Unite against Chemical Weapons

By H. Martin Lancaster. H. Martin Lancaster of North Carolina is a member of the House Armed Services Committee. | The Christian Science Monitor, September 12, 1990 | Go to article overview

Unite against Chemical Weapons


H. Martin Lancaster. H. Martin Lancaster of North Carolina is a member of the House Armed Services Committee., The Christian Science Monitor


THE Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the military stand-off in Saudi Arabia have again raised the specter of possible chemical-weapons use. But the solution lies in Geneva, where negotiators from 40 countries have been trying for several years to hammer out a worldwide convention to ban chemical weapons. If almost all countries join, there will be a good chance that, in the future, military aggressors will be punished by effective worldwide sanctions, opposition, and condemnation if they choose the chemical-weapons option.

Soviet and American legislators met recently in Geneva to discuss their two nations' summit agreement to limit chemical weapons. The visit also assessed the progress in the 40-nation negotiation for a worldwide ban on chemical weapons.

The bilateral US-USSR agreement on chemical weapons is healthy, and it awaits approval and funding by the Supreme Soviet and the United States Congress. Soviet legislators were optimistic about fulfilling the terms of the chemical-weapons destruction agreement. But they realize how difficult it will be to fund their chemical-weapons destruction plans considering their other economic priorities. The Soviet legislators desire to enlist US technical support.

On the other hand, the multilateral chemical-weapons negotiations seem to be in trouble. Doubt and jealousy accompany most complimentary remarks from other countries about the US-Soviet bilateral achievement. Why did the US and Soviet Union need a bilateral agreement before the multilateral? How can a multilateral agreement be achieved if both the US and the Soviet Union are absorbed in the bilateral arms control process?

The US and the Soviet Union are committed to the multilateral process, but it may take some new initiative and leadership to get commitment from the other nations to accomplish a worldwide chemical-weapons ban.

Some of the remaining problems result from recent American positions on inspections, retaliatory use of chemical weapons, a 2 percent security stockpile, and an eight-year review conference. Many developing, non-aligned countries are concerned about protecting their young chemical industries under a worldwide ban that restricts trade in chemicals. They want assurance that they will receive assistance and protection in case of a chemical-weapons attack. They also want economic and technical assistance for the development of legitimate chemical industries.

The negotiators should strike a compromise to resolve these issues as quickly as possible. Such a final political compromise would probably need a ministerial meeting to bring it into being. A ministerial meeting would give the agreement a high political profile worldwide while pressuring all participating countries to be there for the photo opportunity. …

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