February 7, 1995

THE HONORABLE JOHN D. HOLUM, DIRECTOR
U.S. ARMS CONTROL AND DISARMAMENT AGENCY
REMARKS TO AN ABA SEMINAR ON IMPLEMENTING
THE CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION

"The CWC: Time for the Harvest"

Good morning. I'm pleased to speak to this ABA seminar on implementing a trailblazing arms control agreement, the Chemical Weapons Convention, or CWC.

The CWC breaks new ground not only in the sweep of its prohibitions against chemical weapons, but also in the scope of its verification. It is the most far-reaching and ambitious arms control regime ever negotiated. And it embodies the central and fundamental truths about chemical agents designed to kill and maim in the cause of war: To make them is a waste; to keep them an affliction; to use them an abomination. To champion their destruction makes us more civilized even as it makes us more secure.

The Convention -- negotiated and concluded under Presidents Reagan and Bush, with President Clinton leading the drive for its ratification -- is also an apt symbol of the bipartisanship that has characterized American national security and foreign policy at its best. In a letter to the Senate urging ratification, President Clinton declared that the CWC is "a central element" of U.S. nonproliferation policy that will "significantly enhance our national security and contribute to greater global security." He pressed for action again in last month's State of the Union address.

To understand why we need to bring the CWC into force promptly, let me describe briefly the threat posed by chemical weapons.

The Threat

Modern chemical warfare began in 1915, when clouds of chlorine gas drifted through the trenches at Ypres, Belgium, blinding and asphyxiating their victims. Ever since, the use of toxic chemicals to kill and disable has been viewed as a particularly cruel and abhorrent form of warfare. Chemical weapons are indiscriminate instruments of terror, striking down soldiers and innocent civilians alike.

The deadliest ones -- nerve agents such as sarin, soman, and VX -- are truly grisly in their effects: a pinhead-sized droplet of VX, absorbed through the skin or lungs, will induce convulsions, loss of muscular control, and death by respiratory paralysis.

Today, we suspect more than 25 countries of having chemical weapons or the capability to produce them. Significantly, nearly three-quarters of these countries have signed the CWC.

Chemical weapons have been called "the poor man's nuclear bomb." They are a kind of guerrilla weapon attractive to rogue states because they are cheap to produce and don't demand the kind of elaborate technological infrastructure required for nuclear weapons. And while nuclear arms have been used only at the end of the Pacific War, chemical weapons have been used repeatedly -- before and since. The Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s saw massive battlefield use of lethal chemicals, including mustard gas and nerve agents. And American troops faced a chemical weapons threat as recently as the 1991 Persian Gulf War -- although Saddam Hussein was deterred from using his chemical arsenal. The CWC takes aim at a threat that is all too real.

A Great Leap Forward: From the Geneva Protocol to the CWC

The CWC is the culmination of more than seven decades of determined diplomatic effort.

The devastating effects of gas warfare in World War I inspired the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which banned any future use of lethal or disabling chemicals as an instrument of war. But the Protocol suffered from two fundamental weaknesses: (1) it prohibited only the use -- rather than the development, production, or stockpiling -- of chemical weapons; and (2) even its ban on use was watered down by many countries' reservation of the right to retaliate in kind to a chemical attack.

These flaws led the 40-nation Conference on Disarmament to begin work in the early 1970s on a more comprehensive treaty. After more than 20 years of negotiation (spurred by the threat of chemical weapons use in the Persian Gulf War), the CWC was concluded and opened for signature in January 1993 -- with the United States, fittingly, among its 130 original signatories.

The Basics: What the CWC Does and How it is Verified

Most arms treaties in the past have simply limited weapons; the CWC aims at outright elimination. Parties must destroy any chemical weapons stockpiles and CW production facilities within 10 years of entry into force. (A five-year extension is possible only with the approval of two-thirds of all parties.) After existing arsenals have been eliminated, relevant chemical industry sites must be monitored to ensure that chemical weapons are never again produced or acquired.

The Convention addresses both the demand for and supply of chemical weapons. It requires parties to destroy their chemical weapons and production facilities and to open their chemical industries to international inspection. It prohibits them from transferring chemical weapons to others or assisting in any of the CW-related activities banned under the Convention. And it bans trade in specified chemicals with countries that fail to join.

Backing up the CWC is the most extensive verification regime ever negotiated. As a matter of course, military and industrial facilities will be required to submit written declarations and host routine inspections. If this information -- or other data obtained by national means -- leads us to suspect another country of illicit chemical weapons activities, we can initiate on-site challenge inspections. The CWC is the first multilateral treaty to permit intrusive, short-notice challenge inspections of declared and undeclared sites.

While no treaty is 100 percent verifiable, the CWC will substantially increase the risks of detection for CW proliferators. It will help us build a network of information -- a web of detection and deterrence -- and provide grounds to seek sanctions that will make chemical weapons substantially less attractive to rogue regimes.

In short, the CWC seeks to eradicate a scourge that has hung over the world for most of this century -- to put the chemical weapons genie back in the bottle and incinerate the bottle.

Ratification and the State of Play

The CWC underscores that the real benefits of arms control are in implementation, where we harvest the benefits sown in negotiations and signed agreements. We will begin to reap that harvest six months after the 65th country has ratified. That can be any 65 countries. However, the decisions of two countries -- the United States and Russia, both with large, declared chemical weapons stockpiles -- will heavily influence other states. As of today 159 countries have signed the CWC, 22 have ratified it, and our best estimate is that almost 20 more will complete ratification by May 1. When we move ahead, we expect the necessary 65 ratifications to accumulate rapidly, perhaps in as little as 90 days after we ratify. So entry into force by the end of this year, the goal set recently by the U.N. Secretary General, is well within reach.

Our most urgent task is to secure the advice and consent to ratification of two-thirds of the Senate. Thereafter, both Houses of Congress must pass, by simple majorities, implementing legislation making the provisions of the CWC binding on U.S. citizens and businesses.

The Clinton Administration submitted its proposed implementing legislation to the Congress last year. This legislation imposes penalties under domestic law for violations of the Convention; establishes a U.S. Office of National Authority to oversee domestic implementation and serve as liaison to the international CWC organization in The Hague; and ensures that on-site inspections will respect Constitutional rights, including the Fourth Amendment bar against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Pursuant to the implementing legislation, the Department of Commerce will issue new regulations for industry, which will be circulated for industry comments before being finalized. The President will issue an Executive Order assigning responsibilities for CWC implementation in the executive branch. ACDA will be the executive office of the U.S. National Authority.

The CWC Should Be Ratified -- The Sooner the Better

The arguments for ratifying the CWC this year are compelling. I will summarize just the top half dozen.

First, the Convention will oblige the rest of the world to do what the United States has already obligated itself to do -- and at a very reasonable marginal cost. Congress has already taken us out of the chemical weapons business, passing a law requiring destruction of the entire U.S. chemical weapons stockpile by Dec. 31, 2004. So if we failed to ratify the CWC, and it did not enter into force, we would lose the benefit of having other countries legally obligated to eliminate weapons that we have chosen to renounce for ourselves.

Second, the CWC will strengthen our national security -- a fact reflected in decisive endorsements from our top military leaders. General John Shalikashvili, Chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the Senate last fall, the CWC is "clearly in the national interest." He pointed out that once the treaty is implemented, our troops will be less likely to face chemical-warfare threats in future wars, and made it clear that the United States does not need the option of retaliating in kind to chemical weapons. Indeed, in the Persian Gulf War, the Bush Administration adhered to the CWC's principles -- relying instead on superior conventional military force and strategy, coupled with strong chemical defenses.

Third, the Convention increases our odds of detecting clandestine activity. It will increase significantly our access to information about hidden chemical weapons programs -- even in countries that do not join. Through declarations and a variety of other mechanisms to be discussed later today, the Convention will give us far more information than we now have about the precursor chemicals and other prerequisites for a chemical weapons program that now can be traded secretly between states.

Fourth, if they are detected, the CWC makes chemical weapons illegal -- which they are not today, under the Geneva Protocol. By putting into place a global legal norm outlawing possession as well as use, it will increase the financial and political costs of acquiring or retaining chemical weapons. And unlike the Geneva Protocol, the CWC has teeth. Without invalidating the unilateral options already available, it contains a mechanism for recommending multilateral sanctions, including recourse to the U.N. Security Council.

Fifth, in addition to the enforcement mechanisms I've already referred to, the Convention employs carrots and sticks effectively, to reward countries that join and penalize those that do not. Any nation that refuses to sign and ratify the CWC will be banned from trading with member states in many chemicals that have commercial as well as weapons uses. By contrast, member states in good standing will have full access to trade in treaty-controlled chemicals (and will also be eligible for protective assistance if threatened by chemical weapons). These built-in incentives and disincentives over time will isolate states that refuse to sign and ratify the Convention, and thus will foster broad adherence and compliance.

Russia and the CWC

Sixth, ratifying the CWC is the best way to resolve our concerns about the status of Russia's chemical weapons activities. This point deserves elaboration. The impulse to delay U.S. ratification because of our Russian concerns is exactly wrong.

The United States is pushing resolutely for full Russian compliance with our bilateral agreements on chemical weapons -- including the 1989 Wyoming Memorandum of Understanding -- designed to build confidence through chemical weapons declarations and trial on-site inspections. Just last week I was in Moscow leading a delegation to discuss chemical weapons agreements with senior Russian officials. I led a similar trip in December. I was told on this latest trip that ratifying the CWC is the Russian government's highest arms control priority with its legislature. Ratification will not be an easy task in Russia, but the government has clearly indicated its commitment.

I am convinced that the best way to resolve our concerns is to bring the CWC into force as soon as possible. Then Russia will have the choice of either complying with a legally binding, global regime -- with sanctions -- or else isolating itself from a worldwide consensus.

Multilateral arms control has a "multiplier effect": dozens of countries can reinforce and magnify our own leverage on any given country to enforce a global nonproliferation norm. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty works this way. So will the CWC.

Moreover, Russian authorities are well aware that only states that have ratified the Convention can be represented in the CWC Organization in The Hague, the OPCW, and have their nationals employed on the Organization's administrative and technical staff. As we near 65 ratifications, states are likely to ratify to ensure being on the ground floor of implementation as well as to avoid political isolation.

Simply put, ratifying the CWC maximizes our leverage over the Russians; delaying takes the pressure off. The more concerned we are about Russian chemical weapons, the more urgently we should seek ratification of the CWC.

The Concerns -- and Role -- of Industry

Now to the primary reasons for your presence. Because of the dual-use nature of many chemical weapons precursors, the CWC has to touch a good deal of private-sector conduct that has nothing to do with chemical weapons. For example, the solvent thiodiglycol, found in ballpoint-pen ink, is easily converted to mustard gas in a one-step reaction, and phosphorus-containing chemicals used to make pesticides and fire retardants are also used to produce nerve agents. Unavoidably, any treaty to ban chemical weapons must cover industrial facilities as well as military ones.

So the scope of the Convention's coverage is daunting. The new Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague will oversee some 20,000 chemical-related industrial sites in at least 120 countries -- including some 5,000 sites in the United States alone. By way of comparison, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which oversees compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, monitors some 900 civilian nuclear facilities in 60 countries.

It was important, therefore, that industry representatives be engaged at every stage of the negotiating process. For example, during the Geneva talks, officials from the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA) and other industry representatives met regularly with the U.S. delegation to discuss their concerns. Today, we continue to consult broadly with industry as we prepare for implementation.

Through such close consultation and cooperation, the CMA and other trade associations from the United States, Western Europe, Australia, and Japan have played a major role in developing verification provisions that can be effective without trampling on commercial interests. And leading chemical industry representatives have become influential supporters and leading experts on the Convention. You will hear from some of them today.

One obvious industry concern has been the costs of compliance. The CWC will impose some additional costs on U.S. companies. Producers, processors, and consumers of certain chemicals will have to file required declaration forms and host on-site visits by international inspection teams. But these costs should be modest -- particularly if affected firms plan carefully in advance. Those taking part in practice on-site inspections and reviewing draft declaration forms are finding that complying with CWC requirements will be manageable within the normal scope of their activities.

Companies complying with the CWC are corporate good citizens supporting the global elimination of heinous weapons. As Fred Webber, President of CMA, has written:

One critical element in winning U.S. industry's support for the CWC was to assuage the concern that declarations or on-site inspections could compromise confidential business information. Another fear -- voiced from the other side by adamant arms controllers -was that some member-states might try to circumvent the regime by developing new chemical-warfare agents not listed in the treaty's annex of controlled chemicals and hence are not subject to declaration and verification.

The CWC's approach to both of these concerns illustrates the good sense that went into designing it -- and which we want your help in reinforcing as we implement it.

Taking the latter concern first, the CWC's list of controlled chemicals was designed to be illustrative rather than exhaustive. This way, if new binary agents are invented, they can be added to the list of Schedule 1 items. By contrast, if a chemical-warfare agent or precursor also turns out some years from now, through some of the amazing research and development efforts now underway, to be useful in curing a dread disease, the Convention embodies the flexibility to move that substance from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2.

As to Confidential Business Information, the extensive industry consultations that went into the design of the Convention resulted in the drafting of "Managed Access" provisions. These require on-the-scene negotiations to maximize the chance to alleviate concerns about compliance, while minimizing interference with commercial activities or any risk of compromising confidential information.

As a result, the inspection provisions of the CWC reflect a considered balance between the intrusiveness needed to verify compliance, on the one hand, and the protective measures needed to safeguard legitimate trade secrets on the other. Industry input and feedback are essential to the CWC's intelligent design -- and to its successful implementation.

Conclusion

The title of my remarks, "Time for the Harvest," may remain a bit opaque. During the critical first months of the CWC's implementation, a thousand small decisions will be made and myriad precedents and habits will be set -- for instance, establishing the practical mechanics of routine and challenge inspections. The United States should play its rightful role in these. Given the history of the Convention, it would be not just unwise, but deeply ironic, if we lost our momentum at this critical stage.

We must not let that happen. Having prepared the ground and tilled the soil in two decades of negotiations, and sown the seeds in successfully concluding them, we stand poised to harvest the Convention's immense benefits.

And once the Convention is ratified, I appeal to everyone in this room, and through you to your colleagues, to keep giving us the intelligent feedback we need to implement this landmark arms control treaty as responsively, inexpensively, and effectively as possible.

The stakes are even greater than you might think -- for the world is watching closely this new variant of arms control that depends so much on cooperation between the public and private sectors. The CWC will be followed by a comprehensive nuclear test ban and a worldwide treaty cutting off the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, as well as an agreement to strengthen compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention. The government-industry interface will be central to the success of these treaties as well. So the success of what all of us do with the CWC will surely affect the prospects of those important efforts.

For most of you, this conference is a matter of professional responsibility. And that responsibility runs first, of course, to clients or employers.

But through the CWC, your work and the mission of arms control -- America's national security -- are deeply intertwined.

It is the genius of our democracy -- and a testament to the sense of the CWC's drafters -- that by doing your job effectively as advocates, you will help us in our job of building a safer America and a more stable world.

Help us harvest well. When we succeed, together, you will have earned the gratitude not only of your corporations and clients, but of your children and fellow citizens as well.

We must not let that happen. Having prepared the ground and tilled the soil in two decades of negotiations, and sown the seeds in successfully concluding them, we stand poised to harvest the Convention's immense benefits.

And once the Convention is ratified, I appeal to everyone in this room, and through you to your colleagues, to keep giving us the intelligent feedback we need to implement this landmark arms control treaty as responsively, inexpensively, and effectively as possible.

The stakes are even greater than you might think -- for the world is watching closely this new variant of arms control that depends so much on cooperation between the public and private sectors. The CWC will be followed by a comprehensive nuclear test ban and a worldwide treaty cutting off the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, as well as an agreement to strengthen compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention. The government-industry interface will be central to the success of these treaties as well. So the success of what all of us do with the CWC will surely affect the prospects of those important efforts.

For most of you, this conference is a matter of professional responsibility. And that responsibility runs first, of course, to clients or employers.

But through the CWC, your work and the mission of arms control -- America's national security -- are deeply intertwined.

It is the genius of our democracy -- and a testament to the sense of the CWC's drafters -that by doing your job effectively as advocates, you will help us in our job of building a safer America and a more stable world.

Help us harvest well. When we succeed, together, you will have earned the gratitude not only of your corporations and clients, but of your children and fellow citizens as well.