Russia unable to complete chemical weapons disarmament by 2012 deadline

Russia has announced that it will miss its 2012 deadline for the complete elimination of its chemical weapons stockpile, confirming what many 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) observers had long suspected. According to the Interfax News Agency, the Russian Foreign Ministry attributes the delay to ‘financial and technical difficulties.’ These difficulties resulted from the recent worldwide economic recession. Viktor Kholstov, treaty implementation chief at the Russian Industry and Trade Ministry, said that both Russian and foreign funding had fallen, according to a statement on the website of the Kirov region’s government. An article from the Xinhua News Agency reported that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has unilaterally declared a new completion deadline of 29 April 2015.

States possessing chemical weapons were required to destroy their entire chemical weapons stockpile by 2007. The US acknowledged in May 2006 that it would be unable to meet the 2007 deadline and, along with Russia, successfully petitioned for a one-off five year extension, which is permissible under the convention. However the US is also experiencing significant problems in completing destruction. On the US Army website, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Elimination of Chemical Weapons) Carmen Spencer noted that destruction was realistically scheduled for completion by 2021.

The issue of sanctions for failure to meet this deadline is not under serious consideration, with pressure focussing on securing continued political commitment to ensure safe and eventual destruction of remaining stockpiles. In a press release from Global Green USA, Rogelio Pfirter, former Director General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), remarked, ‘Given the excellent track record and firm commitment to the implementation of the convention consistently shown by the Russian Federation and by the United States of America, the key goal of achieving the total and irreversible destruction of the declared stockpiles is, in my view, not in question.’ Other CWC states parties will expect these two states to continue to be transparent about the status of stockpile destruction, and to allocate sufficient resources to the task.

Kara Allen, London.