agreements takes a long time and it may well be that not all signatories to the Geneva Protocol (over 100 states) would at once join the future Convention.

Commitments in the form of notifications and announcements of various kinds should also be made by the participant states at various times while the Convention remains valid.

The Soviet Union proposes that each state party to the Convention should undertake to declare, not later than 30 days after the Convention has entered into force or the state party has acceded to it:

- its possession or non-possession of chemical weapons and capacities for their production;

- the volume of accumulated stocks of chemical weapons and capacities for their production;

- the volume of transfers to anyone of chemical weapons, technological equipment for their production and relevant technical documentation which took place after January 1, 1946;

- the presence or absence on the territory of each state party of stocks of chemical weapons and their volume, facilities for the production of chemical weapons and their capacities which are under control of, or left over by, any other state, any group of states, any organization or a private person;

- the cessation of any activity for the production of chemical weapons and the transfer to anyone of these weapons and also of technological equipment for their production and of related technical documentation.

These announcements are designed, first, to create an atmosphere of trust among the Convention participants and, second, to give them the assurance that any activity that would violate the Convention has been stopped.

Not later than six months after the Convention's coming into effect the participant states should announce their plans for the destruction or the conversion to permitted purposes of accumulated stocks of chemical weapons.

While the Convention remains valid its signatory states should periodically notify one another of the progress made in the implementation of their plans for the destruction or the conversion to permitted purposes of the available stocks of chemical weapons and also of their plans for the demolition or dismantling of facilities capable of producing such weapons.

These and certain other notifications should be sent to the Consultative Committee of states participants in the Convention to be set up within 30 days after the Convention's coming into effect for the purpose of more effectively conducting international consultations, better cooperation, exchange of information and for facilitating verification with regard to the observance of the Convention's provisions.

The USSR Maintains: Effective Monitoring Is Essential

The Soviet Union believes that the Convention should contain provisions on the effective verification of its implementation. The system of control it proposes is based on a combination of national and international measures. A national verification committee can be formed in any state party to the Convention and vested with the necessary legal authority for observing the implementation of the commitments prescribed by the Convention. Its composition, functions and methods of action are determined by the participant state itself in accordance with its constitutional norms. Provision is made for the use of national monitoring facilities. Each participant state must pledge not to create any obstacles, including deliberate camouflage measures, to prevent other participant states from using these monitoring facilities. Should questions arise regarding the implementation of the Convention provisions the participant states should undertake to consult and cooperate with one another in settling them. Should there be any suspicion that the Convention has been violated the participant states may make inquiries either bilaterally or through a consultative committee for information from the other participant state who has given cause for such suspicion. Finally, if such suspicions are not dispelled, requests may reasonably be made for an on-site inspection. The state under suspicion may decline such a request but it must offer a satisfactory justification.

In view of the fact that the destruction of the stocks of chemical weapons is the Convention's most important element the Soviet Union proposes to ensure verification of the destruction process either by means of international inspectors who would be constantly present at the specialized facility where the stocks will be destroyed or through a combination of systematic international inspections of such a facility, including the depots where chemical weapons are stored, with the use of such necessary instruments as gas chromatographers, dynamometric meters, measuring thermoelements, etc. Systematic international quota inspections are also proposed for checking the operation of any specialized facility where super-toxic lethal substances are to be produced for permitted purposes.

This is the general outline of the future Convention proposed by the Soviet Union.

Wide Support

The delegations of many states showed a great deal of interest in the Soviet proposals. They welcomed the Soviet Union's comprehensive approach to the prohibition problem and also its constructive stand on questions of monitoring which was regarded as a sign of the Soviet Union's sincere desire to have a Convention on chemical weapons concluded as soon as possible. For example, on February 17, 1983, the Egyptian delegation stated in connection with the Basic Principles put forward by the Soviet Union: "We believe that all of this constitutes a development of paramount importance which should enable the Committee to proceed in an effective manner towards the drafting of a chemical weapons Convention."

A proposal by the Soviet Union that the Convention include the prohibition of the use of chemical weapons also met with a most I a - vourable response. "The agreement expressed by the Soviet delegation to the inclusion of the prohibition of the use of chemical weapons in the provisions dealing with the scope of the future Convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons is clearly a concrete contribution of that delegation in making real progress in the work of the Working Group on Chemical Weapons," stated the Indonesian delegation on February 24, 1983. The Pakistani delegation expressed its satisfaction with regard to this step on the part of the Soviet Union and appraised it in the following way (March 3, 1983): "The significance of this policy decision will not be lost on anyone. It is our hope that other countries will give serious consideration to a general acceptance of the inclusion of the prohibition of use. It will mark the end of controversy in one important area of the Convention."

The constructive proposal of the Soviet Union on the verification of the destruction of the stocks of chemical weapons met with wide support. For example, on March 13, 1984, the Nigerian representative at the Conference on Disarmament said: "We congratulate the Soviet Union on this important 'breakthrough' which now almost sets the stage for meaningful ... negotiations which should lead to a chemical-weapons treaty in the very near future." Several Western states joined non-aligned countries in recognizing the major significance of the Soviet proposal. Thus on February 28, 1984, the delegation of the Federal Republic of Germany stated at the Conference for Disarmament: "The readiness of the Soviet Government to accept the continuous surveillance of the chemical weapons destruction process by international onsite inspection is most encouraging. The Federal Government, by the voice of its ViceChancellor and Foreign Minister, has welcomed this step in one of the most crucial areas of our negotiations where an accord is still outstanding. My delegation hopes that the Soviet proposals can swiftly be translated into concrete terms."