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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chemical Arms Treaty Finally Sent To Duma

A draft of the International Treaty on Chemical Weapons will be released this week to the State Duma for ratification nearly four years after it was signed by President Boris Yeltsin, Kremlin officials announced Tuesday.

Under the terms of the treaty -- which bars 160 signatory states from acquiring, stockpiling or using chemical weapons -- final ratification must occur before April 29, 1997.

But wrangling over who will fund the destruction of Russia's estimated 40,000 tons of chemical weapons could slow final parliamentary approval, said Lyubov Oleinik, the Duma deputy for Kurgan in southwestern Siberia.

At an international disarmament conference last week, Sweden chided both Russia and the United States for taking so long to ratify the agreement.

Yeltsin might be seeking to start the ratification process as a show of good faith on arms control as he heads into potentially divisive discussions over NATO expansion during his summit this week with U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Natalya Kalinina, an adviser to the Duma's defense committee, said two separate pieces of legislation are required before the process of destroying Russia's chemical weapons may begin: ratification of the actual treaty and passage of a law delineating how the treaty's provisions are to be implemented.

Both could be delayed "for several months" by deputies' concerns over the safety of the detoxification process and who will foot the estimated $5 billion bill, Oleinik said.

"We have to make sure that this process does not affect local budgets, the local environment or the health of local workers," said Oleinik, whose constituency is home to one of Russia's largest chemical weapons dumps.

The Federation Council, parliament's upper house, rejected one draft of the chemical weapons destruction law in February after regional governors expressed concern that the cost would have to be paid out of their budgets, Oleinik said.

Although the United States and other countries have pledged about $100 million to help Russia dismantle its chemical weapons stockpiles, there is a risk that the program might be given low priority by the cash-strapped government, said Julian Perry-Robinson, a senior fellow at London's Foreign Policy Research Unit and a leading specialist on chemical weapons. Much of the cost is not likely to be incurred through the "technically simple" process of destroying the weapons, Perry-Robinson said, but through associated infrastructure projects such as hospitals, schools, warning systems and safety measures -- which regional governors are eager for the central government to finance.

"What it boils down to is who gets paid off," said Perry-Robinson.

Similar concerns have prevented the U.S. Senate from ratifying the treaty, although assurances from President Bill Clinton over cost and safety are likely to prompt Congressional approval for the treaty in the "near future," said a staffer in the office of Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican member of the House National Security Committee.

The cost of destroying the 30,000-ton U.S. arsenal of chemical weapons -- the second largest in the world after Russia's -- is estimated at $12 billion because of the high safety standards required by American environmental law, Perry-Robinson said.

He said that one plant at Tooele in Yellow County, Utah, is currently destroying U.S. chemical stockpiles while, in Russia, the process has yet to begin.

The long delay between Russia's original signing of the treaty and its fulfillment has been caused because "many practical questions were left unaddressed" in the 1993 treaty, said Alexander Ivanov, deputy chairman of a presidential committee on chemical and biological weapons.

"The decision in principle to destroy [the weapons] was made four years ago. That is not in question," said Ivanov. "We need to determine a timetable for destruction."

Ivanov said that the stability of Russia's chemical weapons stockpiles was "satisfactory," echoing a claim cited by Perry-Robinson that Russian chemical weapons are "more robust" than their American-made counterparts.

Russian chemical weapons -- such as organo-phosphorous nerve gases and blister gases -- are generally loaded into artillery shells, conventional aircraft-delivered bombs and battlefield missiles, Perry-Robinson said.

American nerve agents tend to be stored in bulk containers, which the Russians contend make them more prone to deterioration.