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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Risks From Toxic Arms Pact

Sometimes the most noble ideas go awry. The Chemical Weapons Convention, signed in January by Russia and 118 other nations, is a case in point.


While the central goal of this accord - to destroy all chemical weapons and stock-piles by the year 2005 - is admirable, its overly aggressive schedule impels the signatories, especially Russia, to cut corners in a complex, environmentally risky process that should not be hurried.


Hastening to destroy the largest chemical weapons stockpile in the world, Russia may have little choice but to bulldoze grassroots resistance to its efforts and ship stockpiles of nerve gas and blister agents to the factories that created them in densely populated areas.


As the numerous ecological disasters created by Soviet policy demonstrate, excluding local input from decisions affecting the environment is dangerous. Local Green movements, silenced for so long in the Soviet Union, are fighting to have their concerns addressed, and the Russian authorities should pay them heed.


This is the case in other countries. At the eight chemical weapons disposal sites in the United States, local citizen's movements impelled planners to devise a program that destroyed the materials at the areas where they are stored.


Should transporting these volatile weapons be considered any less dangerous for Russians than Americans?


Anatoly Kuntsevich, Russia's top official in the field, said last week in Moscow during this country's first international conference on chemical weapons disarmament that Russia presently has neither the money nor the technology to meet its commitments under the treaty safely and on schedule.


The U. S. aid package of $800 million for the destruction of weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union is another good idea going sour. To date, little of the money has been spent. Instead, it is caught up in a bidding system that guarantees that U. S. defense contractors will do the work for Russian clients.


To avert potential disaster, Russia should seek an extension of the tight schedule according to which it is to destroy all 40, 000 tons of chemical weapons that are acknowledged to be in its stockpiles. and the United States should alter its disarmament aid program so that the money can be spent directly by the Russians instead of in a manner that best suits U. S. contractors. Russia and the United States need to get on the same track in the destruction of toxic arms. It would be a cruel irony indeed if the Chemical Weapons Convention led not to a safer world, but to a more dangerous one.