Russian Chemical Arms Reveal Treaty's Risks, Helms Says
Gertz, Bill, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
A Pentagon report indicating Russia is developing new deadly nerve agents is a warning to the Clinton administration about the flaws of the unratified Chemical Weapons Convention, Sen. Jesse Helms said yesterday.
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee commented on an article in The Washington Times yesterday that disclosed a classified Pentagon report on Moscow's development of a poison weapon known as A-232.
The article "should serve as a wake-up call for the administration and others who are using puzzling tactics in pushing ratification of the CWC," the North Carolina Republican said in a letter to National Security Adviser Samuel Berger.
"The CWC does not - in fact - effectively cover the types of chemicals used to manufacture chemical weapons," Mr. Helms wrote, criticizing as "offensive" the administration's attack on critics of the treaty.
The treaty's list of chemical weapons and components omits more than a third of the chemical weapons precursors already controlled by the United States and its allies, he said.
"In other words, everything from sarin and soman to VX can be manufactured using a variety of chemicals which are not identified by the schedules for the application of the verification regime," he said of traditional nerve agents.
According to a Pentagon intelligence report obtained by The Times, a secret Russian program, code-named "Foliant," has led to the creation of A-232 using industrial and agricultural components that are easy to disguise but form an extremely toxic nerve agent when combined.
The report says large quantities of the agent can be made "within weeks" through covert production at several chemical plants in Russia. The new nerve agent uses chemicals not covered by the CWC, and covert production "places an onerous challenge to arms control inspection regimes."
Marc Thiessen, a spokesman for Mr. Helms, said the article in The Times "provides disturbing details about a new Russian chemical weapons program."
"The program . …