August 16, 1995


"Why We Need the Chemical Weapons Convention"

Good morning. As the administration's point man on ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention, or CWC, I'm pleased to have the opportunity to speak to you today about the Convention and why its prompt ratification and entry into force is so important. The CWC is a global treaty that bans an entire class of weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons. The Convention is currently before the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent to ratification.

Chemical weapons have long been considered a particularly cruel and inhumane form of warfare. They are insidious and indiscriminate, striking down soldiers and innocent civilians alike. Indeed, the recent chemical attacks in Japan have underlined the grim fact that chemical weapons have increasing appeal for those who would attack and kill civilians.

During my eight years in the House as a Congressman from North Carolina, I became deeply interested in the efforts of the international community to ban these abhorrent weapons.

In 1989, I was appointed as House observer to the CWC negotiations. In this capacity, I made frequent visits to Geneva to follow developments in the Talks, met with negotiators and other interested parties when they were in Washington, and chaired three study groups on Capitol Hill to educate members of Congress and their staffs on the issue.

Because I continue to care deeply about the fate of the CWC, I'm grateful to the President for having selected me to shepherd the Treaty through the ratification process.

Need for a Ban

Today, the need for a global ban on chemical weapons is even greater than it was a few years ago, when I was monitoring the CWC negotiations in Geneva. Iraq's threat during the Persian Gulf War to launch chemical attacks against Saudi Arabian and Israeli cities, and the recent incidents of chemical terrorism in Japan, show that chemical weapons are proliferating and pose a real danger to world security.

Today, we suspect more than 25 countries of having chemical weapons or the capability to produce them. These weapons are attractive to countries or individuals seeking a mass-destruction capability because they are relatively cheap to produce and do not demand the elaborate technical infrastructure needed to make nuclear weapons. It is therefore all the more vital to establish an international bulwark against the acquisition and use of these weapons.

The Chemical Weapons Convention enjoys broad international support. To date, the Convention has been signed by 159 of the 185 members of the United Nations. This includes nearly three quarters of the more than 25 countries we suspect of possessing or seeking to acquire chemical weapons. Before the Treaty can enter into force, however, 65 signatory-states must ratify it. So far, 32 countries have done so. Many more are waiting for the United States to ratify, with the intention of following our lead. I believe that once the Senate approves the Treaty, the number of ratifications needed for entry into force could be reached in a matter of months.

This morning, I'll provide a brief history of chemical arms control, describe the key provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and conclude with some arguments for prompt U.S. ratification. In particular, I'll argue that the CWC will substantially improve our ability to stem the proliferation of chemical weapons and will provide the best means to address our concerns about Russian chemical weapons capabilities as well as those of other countries.

History of Chemical Arms Control

Although toxic smoke was used as a weapon during antiquity and the middle ages, the modern era of chemical warfare began 80 years ago on a battlefield near the town of Ypres, Belgium. On April 22, 1915, German troops opened hundreds of steel canisters, releasing greenish-yellow clouds of chlorine gas that drifted over the allied trenches, blinding and asphyxiating their victims. The thousands of dead and injured in this attack were the first of some one million gas casualties in World War I.

In the aftermath of the war, the horrific physical and psychological effects of poison gases prompted the international community to negotiate the 1925 Geneva Protocol banning their use in war. From its inception, however, this protocol had two basic flaws. First it bans only the use of chemical weapons in war. Since countries retain the right under international law to produce and stockpile chemical weapons in large quantities, the use of these weapons has remained an ever-present threat. Second, many parties to the protocol, including the United States, reserved the right to retaliate in kind to a chemical attack.

These limitations of the Geneva Protocol led a group of concerned countries to begin work in the early 1970's on a more comprehensive Treaty that would ban the acquisition and stockpiling of chemical weapons, as well as use.

After two decades of often arduous negotiations, the Chemical Weapons Convention was opened for signature at a ceremony in Paris in January 1993. Among the original signatories were the United States and Russia, the possessors of the world's largest stockpiles of chemical weapons.

Three U.S. administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have played a leadership role in crafting this historic Treaty. The CWC was negotiated under President Reagan, concluded and signed under President Bush, and submitted to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification by President Clinton.

President Bush took a personal interest in the Treaty and viewed its successful conclusion as one of the key accomplishments of his presidency. President Clinton, for his part, has strongly endorsed the CWC and indicated that its entry into force is a top priority of his Administration. In a May 31 speech to the U.S. Air Force Academy, given shortly after the decision for indefinite and unconditional extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the President identified CWC ratification as an urgent next step in the United States effort to fight the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He encouraged the Senate to act promptly.

Unique Scope

The CWC is the most ambitious Treaty in the history of arms control. It bans the full spectrum of activities associated with the offensive use of chemical weapons, including the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, transfer of CW, and assistance to anyone engaging in these activities.

Whereas most arms control Treaties in the past have only limited weapons, the CWC requires their outright elimination.

Parties to the Convention must destroy any and all chemical weapons and chemical weapons production facilities. In the United States and Russia alone, the CWC will require the destruction of between 60,000 and 70,000 tons of deadly chemical agents.

In addition, chemical industry sites that produce "dual use" chemicals that have both military and commercial applications will be monitored by an international inspectorate to ensure that chemical weapons are never again produced or acquired.

The CWC breaks new ground not only in the sweeping nature of its prohibitions but also in the scope and effectiveness of its verification provisions, which include data declarations and routine and challenge inspections. This regime reflects a carefully crafted balance between the intrusiveness needed to verify Treaty compliance, on the one hand, and the measures needed to protect legitimate business secrets (aka confidential business information) and national security information, on the other.

The CWC is also the first Treaty that penalizes countries that do not join while rewarding those that do. Entry into force of the CWC will isolate the small number of non-participating states as international pariahs and inhibit their access to certain treaty-controlled chemicals. Since many of these chemicals are not only required to make chemical weapons but have important uses in commercial industry, the hold-outs will have economic as well as political incentives to join the Treaty regime.

Those countries that ratify the CWC and comply fully with its provisions will not face these restrictions. They will also be eligible for humanitarian aid and protective assistance if they are victimized by the use or threatened use of chemical weapons. These built-in carrots and sticks will help promote universal adherence and compliance.

Industry Involvement

The Chemical Weapons Convention is the first arms control Treaty to affect the private sector. Although United States industry does not manufacture chemical weapons, it does produce, process, and consume a number of chemicals that can be used to produce chemical weapons. For example, a solvent used in ballpoint-pen ink can be easily converted into mustard gas, while a chemical involved in production of fire retardants and pesticides can be used to make nerve agents. Thus, any Treaty to ban chemical weapons must monitor commercial facilities that produce, process or consume dual-use chemicals to ensure they are not diverted for prohibited purposes.

The CWC provisions covering commercial chemical facilities were developed with the active participation of industry representatives. During my visits to Geneva, I became aware of the extensive involvement in the negotiations of United States industry, in particular, the Chemical Manufacturers Association. CMA representatives met regularly with the U.S. Delegation to convey industry's views -- particularly on the protection of proprietary information -- and to offer constructive suggestions.

Acting in enlightened self-interest, together with other chemical trade associations from Europe, Australia, and Japan, the CMA helped to craft an effective yet industry-friendly verification regime. This regime is intrusive enough to build confidence that member-states are complying with the Treaty, yet it respects industry's legitimate interests in safeguarding proprietary information, avoiding disruption of production, and ensuring a level playing field for global competition.

Overall, the successful government-industry partnership that emerged during the Geneva CWC negotiations provides a model for future cooperation.

As the entry into force of the Convention approaches, industry's role has not diminished but has become all the more crucial. Industry's efforts to help rid the world of chemical weapons are an outstanding demonstration of corporate responsibility and good citizenship -- one that will strengthen United States national security and enhance the public image of American business.

Need for Prompt Ratification

The urgent need for entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention warrants prompt action by the U.S. Senate in giving its advice and consent to ratification. The arguments for United States ratification are compelling. Let me highlight some of the major ones.

First, with or without the CWC, the United States has decided to get out of the chemical weapons business. Congress has already passed a law requiring destruction of the entire United States chemical weapons stockpile by the end of the year 2004. The CWC would require all other parties that possess chemical weapons to do the same. If we fail to ratify and the Convention does not enter into force, we would deny ourselves the benefit of having other countries legally obligated to eliminate weapons that we ourselves have unilaterally decided to renounce and destroy.

Second, the CWC will put in place a legally binding international norm outlawing the acquisition and possession, as well as use, of chemical weapons. Although universal adherence and the complete abolition of chemical weapons won't be achieved immediately, the Convention will slow and even reverse chemical weapons proliferation by isolating the small number of rogue states that refuse to join the regime, limiting their access to precursor chemicals, and bringing international pressure to bear if such states continue their chemical weapons programs.

In this regard, the CWC is both a disarmament and a non-proliferation Treaty. It not only requires states parties to destroy their chemical weapons arsenals but prohibits them from transferring chemical weapons to other countries or assisting anyone in activities prohibited under the Convention. Combined with restrictions on chemical trade in CWC controlled chemicals with non-parties, these provisions will increase the cost and difficulty of acquiring chemical weapons for states that choose not to participate.

Third, although no Treaty is 100 percent verifiable, the CWC's extensive verification measures will significantly increase the chances that a violation will be detected, raising the political cost of illicit chemical weapons activities and thus helping to deter them. Former CIA Director Woolsey testified last year before the Senate that the CWC will provide valuable information not otherwise available about chemical-weapons related activities around the world, complementing unilateral United States intelligence collection efforts.

Fourth, the Convention has won the endorsement of the Nation's senior military leaders. Gen. John Shalikashvili, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has testified that the CWC is "clearly in the national interest." He has argued that once the Treaty is in force, United States troops will be less likely to face chemical weapons in future wars. Even if they do, the Gulf War demonstrated that the United States does not need the option of retaliation in kind to deter or defend against chemical weapons use by others. Instead, the ability to apply superior military force in any situation, combined with robust chemical defenses, is sufficient for this purpose.

Fifth, the CWC will help combat efforts by terrorists to acquire and use chemical weapons. The Convention denies terrorists access to a ready supply of chemical weapons by requiring parties to eliminate their national stockpiles and by restricting trade in Treaty-relevant chemicals. The CWC also requires member-states to enact domestic legislation making the Treaty provisions binding on individuals and businesses, including their nationals living abroad, and imposing civil and criminal penalties for violations.

Last but not least, the CWC provides the basis for enhanced international cooperation in information sharing and law enforcement in the fight against chemical terrorism.

Concerns About Russia

Critics of the CWC argue that concerns about Russia's chemical weapons capabilities and its failure to develop an effective plan for destroying its vast chemical stockpile are reasons for the U.S. Senate to reject the CWC. I would argue just the opposite: The best way to resolve our concerns over the status of Russia's chemical-weapons capabilities is for the United States to ratify the Convention promptly.

The United States Government has an ongoing dialogue at all levels of the Russian government on outstanding bilateral CW issues. To reinforce these bilateral efforts, it is essential to bring the CWC into force as soon as possible. Russia will then face a stark choice between joining a legally binding regime that bans chemical weapons or isolating itself from a global consensus.

Bringing the CWC into force will intensify Russian incentives to join and abide by the Treaty. Russian authorities are aware that only states that have ratified the Convention can play a role in the international organization that will govern its implementation. Since precedents will be established at the outset, it will be important for Russia to be a player from the start, especially if they are serious about requesting permission to convert some former chemical weapons production facilities to commercial purposes. The Russians also recognize that if they remain outside the Treaty regime, Russian access to certain dual-use chemicals from States parties would be cut off or restricted after the Convention enters into force.

Delaying United States ratification because of concerns over future Russian non-participation or possible non-compliance would be counter-productive. This would remove any pressure on Moscow to ratify and allow hardliners in the Russian government to stall CWC implementation indefinitely. Equally important, this would delay entry into force of the Convention, since many other countries are waiting for the United States to ratify.

Once Russia ratifies the CWC and it enters into force, the Russians will be required to destroy their entire chemical weapons stockpile, make detailed declarations of their relevant facilities, open them to routine inspection, and accept challenge inspections at any site on their territory suspected of a Treaty violation. In this way, the CWC will place Russian activities under intense international scrutiny and empower the world community to respond to any concerns about noncompliance with intrusive verification measures, political pressure, and possible sanctions.


The CWC will bring about the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles around the world and impose strict verification measures to ensure that they are not replenished. It will increase the cost and difficulty of acquiring chemical weapons, even by countries that do not join the regime, thus helping to slow or reverse chemical proliferation. It will generate useful information about chemical weapons-related activities, past and present, complementing and enhancing our current knowledge of these activities. And it will help in the fight against chemical terrorism.

Clearly, the Chemical Weapons Convention is a Treaty whose time has come. It is not only in our interest, but that of all our children and grandchildren, for the CWC to enter into force promptly and be implemented successfully. With your help, we can hasten the day when the world will be rid of this terrible form of warfare.