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June 1, 2018
Senate Gives Advice and Consent; U.S. Becomes Original CWC Party
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Erik J. Leklem

PRESIDENT BILL Clinton deposited the U.S. instrument of ratification for the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) with the United Nations on April 25, four days before the treaty's entry into force. This lastminute action, made possible by Senate approval of the resolution of advice and consent to ratification, allowed the United States to become an original party to the convention. (See Factfile, p. 41.) The multilateral treaty, signed in 1993, bans the use, production, stockpiling and development of chemical weapons and includes extensive verification measures to enforce compliance with its provisions. Parties are also required to destroy their chemical weapon stockpiles and production facilities.

The Senate resolution, approved April 24 by a vote of 7426, set forth 28 conditions to its advice and consent. (See p. 29.) None of these conditions, however, impeded presidential ratification and deposit of the instrument of ratification with the UN secretarygeneral. Approval of the convention ended 41 months of consideration by the Senate, during which more than 14 hearings were held.

On the day before the Senate vote, retired Senator Bob Dole (RKS) reversed his past opposition to the convention at a White House event. "If I were present in the Senate," he said, "I would vote for ratification of the CWC because of the many improvements that have been agreed to." In the closing hours of Senate debate, Majority Leader Trent Lott (RMS) added his support for the convention, saying there would be "real and lasting consequences" if the United States failed to ratify the treaty, and that "the credibility of commitments made by two presidents of our country—one Republican and one Democrat—is at stake."

In early April the fate of the CWC remained uncertain, due to the campaign by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (RNC) to discredit the convention in a series of hearings. (See ACT, March 1997.) Nevertheless, by midApril, Lott and Minority Leader Tom Daschle (DSD), in coordination with the White House, reached a unanimous consent agreement that defined the procedure for Senate consideration of the treaty. The compromise released the CWC from the Foreign Relations Committee and set April 24 as the date for a full Senate vote.

The agreement established Senate Executive Resolution 75, authored by Helms, as the resolution of ratification for the CWC. The Helms' resolution set forth 33 conditions for Senate approval of the convention; the first 28 conditions were, by agreement, not subject to further action, while the five remaining "killer" conditions (that would have prevented Clinton from depositing the U.S. instruments of ratification) were subject to limited debate and to removal from the resolution by separate majority votes.

As part of the agreement, a separate vote was scheduled on S.495 before CWC consideration. Drafted by CWC opponents, this unilateral, domestic legislation was proposed as an "alternative" to the CWC, which CWC opponents could support in order to avoid being labeled "propoison gas." The bill, which passed by a slight majority, is expected to encounter a presidential veto.

The agreement to discharge the convention from Helms' committee and to bring it to a vote followed months of work by the administration and treaty supporters. In the final weeks of April, the administration made some foreign policy concessions to bring the CWC to a vote, including agreeing to incorporate the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency into the State Department as part of a major restructuring of U.S. foreign affairs agencies. (See p. 33.)

Clinton's campaign for the treaty culminated in an April 23 White House event with Vice President Al Gore, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Shalikashvili, retired General Colin Powell, former National Security Advisor General Brent Scowcroft and Dole. Supporting Dole's comments, Powell said the treaty was "in the best interests of America" and praised treaty provisions that would isolate rogue states.

During the days before the vote, Clinton consulted with Lott regarding convention Articles X and XI, which Lott argued would foster chemical weapons proliferation by facilitating cooperation in chemical technologies. In an April 24 letter to Lott, Clinton wrote that he would "be prepared to withdraw from the treaty" after consultation with Congress if Article X or Article XI were abused by statesparties in a way that "jeopardized the supreme interests of the United States." Lott called this commitment "unprecedented" and "ironclad," and mentioned the letter's importance when he announced his intent to vote for the CWC.


The Senate Debate

In opening the scheduled 11 hours of Senate floor debate on the convention, Helms derided the treaty as "worse than nothing" and said it would put "the American people at greater risk." Biden used his opening remarks to respond, reviewing the history of chemical warfare and the decade of CWC negotiations, and linking ratification of the treaty to "America's leadership in the postCold War era."

Before the final vote, Biden submitted five motions to strike each of the five "killer" conditions, after which all five were removed by majority votes.

The first condition which the Senate struck required ratification by China, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria and by all state sponsors of terrorism before the United States could join the convention.

The second condition prohibited the deposit of the U.S. instruments of ratification until the president could certify that Russia had ratified the treaty, which was highly unlikely prior to the April 29 deadline. Further, the condition required Russia to forgo all activity on its chemical weapons program and required certification of Russian compliance with the 1990 U.S.Russian Bilateral Destruction Agreement.

A third condition required presidential certification that the Central Intelligence Agency had a high degree of confidence in detecting "militarily significant" violations, which were defined as one ton of agent. The administration had previously pointed out the CWC's benefits to intelligence efforts, and said it would not be able to deposit the U.S. instruments of ratification under such an exacting condition.

The fourth condition—eliminated by the margin of 5644—required the president to bar inspectors from states deemed sponsors of international terrorism and from states in violation of U.S. nonproliferation and exportimport law. While technically not a "killer" condition, since parties to the CWC have the right to exclude specific inspectors on a casebycase basis, such a blanket exclusion could have caused diplomatic confrontations.

The last condition stricken by the Senate called for amending the convention by eliminating Article X and changing Article XI to permit trade restrictions on chemical technology exchange and cooperation.

After the first condition was removed, Lott made a statement of support signaling victory for the convention's proponents. He said he had "struggled" with the treaty, and discounted claims that the vote would "determine the fate" of certain senators. Lott said his vote for the convention was based on the advice of "the most senior former and current military commanders" and on the "marginal" benefits of information access granted by the convention.

Lott's position, according to one Republican staffer, provided the needed leadership for some freshman Republicans to vote for treaty ratification. Some Senate staffers, however, emphasized that his most critical role had been in agreeing to bring the convention to the Senate floor.

Twelve states (including China and South Korea) followed the United States in depositing their instruments of ratification before entry into force of the treaty, bringing the number of original statesparties to 87 (of 165 signatory states). The Russian Duma failed to ratify the treaty before its entry into force, citing financial concerns, but indicated that it would take up the issue in fall 1997. Pakistan also stated its intent to complete the ratification process, though no official timetable has been specified.

Attention will now turn to CWC implementing legislation, scheduled for consideration during May in the House of Representatives. The U.S. National Authority for the convention, housed in the Department of Commerce, will finalize preparations for inspections and reporting requirements.

With CWC entry into force, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) begins formal operations in The Hague to monitor compliance under the CWC. The first session of the Conference of States Parties (CSP), the principal organ of the OPCW, will open in The Hague on May 6. The CSP will appoint the Executive Council members and the director general of the Technical Secretariat, additional bodies of the OPCW responsible for treaty implementation and verification.