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Arms Control:

Chemical Weapons Convention

This special collection presents the Bulletin's coverage of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). This treaty prohibits the production and use of chemical weapons and requires that states destroy their chemical weapons stockpiles. The novelty of the treaty is its verification provisions, which allow teams of international experts to inspect military and industrial sites. The CWC is widely considered to have the most intrusive verification regime in the history of modern arms control.

Although it supports a ban on chemical weapons, the U.S. government is divided on the treaty. In May of 1998, the Senate approved legislation that would restrict international inspections of chemical sites in the United States -- limiting both the number of inspections that can be conducted in the country each year and the locations where samples can be collected. The legislation would also allow the president to prohibit surprise inspections on grounds of national security. The Clinton administration has endorsed this legislation, even though during the negotiation phase it pressed hard for surprise inspections. It argues that the Senate's passage of a watered-down version of the treaty is a far better outcome than continued stalemate, which will simply further delay the treaty's implementation. Critics of U.S. policy argue that the Senate's action effectively kills the treaty, opening the door for others, including states that may be actively involved in the production of chemical weapons, to keep their activities in this area secret. Indeed, several states have indicated that should the U.S. limit on-site inspections, they will likely follow suit.

Russia, which has the world's largest stockpile of chemical weapons, has signed the treaty, and in November of 1997 the Russian Duma, or lower house of Parliament, which has yet to act on the START II treaty, overwhelmingly ratified the CWC. Countries that are widely believed to have chemical weapons, such as Iraq, Syria, and Libya, have refused to sign the treaty.

Chemical Weapons: The end of the beginning. By Amy E. Smithson. October 1992.

After a negotiating marathon of more than three decades, the chemical weapons treaty is finally ready for a vote.

Chemical Treaty Deserves Ratification. By Barry Kellman and Edward Tanzman. January/February 1997.

No one's constitutional rights are going to be violated by the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Treaty Tactics. By John Isaacs. July/August 1997.

In December, the administration went to battle over Senate ratification of Chemical Weapons Convention; an update here.

A Sea of Trouble. By Ron Chepesiuk. September/October 1997.

In need of some background information on chemical weapons? This article contains information about sea-dumped chemical weapons... More than 200,000 tons of chemical weapons have been dumped in the sea. Are they a non-problem or a ticking time bomb? No one really knows.

A Chemical Weapons Atlas. By E.J. Hogendoorn. September/October 1997

When US intelligence agencies "name names," they finger "rogue nations" only. But many other countries--friend and foe alike--may have stockpiles of chemical weapons, too.

Chemical Treaty Emasculated. By Amy E. Smithson. July/August 1998.