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Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism
U.S., Russia Step Up Chemical Weapons Destruction

Oliver Meier

Russia and the United States have announced measures to step up destruction of their chemical weapons stockpiles. The Department of Defense plans to speed up construction of the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky and the Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado. The two facilities are key to meeting the congressionally mandated destruction deadline of 2017. The fiscal year 2009 defense budget provides $427.5 million to the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program, an increase of $20 million from last year. Three U.S. destruction facilities have already completed their task, with four more in Alabama, Arkansas, Oregon, and Utah expected to conclude between 2015 and 2017. Nonetheless, this plan would lead to U.S. chemical weapons stockpiles continuing to exist well beyond the 2012 destruction deadline for all chemical weapons mandated by the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The United States is a CWC state-party.

All told, as of Nov. 5, the United States had destroyed 57.5 percent of its 31,500-ton chemical weapons stockpile. The Army has also destroyed 95 percent of its arsenal of the nerve agent VX. On Nov. 5, the Umatilla chemical depot in Oregon completed destruction of its entire stockpile of VX munitions.

The Russian government has announced plans to spend more than $4.7 billion on the destruction of its remaining chemical weapons stockpile from 2009 to 2011. As of Nov. 1, Russia had destroyed 11,747 metric tons of its 40,000-ton stockpile. Destruction efforts are ongoing at facilities in Maradykovsky, Kambarka, and Leonidovka. Destruction operations at Gorny have been completed, while three more sites have yet to begin operations. Moscow announced Nov. 14 that destruction of ammunition loaded with VX had been completed at the Maradykovsky facility.

As of early November, 41 percent of declared global chemical weapons stockpiles have been destroyed under international supervision, Rogelio Pfirter, director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, told the UN General Assembly Nov. 3.