The US Department of Defense announced 6 July that it had achieved 75% destruction in the two-decade-long effort to safely eliminate its chemical weapons stockpile, a still dangerous legacy of the Cold War. Global Green USA, which has helped facilitate the nonproliferation and safe elimination of weapons stockpiles for over 15 years, underlined the importance of this accomplishment as a major step on the road to complete elimination of the US stockpile.
Dr. Paul F. Walker, director of Global Green’s Security and Sustainability Programme, stated: “The successful destruction of almost 23,000 tons (US) of deadly chemical agents and over 2 million munitions is a real shot in the arm for the global effort to secure and fully banish chemical weapons from the earth. The Chemical Materials Agency, the US Congress, and many other colleagues in the non-governmental and industry communities deserve much credit for bringing this program over the 75% mark today.”
The United States is one of seven countries which have declared chemical weapons stockpiles under auspices of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and its implementing agency, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague. The two largest possessor states, Russia and the US, have declared 40,000 and 28,600 metric tons respectively, about 96% of the world’s total. Meanwhile five other declared possessor states – Albania, India, Iraq, Libya, and South Korea – have declared about 2,500 tons. Albania, India, and South Korea completed their stockpile destruction programmes in 2007-2009 while Russia has now destroyed about 20,000 tons.
Walker added that “one of the biggest challenges now is for both Russia and the US to complete their CW destruction programmes in the next decade; faced with enormous costs, environmental and technical problems, and the CWC legally binding deadline of April 2012, both major possessor countries must continue to keep their eye on the prize – the complete, safe, and verified demilitarization of their total stockpiles.”
The US, which has been destroying its CW arsenal since 1990, will likely eliminate seven of nine stockpiles by the CWC 2012 deadline, while the last two CW stockpiles in Colorado and Kentucky may take until 2021. Russia, destroying CW stockpiles since 2002, last week projected it would complete its CW destruction program by 2015.