Russia’s assessment of the US Department of State’s Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments

Tuesday, 24 April 2018 07:05

The United States advocates on paper for strict observance of international legal standards, including international agreements and other multilateral legally binding accords aimed at enhancing international security. The key role in this area is played by treaties and conventions on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, and relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council.

The United States loudly proclaims itself a model of commitment to international law. However, in the process it establishes its own criteria on fulfilling this or other agreement and assumes the right to judge other states’ fulfillment of their international obligations. In a rather peremptory manner, the US often ignores established practices of resolving emergent issues, or flexibly interprets them to suit US needs, taking it upon itself to accuse others of “violations” or “failure to observe” without even bothering to provide proof.

The annual report of the US Department of States, published on April 18, follows the same vicious logic and has the same failings as its predecessors. While groundlessly accusing individual countries, the authors of the report again sought to present the US as a state with an impeccable “record of service” on implementing commitments under treaties and conventions on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.

This pedantic manner of presenting facts and making allegations has become in the US a deeply-rooted tradition of justifying its claims to its “exclusive right” to sit in judgment of “culprits” and demand that they mend their ways  or face punishment.

Being committed to full and unconditional implementation of its international agreements, the Russian Federation categorically rejects the methods and means used by Washington to point its finger at those it considers guilty of violating legal agreements.

In recent years it has become increasingly plausible that the real reason the US does this is not out of a simple reluctance to engage in complicated expert dialogue to address various concerns. It is much more serious than that. Washington is afraid to be caught red handed hurling groundless accusations at other states, which are largely prompted by a desire to conceal from the international public its own numerous violations of international treaties and conventions on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.

The Foreign Ministry deems it necessary to again draw attention to these unacceptable US actions and to the indisputable facts that should facilitate an objective assessment of the real situation with said treaties and conventions and with the implementation of the relevant contractual commitments both by Russia and the United States.

 

1. Missile defence issues

 

In 2001, the United States announced its withdrawal from the ABM Treaty of 1972 and adopted a policy of unilateral and unrestrained development of its global missile defence system, thereby destroying one of the pillars of the global strategic stability system.  

Since that time, headlong efforts by the US to create a missile defence system have been having a very deleterious impact on the international security system, considerably complicating relations in the Euro-Atlantic and Asia-Pacific regions, and have become one of the most serious obstacles in the way of the continued gradual process of nuclear disarmament, contributing as they are to the emergence of dangerous conditions that could spark a new nuclear arms race.

We have repeatedly brought this issue to the attention of the United States, but there was no interest in cooperating or heeding Russia’s concerns, despite Americans’ formal acknowledgement – including in the Treaty on the Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms of 2010 – that there is direct connection between strategic offensive and defensive arms.

So far, we have not received a convincing answer to the question of who is the target of the missile defence system being deployed, given that it is costly and entirely disproportionate to any challenges that might arise. It is symbolic that the United States has shown itself unwilling to review its missile defence plans, despite the successful implementation of the agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that was reached in 2015. However, everyone remembers that at one time this was the core and essentially sole argument Washington made at the top level in favour of the deployment of a US missile defence system in Europe.

New evidence of who the American missile defence system really targets came in the form of Pentagon’s efforts to add to this system the capability of countering hypersonic weapons, given that only a limited number of countries may possess such systems in the near future.

It is necessary to understand that the missile defence systems deployed around the world are part of a dangerous global project aimed at establishing omnipresent and overwhelming US military superiority to the detriment of other countries’ security interests. Taken in its entirety, the missile defence system architecture that is being actively developed by the United States is shifting the strategic balance on offensive arms, giving rise to more and more critical risks to global stability.

The danger is that the deployment of a missile defence “umbrella” might lead to a pernicious illusion of invulnerability and impunity, thereby encouraging Washington to take further dangerous unilateral steps to achieve its global and regional goals, bypassing the UN Security Council and flying in the face of common sense, similar to what has already been done twice with respect to Syria when missile strikes were launched against this sovereign state under invented pretexts.

There is only one solution to this problem: while carrying out its missile defence plans, the United States must in deed, rather than in word, be guided by the generally accepted principle that it is unacceptable to enhance one’s own security at the expense of the security of other countries.   

 

2The Treaty between the US and the USSR on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty) 

 

Washington provides deliberately false information on its “fulfillment” of the commitments under the INF Treaty. For many years the United States has been simply ignoring Russia’s serious concerns over implementation of this treaty by the US.

For example, the US has deployed systems at its missile defence base in Romania and plans to deploy them at a similar base in Poland. They include vertical launching systems that are similar to Mk-41 shipborne universal vertical launching systems, which are capable of using attack weapons, including Tomahawk medium-range cruise missiles. There is no doubt that this is a crude violation of INF commitments. Moreover, we consider the deployment of such systems next to our borders as a direct threat to our security.  

Considering the 2017 decision of the Japanese government to purchase two Aegis Ashore systems for deployment on its territory, conditions are being created for Washington’s next violation of INF obligations – this time in the Asia-Pacific Region.

To develop its missile defence system, for over two decades the US has maintained a large-scale testing programme , involving the use of target missiles that are similar in characteristics to land-based medium and short range ballistic missiles, thereby upgrading missile systems banned by the INF.

For many years the US has been expanding the production and use of combat drones, which quite plainly fall under the INF definition of land-based cruise missiles. It should be noted that we have been drawing the attention of our American colleagues to these two violations for over 15 years but there has been no constructive response.

As for our concern over the deployment of US missile launch systems on the ground, after we first voiced it in 2014, without trying to resolve the problem, the US unleashed a public campaign of absolutely groundless accusations against Russia of violating the INF Treaty – alleging that we were producing and testing INF-banned land-based cruise missiles. Grievances against Russia were not supported by sound arguments. It took the US about four years to tell us which missile caused their alarm. At the same time the US refuses to explain how a missile that was not developed as an intermediate or short range weapon and was not tested in prohibited range could violate the INF Treaty. Yet the Americans peremptorily insist that this invented “violation” has occurred and demand that we “repent.”

We are seriously concerned that the US Congress and a number of US departments are actively using their own “facts” as an excuse not only to impose more sanctions on Russia but also to justify plans to build up US nuclear capabilities.  The updated US Nuclear Posture Review, published on February 2, makes it plain that the Pentagon’s request for new low-yield nuclear weapons (first of all, sub-launched nuclear cruise missiles) was dictated by Russia’s violations of the Treaty.

Washington is also stepping up its anti-Russia campaign in the INF context to legitimise its own arms buildup in the eyes of the public at large. It is groundlessly accusing Russia of “aggressive behaviour” to justify the growing need to take response measures. In parallel the Americans are casting Russia as an enemy to allies to make them increase their military spending and speed up militarisation. This policy is directly undermining security in Europe and the rest of the world.

 

3. US obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

 

The United States continues to claim that it honours its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. However, an alarming situation linked with Washington’s failure to honour key provisions of this Treaty has not changed so far. The United States continues to involve non-nuclear European NATO member countries in the so-called joint nuclear missions. These “missions” include nuclear planning elements and efforts to streamline the practical use of nuclear weapons involving carrier aircraft of the alliance’s non-nuclear member-countries, their crews, the infrastructure of airfields and ground-based logistics support services. All this directly violates the Treaty’s Articles I and II. Instead of curtailing this practice, Washington’s latest doctrines, including the Nuclear Posture Review, call for expanding it.

Moreover, in the past few years, the United States has launched a programme that is unprecedented in its scale to upgrade all components of its nuclear arsenal, including non-strategic nuclear weapons in other countries. Apart from announcing plans to develop new low-yield nuclear warheads, including nuclear warheads for Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles and the above-mentioned nuclear-tipped submarine-launched cruise missiles, primarily for the purpose of Russia’s regional deterrence, the United States is set to deploy in Europe new variable yield and highly accurate nuclear gravity bombs. These specifications considerably reduce the nuclear threshold.

Other provisions of the updated US nuclear doctrine increase apprehensions that Washington has decided to dust off 40-year-old concepts and once again believes in the possibility of a winnable nuclear conflict. The doctrine features numerous additional US nuclear strike options, including a preventive strike. Some of the doctrine’s nuclear escalation scenarios (on the part of the United States) a priori have no military aspects. Indicatively, the Nuclear Posture Review does not openly confirm Washington’s commitment to its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Against this backdrop, the document’s references to the absolutely groundless claims about a growing “Russian nuclear threat” being painstakingly voiced by the Americans seem particularly cynical. They have deliberately distorted the provisions of the Russian military doctrine regarding the possible use of nuclear weapons. They are insistently trying to convince the Western public that Russia is revising its concepts regarding the place and role of nuclear weapons and laying an increasing emphasis on them. These claims are a far cry from reality.

Regarding the issue of NATO’s joint nuclear missions, we would like to note once again that there is only one way to resolve this issue: all non-strategic nuclear weapons should be redeployed to the United States, and their overseas deployment should be banned. The entire infrastructure making it possible to quickly deploy these weapons should be eliminated. Naturally, any drills and exercises aiming to streamline the use of nuclear weapons by the armed forces of non-nuclear states must be renounced completely.

 

4. US obligations under the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START Treaty or NST)

 

Russia and the United States continue to implement the New START treaty they signed in 2010, to which Russia is fully committed. At the same time, we have to point out problems with its implementation by the United States. The United States, which declared on February 5, 2018 that it had reached the limits on its strategic nuclear arsenal stipulated in the treaty, did so not only by actually eliminating the armaments but also by taking actions that are unacceptable under the treaty. In particular, it has converted part of the launchers of the Trident-II SLBMs and the В-52Н heavy bombers in a way that precluded the verification of these launchers’ conversion to a state unsuited for launching SLBMs and nuclear missiles carried by heavy bombers, as stipulated in the treaty. Also, the United States has unilaterally reclassified “silo training launchers” to “training silos,” a class of weapons that is not covered by the treaty. By doing so, the United States has removed from verification under the treaty a number of strategic offensive arms comparable to the nuclear stockpiles of the UK and France taken together.

We continue to maintain dialogue with the United States based on the formats stipulated under the treaty to search for mutually acceptable solutions to the issues related to the implementation of the treaty and will continue to demand strict compliance with the treaty by the United States.

 

5. Compliance with the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA)

 

The US Department of State is deliberately misrepresenting the reasons for Russia’s decision to suspend the implementation of the PMDA despite the numerous notifications and the publication of Federal Law No. 381-FZ of October 31, 2016. There are two reasons for the suspension.

The first and most important reason is that the unilateral unfriendly actions of the United States have led to a fundamental change in circumstances compared to those existing at the time when the treaty was concluded and created a threat to strategic stability. This is the reason for the suspension of the PMDA in keeping with Article 62 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

The United States alone can remove this reason by implementing the requirements of Article 2 of the above federal law, namely:

- reduce the military infrastructure and the number of US military personnel in the countries that joined NATO after September 1, 2000 to the level that existed on the day when the PMDA came into effect;

- terminate the so-called Magnitsky Act of 2012 and the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014;

- lift all sanctions introduced by the United States against individual Russian regions, companies and individuals;

- pay a compensation for the damages Russia sustained as the result of the US sanctions, including losses from the countersanctions it had to introduce against the United States.

In addition to the above reason, which the US Department of State is so obviously ignoring, there is one more reason for the suspension of the PMDA, the plutonium disposition method, which is mentioned in the US State Department’s report. The US Department of State actually admits that the US administration tried to change the disposition method from irradiating weapons-grade plutonium in light water reactors to the dilution-burial method. The United States argues that this method is permissible under the PMDA and would allow it to begin fulfilling the goals of the PMDA more quickly.

This is not so. The plutonium disposition methods were coordinated during the preparation of the agreement, when the Russian side pointed out that the dilution-burial method would not guarantee the irreversibility of plutonium disposition, although it is cheaper and allows to start implementing the agreement earlier. However, an opportunity was stipulated for the United States to bury a certain strictly specified amount of disposition plutonium. In a protocol amending the PMDA signed in 2010, the United States pledged to utilise the disposition plutonium by irradiating it as fuel in nuclear reactors. According to that Protocol, the disposition in the referenced reactors was to begin in 2018.

Therefore, there are no provisions allowing any party to the agreement to unilaterally change the disposition method. The claim by the US Department of State that changing the disposition method would allow the United States to begin fulfilling the goals of the PMDA more quickly is devoid of meaning as well and can only indicate the inability of the United States to honour its obligations under the PMDA within the agreed timeframe.

Our US partners probed for the possibility of changing the disposition method during bilateral consultations and were duly notified of our negative attitude to this. However, we later learned from public sources that construction of the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility for the disposal of US weapons-grade plutonium cannot be completed sooner than in the 2030s and that the US administration has been trying to adopt bills changing the plutonium disposition method even though it had been notified of Russia’s disapproval of this step. Moreover, this happened when Russia practically completed the construction of its disposition facilities.

In other words, this is yet another example of US lack of responsibility in the implementation of agreements. Our American partners wait until the other side fulfils a considerable part of its obligations and then insist on changing the conditions to their benefit. This is unacceptable for us.

The Russian Federation has decided to suspend the PMDA in full compliance with the norms of international law. The US administration should realise that it is no longer possible to cooperate with other countries only in the spheres that would benefit the United States and to take measures to inflict massive damage to its partners in the other spheres.

We reaffirm our readiness to resume the PMDA but only after the US eliminates the damage done to Russian-US relations by the ill-considered US administration’s actions and after the United States resumes compliance with the agreed plutonium disposition methods.

 

6. US obligations under the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)

 

The US abandonment of intent to ratify the CTBT, something that was officially confirmed in the Nuclear Posture Review, has dealt a serious blow to the Treaty that has been signed and ratified by the overwhelming number of states, including Russia. The consistent creation by the United States of conditions for a possible resumption of nuclear tests makes us doubt that the United States will continue observing the moratorium on nuclear tests. Washington’s policy is at variance with its declared commitment to the goals of strengthening the non-proliferation regime. Moreover, the US position in this matter may serve as a guideline for other key CTBT signatories that theoretically could follow Washington’s example. This will inevitably open the way for a nuclear arms race, which the CTBT is intended to prevent.

 

7. US obligations under the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE)  

 

Given that the Department of State report again mentioned Russia’s suspension of its status as party to the CFE Treaty presenting this as a “violation” of its obligations under this Treaty, we would like to remind them the following.

The United States and its allies have repeatedly circumvented the CFE’s restrictive clauses via NATO expansion. In so doing, they in every way evaded the Russia-proposed upgrading of the conventional arms control regime in Europe (CACRE) in line with the new military and political realities. The clearest confirmation of this is their refusal to ratify the Agreement on Adaptation of the CFE Treaty.

It was only after Russia suspended the CFE that the United States and its allies started talking about the need to solve the problem related to the future fate of CACRE. But their attempts to use the dialogue on this issue as a lever of pressure have eventually led to it being frozen.

Paying lip service to their commitment to maintain, strengthen and upgrade conventional arms control, the United States and other NATO countries are in fact directing their efforts towards “containment” of Russia and further tipping the balance of forces in the European region in their favour, including in the direct vicinity of Russia’s borders. The US attempts to “flexibly” interpret the Russia-NATO Founding Act clauses on “substantial combat forces”, accompanied by a build-up of heavy weapons and military equipment in line units and at European forward-based storage facilities are in fact a case of dangerous balancing on the verge of violating this important document.

Considering all these circumstances, it is impracticable to go back to the subject of implementing the hopelessly outdated CFE Treaty.

As for the prospects for developing a new CACRE based on the principles of equal and indivisible security and parties’ balanced rights and obligations, they should be regarded in the context of NATO renouncing military “containment” of Russia in Europe and normalising relations with the Russian Federation, including in the military cooperation area.

 

8. US obligations under the 2011 Vienna Document on Confidence- And Security-Building Measures (VD11)

 

It is with regret that we must note that the US assessments of the parties’ compliance with their obligations under VD11 repeat accusations of Russia’s allegedly “selective implementation of certain provisions of VD11 and the resultant loss of transparency.”

The US complaints regarding VD11 are limited to statements of US concerns regarding “Russia’s implementation of VD11, including with respect to Ukraine” since 2014.

While accusing Russia without any grounds of “arming, training, and fighting alongside anti-government forces in eastern Ukraine,” the US and other NATO countries have seriously discredited the role of VD11 as an instrument of objective monitoring of the OSCE member states’ military activities. In this context, we must inform our American colleagues again that the Russian Federation is not a party to the internal conflict in Ukraine.

As for the continued accusations of “occupying” and “annexing” Crimea and deploying troops there without the permission of the receiving state in the context of compliance with VD11 and the CFE Treaty, the reunification of the Crimean Peninsula with Russia is the result of Crimeans’ free expression of will. The current status of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol as constituent entities of the Russian Federation is not subject to revision. Consequently, Russia is free to deploy troops and military equipment on its national territory, and any attempt to enter Crimea as part of inspection teams sent to Ukraine will fail and will be regarded as a provocation. Of course, Russia is ready to allow inspectors, observers and evaluation groups to enter Crimea if requests for such visits are filed as stipulated in VD11.

Incidentally, Kiev has not fulfilled its obligations under VD11 with regard to its military activities in Donbass, but the US State Department report does not mention this.

As for concerns about our failure to provide information on the Russian military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, these sovereign states are not party to the OSCE and hence are not included in the zone of application for CSBMs as defined in VD11. The US experts who prepared this part of the State Department’s report clearly have exhaustive information about it. They surely know that Russia provides this information under a different OSCE document, namely, the Global Exchange of Military Information.

In 2017, just as before, Russia voluntarily sent numerous notifications to the OSCE member states, including the US, with detailed information about the parameters of snap inspections and also major military exercises whose numbers were below VD11 thresholds, such as the Joint Russian-Belarusian Strategic Exercise Zapad 2017 and the Command Staff Exercise involving units of the 49th Joint Forces Army.

As for the basic Russian weapons and military equipment mentioned in the report, we would like to say that the BRM-1K armoured combat vehicle is not included in any class of equipment that must be reported under VD11 due to its specifications, and the Su-30SM multirole fighter and the Ka-52 attack helicopter have not yet entered service.

Regrettably, this US report again fails to mention numerous problems with VD11 implementation by the United States and its allies.

In particular, some participating states (Denmark and Spain) continue to neglect to notify the other VD11 countries 42 days in advance of the start of notifiable military activities (exercises).

Furthermore, some countries’ notifications do not contain information that is required for comprehensive planning of inspections during such exercises.

For example, a group of Russian inspectors working in a designated area in the UK between April 3 and 6, 2017 were unable to monitor Exercise Joint Warrior 17-1, which the UK hosted, because the notification did not provide any geographical description or coordinates of the area where the exercise was to be held. Instead, the notification included all the testing ranges and individual populated areas in the UK. The same happened during an inspection in Belgium between October 23 and 26, 2017.

During an inspection of the designated area in Latvia between November 7 and 10, 2017, the inspectors’ access to the range where an Estonian battalion was conducting live fire training was restricted “for safety reasons.” As a result, the inspectors could not properly assess the scale of military activities in that area.

Some countries, such as Poland, Slovakia, Romania, the UK and Belgium, prevented Russian inspectors who entered their territory on evaluation visits from counting the main weapons and military equipment at their military facilities.

 

9. US obligations under the Treaty on Open Skies (OST)

 

It is not the first time that the US side reproduces a set of trite accusations to the effect that Russia allegedly fails to comply with the OST. We have repeatedly provided exhaustive replies to these grievances both at the Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC) and in our comments on earlier State Department reports.

Thus, we have to reiterate that a sublimit of 500 kilometres over the Kaliningrad Region has been imposed and enforced in keeping with OST clauses and the OSCC’s decisions. This arrangement provides for the same efficiency of observation as in the case of flights over the rest of the Russian Federation and the territories of contiguous states (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia).

Incidentally, given the existing observation flight distances, the United States can photograph 77 per cent of the Kaliningrad Region and other OST party states can photograph 96 per cent. To compare, a Russian aircraft can photograph only 3 per cent of Alaska during one observation flight over this exclave. Thus, observation efficiency in the Kaliningrad Region is 30 times higher than in Alaska.

Restrictions on OST flights in a 10-kilometre corridor along Russia’s border with the independent states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have been imposed under the Treaty that prohibits flights within ten kilometres of a border with a non-party state.

Regrettably, the State Department report fails to mention the problems the United States itself has observing the OST.

First, in 2017, it cancelled overnight accommodation for observation aircraft crews at Robins and Ellsworth AFB refuelling airfields, which is a breach of the observation party’s right to perform best-range observation flights with regard for the maximum crew load. And this has much to do with flight safety.

Second, Russia has displayed a serious attitude to working in a Small Group format and insisted on a “package solution” meeting the interests of both the United States and other party states, including Russia. After we offered our principled assessment of the lopsided US proposal, the US representatives chose to cease cooperation in this format.

Third, contrary to the OST provisions, the Americans put forward a demand on observation flight planning at the Travis point of entry, which is at variance with Article VI of the Treaty, under which the observing party submits to the observed party a mission plan after arrival at the Open Skies airfield, whereas Travis is not such an airfield.

Fourth, in violation of the Treaty, the United States has imposed the maximum distance for flights over the Hawaii Islands from the Hickam refuelling airfield. At the same time, the maximum distance for flights is established only for Open Skies airfields and calculated in accordance with certain rules. For this reason, the 900-kilometre distance over this part of US territory is clearly inadequate and should be at least 1,160 kilometres.

Fifth, the United States has imposed restrictions for observation flights over the Aleutian Islands, under which the aircraft of the observing party should always remain within the external boundary of the adjacent zone extending for 24 nautical miles from the coast. This restriction, which the Treaty does not stipulate, considerably reduces observation flight efficiency. 

 

10. The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BWC)

 

The United States is again basing its claims against Russia on conjecture about alleged connections between Soviet military biological programmes and Russia's peaceful research in the field of microbiology. Russia once again notes the groundless nature of such conjecture and that all issues related to biological research in the Soviet Union relating to the BWC have long since been completely resolved. We view such US speculation as an attempt to divert the attention of the international community from their own unseemly activities in a sensitive sphere like biology.

We must again point out the incident in which anthrax spores were mailed from Salomon laboratory in the US state of Utah, which almost led to a disaster in the countries where this deadly cargo was shipped.

We are increasingly concerned about the activities of the Pentagon as it continues to deploy its biomedical laboratories in various parts of the world, including in the immediate vicinity of Russia’s borders. The Richard Lugar Centre for Public Health Research which is a high-level laboratory of biological isolation located in the suburbs of Tbilisi is the most indicative example in this regard. It is home to a medical research division of the US Army, which is a branch of the US Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. As is known, this military unit of the US Army engages in studying particularly dangerous infectious diseases. The US and Georgian authorities are making efforts to conceal the true content and focus of the projects being implemented in the suburbs of Tbilisi. The Pentagon is trying to introduce the same camouflaged military medical and biological facilities in other CIS states.

Given that the United States has not yet withdrawn its reservation to the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which prohibits the use of bacteriological weapons, the question of the true goals of such military biological activity of the United States in the post-Soviet space is quite justifiable.

Our concerns are further exacerbated by the interpretation of the BWC provisions presented in the current US report whereby the Convention, while prohibiting the development of biological weapons, allegedly does not cover research in this area. It appears that while developing large-scale biomedical activities, the United States is using such an interpretation of the provisions of the Convention for its purposes which clearly contradict the BWC.

We urge the United States to be as responsible as Russia in fulfilling its obligations under the BWC, to take steps to address the above concerns, and to strengthen this disarmament instrument, which is important for international security.

 

11. The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)

 

For the past years, the US Department of State invariably put in question Russia’s declarations under Article III of the CWC and consequently the competence and well-deserved respect for the OPCW as the most efficient and successful international organisation concerned with disarmament and WMD non-proliferation. Unlike Washington, the OPCW has no complaints about Russia.

This year again, the United States has openly accused Russia of violating Article I of the CWC based on the unsubstantiated and completely groundless allegations of Russia’s involvement in the poisoning with a nerve agent of Russian citizens Sergey and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, UK. We repeatedly made known our position on this issue.

It should be said, however, that it is the United States and not Russia that is the only CWC country to own a substantial chemical weapons arsenal. Moreover, inventions involving the use of chemical weapons, including nerve agents, have been patented in the United States, as we know from public sources. Overall, some 140 patents for the use of such agents have been issued in the United States.

The missile strike delivered by the United States with support from Britain and France on civilian and government facilities in Syria on April 14, in response to the alleged Syrian government chemical attack on Douma, a suburb of Damascus, on April 7, was a flagrant violation of international law and hence the CWC. The strike was delivered at the time when OPCW inspectors were about to depart for Douma to investigate the alleged chemical attack. There are grounds to believe that the missile strike was designed to prevent the OPCW inspectors from conducting an objective investigation.

Washington has not yet provided any evidence to confirm its last year’s claim that chemical weapons were stored at the Shayrat Airbase in Syria, from which the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, Syria, was allegedly delivered. In other words, Washington acted in violation of international law, as well as the CWC, when it did not invoke its right to request an OPCW challenge inspection under Article IX of the CWC. Moreover, the Americans and their allies blocked the adoption of the OPCW Executive Council decision on immediate steps to conduct a thorough and objective inspection at the site of the alleged chemical incident in Khan Sheikhoun and an obligatory OPCW inspection of the Shayrat Airbase.

The United States is not honouring its own obligations under the CWC to declare whether it has abandoned chemical weapons on the territory of other states. In particular, Washington has not admitted its ownership of phosgene bombs in Panama despite the fact that experts from the OPCW Technical Secretariat confirmed beyond any doubt the US origin of these weapons back in 2002. The United States simply shifted the responsibility for the destruction of these weapons onto the Panamanian authorities.

The US origin of a considerable amount of chemical weapons discovered in Cambodia in 2012 was confirmed by a special OPCW commission. In essence, the United States refused to do anything to resolve that problem. The Cambodian authorities provided detailed documented information regarding these US weapons to the OPCW Technical Secretariat for assisting in their destruction.

The United States should assume a more responsible attitude to the use of chemical weapons by non-state agents in the Middle East. For this purpose, the United States should act within the framework of its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions 2118, 2209 and 2235, and should forward to the UN Security Council the information US military personnel collected in 2015 and 2016 at the scenes of the crime involving chemical weapons, which ISIS and other terrorist groups committed in Iraqi Kurdistan.

According to information published by The New York Times in 2014 and later confirmed officially, the US Department of Defence found or bought from the local population some 5,000 chemical weapons, which had been manufactured in the Saddam Hussein years, during the occupation of Iraq by the coalition forces in 2003−2009. Acting in violation of the CWC provisions, the United States did not notify the OPCW about its actions regarding these weapons but destroyed them in Iraq without proper verification and using a method that was unsafe for people and the environment, that is, by detonating them in open air. Some US servicemen and Iraqi civilians have been exposed to these chemical warfare agents.

The numerous Russian requests under paragraph 1 of Article IX of the CWC for access to the related archive materials held by the OPCW Technical Secretariat were left unanswered.

It should also be said that the ratification documents on the US accession to the CWC approved by US Congress included several conditions that added a contradictory element to the implementation of Washington’s obligations under the CWC. In particular, the US president and administration are obliged to act contrary to the Convention in case of need, for example, prohibit the transfer of any sample collected in the United States pursuant to the Convention for analysis to any laboratory outside the territory of the United States; restrict the possibility of OPCW experts conducting challenge inspections in the United States at the request of other states; take no measure, and prescribe no rule or regulation, which would alter or eliminate Executive Order 11850 of April 8, 1975, according to which the US president may permit the use by the US Armed Forces of any riot control agents and chemical herbicides in war, which is prohibited by Article I of the CWC.

The United States’ reservation to the 1925 Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare allows it to maintain a lethal and incapacitating chemical weapons capability for deterrence and possible retaliatory purposes, contrary to Article I of the CWC.

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