Foreign and Defense Policy, Europe and Russia

Potemkin disarmament: If Russia won’t comply with the convention, why would Syria?

Image Credit: shutterstock

Image Credit: shutterstock

So Russia is coming to President Obama’s rescue with a plan to secure Syria’s disarmament and compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.

One problem with that: Russia is not in compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.

As Senator Jim Risch (R-ID), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, pointed out on Twitter:

According to our own State Department, Russia isn’t living up to its own Chemical Weapons obligations. How can we trust them with Syria’s?

Risch is right. Here is the State Department’s report on Russia’s compliance with the CWC:



The United States is unable to ascertain whether Russia has met its obligations for declaration of its CWPFs [Chemical Weapons Production Facilities], CW development facilities, and CW stockpiles, and whether Russia is complying with the CWC-established criteria for destruction and verification of its CW, although we have ascertained that Russia is now destroying CW agent hydrolysis reaction masses at its operating CWDFs.


[I]n March 2006, the OPCW established December 31, 2009, as the deadline for Russia to destroy 45 percent of its CW stocks with the final deadline remaining April 29, 2012. Russia met the 45 percent deadline and as of October 2010, Russia had destroyed 48.46 percent of its Category 1 stockpile. In 2010, Russia announced that it would not meet the April 29, 2012, deadline for 100 percent Category 1 CW destruction and that destruction activities would continue through 2015.

The Russian CW Stockpile. The United States assesses that Russia’s CWC declaration is incomplete with respect to chemical agent and weapons stockpiles.
Undeclared CWPFs and CW-Capable Facilities. The United States notes that there are additional facilities that Russia may have been required to declare as CWPFs. The United States continues to seek clarification of reports about mobilization capabilities at declared and non-declared facilities.

Russian CW Development Facilities. The United States does not share the Russian view that development facilities, including CW testing facilities, should not be declared because of the Russian interpretation of the CWC “primarily for” criterion in Article III of the CWC….

Compliance Discussions: The United States has engaged in numerous exchanges with Russia regarding a number of compliance issues in 2002, 2003, and 2006, during which the United States discussed the accuracy of Russia’s CWC declaration.
In 2006 and again in 2010 the United States reiterated its proposal to hold expert-level consultations, but, as of July 2010, Russia had not yet agreed to renew such consultations.


Russia has completed destruction of those CWPFs scheduled for destruction, but has not met the CWPF conversion deadline. In the absence of additional information from Russia, the United States is unable to ascertain whether Russia has declared all of its CW stockpile, all CWPFs, and all of its CW development facilities. Russia is destroying in a second step, reaction masses resulting from hydrolysis of the CW agents at its operating CWDFs.

So if Russia is not being transparent about its own compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, how can we possibly trust them to ensure Syria’s compliance with the same treaty?

We don’t need “Potemkin” disarmament. We need real Syrian disarmament.

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