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"[Arms Control Today is] Absolutely essential reading for the upcoming Congressional budget debate on the 2018 NPR and its specific recommendations ... well-informed, insightful, balanced, and filled with common sense."

– Frank Klotz
former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
March 7, 2018
Leanne Quinn

Germany Investigates Firms for Chemical Exports


October 2022
By Leanne Quinn

German customs officials on Aug. 30 carried out seven search warrants on a network of German chemical companies suspected of violating export control permitting laws.

According to case documents viewed by German public broadcasters NDR and WDR and the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, investigators allege that, over the last three and a half years, chemical company Riol Chemie GmbH sent more than 30 shipments of dual-use toxic substances and laboratory equipment to Russia’s Chimmed Group without export permits, violating the German Foreign Trade Act.

The shipments were reported to include precursor chemicals that can be used in the production of banned chemical agents such as mustard gas and Novichok. Benedikt Strunz, one of the German broadcasters from NDR who broke the story, said in an interview published on Sept. 12 that the amounts of compounds shipped to Russia were too small for industrial production of those chemical agents. At this time, the intended purpose of the shipments is unknown. At least two other chemical companies and one export firm could also be implicated, Strunz said.

The new investigation comes after the managing director of a trading company in the German state of Saxony was indicted in February on suspicion of exporting dual-use chemicals to a Russian intelligence agency for the purpose of producing weapons of mass destruction.

The two cases underscore the importance of strong national laws that criminalize activities related to the proliferation of chemical weapons. Although research, production, and stockpiling of chemical weapons are banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), chemical weapons remain a threat in nations where treaty obligations have not been fully implemented.

 

Prosecutors charged a German chemical company with sending more than 30 shipments of dual-use toxic substances and equipment to Russia’s Chimmed Group, German media said.

U.S., Ukraine Refute Russian Bioweapons Charges


October 2022
By Leanne Quinn

A special session of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), convened in Geneva at Russia’s request and centered on biological weapons accusations against the United States and Ukraine, ended Sept. 9 without resolution.

As the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya has made his country's case for waging war in Ukraine and for accusing the United States and Ukraine of activities that violate the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). But Russia never provided any evidence of its charges, including at a special BWC session in September in Geneva. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)During eight closed-door meetings held Sept. 5–9, 89 BWC states-parties and one BWC signatory state heard presentations from the three countries involved in the dispute. Russia has a history of mischaracterizing U.S. biological research cooperation with Ukraine and other partners, but the consultative meeting marked the first time Russia used a provision of the treaty to press the United States for answers to its allegations.

After the meeting, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price lauded the work of the U.S. and Ukrainian delegations and condemned Russian attempts to spread disinformation.

“The United States and Ukraine presented a thorough, in-depth series of presentations that strongly refuted Russia’s absurd and false claims of U.S. biological weapons development and bio-labs in Ukraine,” he said in the statement.

Russia, which called for the meeting in June, sought answers to questions concerning the “fulfillment of [the U.S. and Ukrainian] respective obligations under the convention in the context of the operation of biological laboratories on the Ukrainian territory.”

Before the meeting, the United States received a diplomatic note from Russia that “did not contain any actual questions, but rather a series of assertions and mischaracterizations of various documents that the Russian Federation claims to have obtained during Russia’s war against Ukraine,” according to a U.S. document submitted to the meeting.

Addressing allegations related to U.S. funding of Ukrainian biological research facilities, the document explained that, in 2005, the U.S. Defense Department and the Ukrainian Health Ministry entered into a cooperative agreement on preventing the proliferation of technology, pathogens, and expertise that could be used in the development of biological weapons. Such cooperation is encouraged under Article X of the BWC.

The U.S. delegation noted that Russia was a foundational partner of the U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction programs and benefited from similar collaborative biological research and biosafety work that took place between the United States and Russia for many years until cooperation was terminated by Russia in 2014.

“Normal Ukraine-United States Article X cooperation is being demonised, which is dangerous” for the BWC, Aiden Liddle, UK ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, said in a tweet on Sept. 7.

One series of Russian questions focused on three U.S.-issued patents for technology related to the weaponization of toxins, including whether the patents violated U.S. obligations under the BWC. The United States responded that “the decision to issue a patent does not violate the obligations” of the United States under the BWC and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) on the grounds that “patent rights do not confer a legal right or authorization to produce an invention” but rather “simply serve to give the patent owner the legal means to exclude other parties from taking certain actions with respect to that invention.”

The United States responded that because multiple states-parties to the BWC and CWC have issued similar patents, including Russia, it might be beneficial to hold “further discussions on best practices for identifying and addressing such applications.”

Regarding U.S. funding of animal surveillance projects in Ukraine, the United States dismissed Russian claims that the projects are seeking to “weaponize” migratory birds. It said the two research projects collect data on avian diseases in migratory birds to support “a long-term international effort encouraged by the World Health Organization to understand the spread of avian influenza around the world.”

 

Russia called a special meeting to reaffirm bioweapons charges against Ukraine and the United States but has offered no evidence.

Russia Calls Meeting of Biological Weapons Convention


September 2022
By Leanne Quinn

A formal consultative meeting of states-parties to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) opened in late August after Russia invoked a treaty provision designed to resolve accusations about violations.

Referring to Russia and its biological weapons charges against Ukraine and the United States, Nicolas de Rivière, the French ambassador to the United Nations, has tweeted his regret that the UN Security Council "is being used by one of its permanent members as a propaganda platform."  (Photo by EuropaNewswire/Gado/Getty Images)On June 29, Russia formally requested the meeting to discuss its allegation that the United States is funding a network of biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine. The claims, which Russia brought before the UN Security Council on March 11, March 18, and May 13, have been refuted repeatedly by Ukraine, the United Nations, and the United States.

As Russia continues to double down on the charges, multiple nations have expressed disappointment that it is choosing to use international forums to spread disinformation.

“I regret that the Security Council is being used by one of its permanent members as a propaganda platform,” Nicolas de Rivière, the French ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted on March 18.

Article V of the BWC provides that states-parties must “under[take] to consult bilaterally and multilaterally and cooperate in solving any problems which may arise in relation to the objective, or in the application” of the BWC.

After an informal meeting of states-parties on July 27, the UN announced that Russia’s requested consultative meeting will open on Aug. 26 and continue Sept. 5–7 and 9. György Molnár, Hungarian ambassador to the BWC, was named to chair the formal consultative meeting.

This provision has been invoked only once before, in 1997 when Cuba accused the United States of spraying an invasive insect, Thrips palmi, from an airplane in a biological attack on an agricultural region of Cuba. That meeting, attended by 75 states-parties and three signatories, ended inconclusively as no “direct causal link” could be established between the alleged attack and the insect infestation, according to a September 1997 article by the nongovernmental organization VERTIC.

Unlike other disarmament agreements, such as the Chemical Weapons Convention, the BWC has no implementing body to enforce the treaty’s ban on biological weapons.

But if Russia or any other state-party wishes to resolve allegations with a formal investigation, Article VI of the treaty gives member states the right to request that the Security Council investigate the alleged treaty breach.

Moscow offers no evidence for claim of violation by Ukraine and the United States.

Colorado Chemical Weapon Stockpile Site on Target to Meet Destruction Deadline

With two out of three munition-specific destruction campaigns completed and a new proposal to accelerate the destruction of all remaining munitions, the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) is on its way to meeting the 2023 chemical weapons stockpile elimination deadline. When the United States ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997, it accepted the treaty mandate to eliminate its chemical weapons stockpile and related facilities completely and verifiably by April 2007, with the posibility of a five-year extension until 2012. But both the 2007 and the 2012 deadlines...

U.S. Seeks to Speed Chemical Weapons Destruction


June 2022
By Leanne Quinn

The Defense Department program responsible for eliminating the last vestiges of the U.S. chemical weapons arsenal hit a milestone in April when it completed destruction of the government’s stockpile of deadly VX agent at a facility in Kentucky. The program is now seeking regulatory approval for a new plan to speed destruction activities at the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in Colorado.

Operators move rockets containing VX nerve agent from a pallet to a transfer cart to begin the destruction process at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in Kentucky. The rockets were among the last with VX in the U.S. stockpile to be destroyed. The U.S. Defense Department is now trying to speed up the destruction of chemical weapons at a site in Pueblo, Colorado.  (Photo courtesy of Bechtel)Under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the United States is obligated to destroy its chemical weapons by September 2023. That goal was advanced when the Defense Department’s Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program destroyed the last M55 rocket containing the nerve agent VX at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in Richmond, Ky. on April 19. The program’s proposed plan to accelerate destruction operations at the Colorado facility seeks to counteract slow munitions processing rates that could make it difficult to meet the CWC deadline for destroying all U.S. chemical weapons.

Originally, more than 523 tons of mustard and nerve agent were stored in rockets and projectiles at the Blue Grass plant. The milestone in April marked the complete destruction of the U.S. VX arsenal, and the completion of four out of five destruction campaigns at the Kentucky facility. The final campaign will undertake the destruction of the remaining 277 tons of GB nerve agent in M55 rockets.

The Colorado site employs multiple technical processes to destroy the chemical munitions and agents stored at nearby Pueblo Army Depot. Since operations began in September 2016, the site has destroyed 2,255 tons of the 2,600 tons of various chemical munitions originally stored at the depot.

At an April 27 public meeting of the Colorado Chemical Demilitarization Citizens’ Advisory Commission, Walton Levi, project manager at the Pueblo site, announced the possibility of speeding up the destruction by processing some of the 4.2-inch mortar rounds in the main plant in addition to three static detonation chambers.

“We can run [4.2-inch mortar rounds] in the main plant. That gives us some greater certainty that we will meet the treaty deadline,” Levi said. But he said the plan still needs to be formally approved and permitted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

According to the Pentagon’s program office, the Colorado stockpile initially consisted of three chemical munitions types: 155mm and 105mm projectiles and 4.2-inch mortar rounds, all containing mustard agent. The pilot plant has used neutralization followed by biotreatment to destroy the majority of its 155mm and 105mm projectiles. A limited number of problematic munitions have been destroyed in detonation chambers. The destruction of the 155mm weapons was completed in September 2020, and program officials estimate that the destruction campaign for the 105mm projectiles will finish in July.

The majority of the 4.2-inch mortar rounds originally were slated to be eliminated by three static detonation chambers, which use thermal heating to detonate or deflagrate munitions, mustard agents, and explosive components. The trial burn testing finished on May 13, and, according to John Jackson, deputy plant manager for the static destruction chambers, the site will “continue to process [4.2-inch mortar rounds] at 50 percent rates on one [static destruction chamber] unit at a time.” Nearly 2,000 mortar rounds have been destroyed, but thousands more remain.

At the current pace, the static detonation chambers at the Colorado plant could delay the destruction of the remaining portion of the U.S. declared chemical weapons stockpile past the September 2023 deadline. Downtime, maintenance, or a 5-day week operating schedule could extend the time needed to finish the destruction activities, but processing some munitions in the main plant could help alleviate the issue.

Levi said that the plant team is “leaning forward as a program and a project to be ready when and if that [permit] decision is made.” The team is working on a “plug-in and operate” design to process the 4.2 inch mortar rounds in the main plant so that they can hit the ground running by late summer.

 

A Pentagon program eliminated the last U.S. VX agent weapons but still must destroy others.

U.S. Cites Arms Control Compliance Concerns


June 2022
By Gabriela Rosa Hernández & Leanne Quinn

Iran, Myanmar, Russia, and Syria have failed to uphold their commitments under the treaty banning chemical weapons, the U.S. State Department said in its annual compliance report on international nonproliferation and disarmament agreements and commitments released in April.

Three entities in China, a major producer of weapons such as this DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missile, were sanctioned by the United States in 2021 for providing goods and technology to Iran, North Korea and Syria that could assist in developing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, according to a U.S. State Department report. (Photo by Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)The report, covering activities in 2021, reaffirmed U.S. concerns about activities at nuclear test sites in China and Russia and determined that North Korea and Syria have failed to comply with their obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Although there are questions regarding transparency, the report reaffirmed that “Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities…necessary to produce a nuclear device.”

But Iran has continued to develop stocks of enriched uranium that are vital to produce sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon, as it has since after the United States withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The report also found that “Iran’s continued failure to fully cooperate with the [International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)] ongoing safeguards investigations raises concerns with regard to Iran’s compliance with its obligation to accept safeguards” under the NPT.

In a separate report monitoring international compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the State Department said that “Russia retains an undeclared chemical weapons program and has used chemical weapons twice in recent years,” referring to the assassination attempts on Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Russia and Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the United Kingdom. Sergei Skripal is a former Russian military intelligence officer.

The supplementary report was unable to reach a conclusion regarding whether China has fully met its obligations under the CWC due to China’s research into pharmaceutical-based agents and toxins with potential dual-use applications. The State Department also found that Russia, China, and North Korea have failed to comply with their commitments under the treaty prohibiting the use of biological weapons.

In regard to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the main report said the United States continues to adhere to a zero-yield standard. Although there were no new compliance developments involving Russia in 2021, the department repeated previous concerns that Russia “conducted supercritical nuclear weapons tests since renewing its nuclear explosive testing moratorium in 1996 and [that] concerns remain due to the uncertainty relating to activities at Novaya Zemlya,” one of two major former Soviet nuclear test sites. As for China, the reports identified no new compliance issues, but concerns remain about activities at the Lop Nur Nuclear Test Site.

Meanwhile, Syria and North Korea remain in outright violation of their NPT obligations. In Syria’s case, this includes refusing to provide any substantive information to the IAEA about the Al-Kibar reactor that was destroyed during an Israeli airstrike in 2007.

As for North Korea, the State Department said, “Irrespective of one’s interpretation of whether or not [North Korea’s] 2003 notice of withdrawal from the NPT became legally effective, [North Korea] remains subject to IAEA safeguards obligations” and has failed to comply.

China also has failed to adhere to its November 2000 commitment not to assist any country in developing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. “In 2021, the United States imposed sanctions against three [Chinese] entities pursuant to the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act for transfers of proliferation-sensitive goods and technology,” the report said, without giving more details.

Russia was found in compliance with its obligations under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and with its Presidential Nuclear Initiatives obligations. (See ACT, April 2022.) The initiatives are a set of arms control agreements regarding tactical nuclear warheads.

In terms of conventional arms control agreements, the 2022 report does not include a section on the Open Skies Treaty, in contrast to its 2021 iteration, because the United States officially withdrew from the accord in November 2020. (See ACT, December 2020.)

The report accused Russia of selectively applying provisions of the Vienna Document, an agreement about confidence- and security-building measures in Europe that provides for the exchange and verification of information, and criticized Russia’s failure to respond to Ukraine’s inquiry regarding the Russian military buildup near the Ukrainian border in 2021.

“As of December 2021, Russia continued and intensified its military build-up and aggressive rhetoric towards Ukraine. While further information about Russian activities in 2022 will be covered in detail in the 2023 report, the United States now knows the build-up was a prelude to offensive action against Ukraine,” the report states.

 

 

Iran, Myanmar, Russia and Syria failed to uphold chemical weapons treaty commitments, the State Department reported.

Ukraine Seeks Protection Against Possible Chemical Attack


May 2022
By Leanne Quinn

Ukraine, preparing to defend against Russian capabilities, has requested bilateral assistance and protection against chemical weapons from the members of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the international treaty that bans the use of chemical weapons.

Among those responding to Ukrainian requests for help to protect against possible Russian chemical weapons attacks is Direct Relief, a California-based humanitarian organization. The group has sent more than 220,000 vials of atropine, which can counter the effects of nerve agents. (Photo by Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Western officials have repeatedly voiced concerns about the potential for a chemical incident or attack in Ukraine. (See ACT, April 2022.)

Ukraine on March 18 submitted a letter to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international chemical weapons watchdog requesting bilateral assistance from CWC states-parties to protect Ukraine against chemical weapons.

Article X of the CWC provides that any member state can request assistance and protection against the use or threat of use of chemical weapons, including riot control agents.

The letter directed states-parties to contact the Embassy of Ukraine in The Hague to coordinate the provision of assistance and detection equipment, alarm systems, protective equipment, decontamination equipment, medical antidotes and treatments, and advice on protective measures.

In a March 24 joint statement, NATO heads of state promised that the allies would “continue to provide assistance [to Ukraine] in such areas as cybersecurity and protection against threats of a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear nature.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed on April 4 that the United States is providing Ukraine with “lifesaving equipment and supplies that could be deployed in the event of Russian use of a chemical or biological weapon against Ukraine.”

That same day, the United States confirmed it had contributed $250,000 to the OPCW Trust Fund for Implementation of Article X and earmarked the money to provide protection and assistance to Ukraine should chemical weapons be used in the conflict. France contributed $949,000 to the trust fund.

Direct Relief, a California-based humanitarian organization, announced on April 8 that it had fulfilled a request from the Ukrainian Ministry of Health for vials of atropine, a drug that can counter the effects of nerve agents such as sarin. More than 220,000 vials of the drug were delivered to Ukraine from a Direct Relief distribution warehouse in Santa Barbara.

Meanwhile, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said during an April 7 press briefing that the organization was making contingency plans for “all scenarios” that could impact Ukrainians, from “treatment of mass casualties to chemical assaults.”

During that same briefing, Heather Papowitz, a WHO incident manager in Ukraine, said that WHO has trained more than 1,500 health workers and partners in Ukraine on how to respond to chemical hazards and has provided guidelines and supplies.

That same day, foreign ministers from the Group of Seven countries and the EU high representative issued a joint statement starkly warning Russia to refrain from using chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.

“We warn against any threat of use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. We recall Russia’s obligations under international treaties of which it is a party, and which protect us all. Any use by Russia of such weapons should be unacceptable and result in severe consequences,” the statement said.

 

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Western officials have voiced concern about the potential for a chemical incident or attack in the war-torn country.

Success of 25-Year-Old Chemical Weapons Prohibition Treaty Cannot Be Taken for Granted, Experts Caution

Body: 

For Immediate Release: April 28, 2022

Media Contacts: Paul Walker, coordinator of the CWC Coalition, (617) 201-0565; Leanne Quinn, CWC Coalition Program Assistant, (202) 463-8270 x 106

(Washington, D.C.) - April 29 marks the 25th anniversary of the 1997 entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which outlaws the development, production, and use of deadly chemical weapons and requires the verifiable destruction of remaining stockpiles. 

“The CWC has solidified the global taboo against chemical weapons and has evolved to become a sophisticated, resilient, and effective disarmament regime. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2013, has been tremendously successful in overseeing the demilitarization of vast chemical weapons stockpiles,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

The CWC enjoys almost universal global support with 193 States Parties. To date, 99% of the world’s declared chemical weapons stockpiles have been safely and irreversibly destroyed, and there have been thousands of on-site inspections of chemical weapons facilities and chemical industrial facilities to ensure treaty compliance.

“But the work of eliminating prohibited chemical weapons stockpiles is not yet complete and the global taboo against chemical weapons possession, production, and use cannot be taken for granted.” Kimball cautioned.

The use, and threat of use, of chemical weapons has not completely abated. Chemical weapons were used in Syria and Iraq numerous times in the last decade, questions about Syria’s undeclared chemical weapons capacity linger, and nerve agents have been used in assassination attempts in Malaysia, Russia, and the United Kingdom; and there are serious concerns about the potential use of chemical weapons by Russia in Ukraine.

“In the coming months and years, all states that support the CWC have a responsibility to actively uphold and enforce the norms established by the treaty,” Kimball said.

On April 13, more than 35 chemical weapons experts signed on to a joint statement organized by the CWC Coalition, a special project of the Arms Control Association, expressing concern about the threat of use of chemical weapons in Ukraine.

“We call upon Russia, in the strongest possible terms, to respect its solemn obligations under the Geneva Protocol and the CWC not to contemplate, let alone use or threaten to use, these globally banned weapons of mass terror,” the statement said.

The CWC regime faces other challenges, as well. Egypt, Israel, North Korea, and South Sudan remain outside of the treaty, and only 62% of states parties have enacted domestic laws to fully implement treaty provisions. Chemicals and technologies that can be used to create these weapons are often dual use, and chemical security must be a continued priority to prevent chemical terrorism.

“Ensuring continued prohibition of these weapons, and verified treaty compliance among all states-parties, should be a core international security interest of all nations. Achievements must be safeguarded, and violators must be investigated and held to account,” said Leanne Quinn, program assistant for the CWC Coalition.

Out of the 193 states-parties to the CWC, eight had or still have declared chemical weapons stockpiles. Of those eight countries, Albania, India, Iraq, Libya, Russia, South Korea, and Syria have completed destruction of their declared arsenals.

“The United States is scheduled to complete chemical weapons stockpile elimination efforts in September 2023. Technical challenges at the two remaining chemical weapons destruction sites remain formidable and meeting that goal is not assured. We call on the United States to make every effort possible to safely finish destroying the last vestiges of its chemical weapons stockpile by the treaty-mandated deadline,” said Paul Walker, vice-chair of the Arms Control Association and coordinator of the CWC Coalition.

The fifth review conference of the CWC will take place next year and member states must dedicate themselves to the ongoing task of ensuring treaty obligations are fully implemented and that the CWC and the OPCW can adapt to meet new challenges.

“To help the OPCW in that mission, governments and nongovernmental actors have a responsibility to ensure the chemical weapons prohibition regime has the necessary political and public support, and technical and financial resources to verify compliance – and hold accountable those who may violate the chemical weapons taboo,” stated Walker.

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On the 25th anniversary of the CWC's entry into force, experts caution that despite the CWC's numerous achievements, the global taboo against chemical weapons possession, production, and use cannot be taken for granted.

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The U.S. Cold War-Era Chemical Weapons Stockpile

Contact: Leanne Quinn, Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition Program Assistant, (202) 463-8270 x106

In 1990, on the heels of the Cold War, the United States possessed the world's second largest chemical weapons arsenal after Russia, consisting of more than 31,500 U.S. tons (28,577 MT) of lethal chemical agents and munitions.

Following years of bilateral talks with Russia and multilateral negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on chemical weapons disarmament, the United States decided in 1986 to take unilateral action to begin the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpile. The demilitarization effort was prompted by Congressional legislation (Public Law 99-145) calling for the safe destruction of the United States’ stockpile of nonbinary lethal chemical agents and related facilities.

Since transport of chemical weapons was highly contentious - and was later outright banned by Congress in 1994 (50 U.S. Code 1512a) -  the U.S. Army's chemical weapons destruction plan relied on destruction facilities located at the nine U.S. chemical weapons depots in Anniston, Alabama; Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Pueblo, Colorado; Newport, Indiana; Richmond, Kentucky; Edgewood, Maryland; Umatilla, Oregon; Tooele, Utah; and Johnston Atoll. Dustruction efforts began at the first destruction facility, Johnston Atoll, in 1990.  

By 1997, when the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (also known as the Chemical Weapons Convention or the CWC) entered into force, the United States had destroyed only 1,434 MTs of its chemical agents and munitions. As a member state of the CWC, the United States committed to the destruction of its remaining chemical weapons inventory.

The chart below summarizes the types and quanties of chemical weapons that were once in the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile, including the agents and munitions that have already been destroyed. To date, all chemical agents and munitions stored at Aberdeen, Anniston, Johnston Atoll, Newport, Pine Bluff, and Tooele have been eliminated; the Pueblo (Colorado) and Blue Grass (Kentucky) destruction facilities are still operational.

The data are drawn from the records published by the Program Manager for Chemical Demilitarization and the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency in 1996, 2000, 2011, and 2012.

As of April 15 2022, there are 646.7 U.S. tons of chemical agents and munitions left to be destroyed. Official updates on the effort to complete the destruction process at the Pueblo and Blue Grass destruction facilities are available online here.

Under the provisions of the CWC, the United States must finish destroying its remaining chemical weapons by Sept. 30, 2023.

Agent Type Key:

GA – nerve agent, also known as Tabun
GB – nerve agent, also known as Sarin
HD – blister agent, sulfur mustard (nearly pure)
H – blister agent, sulfur mustard (20%-30% impurities
HT – blister agent, sulfur mustard (60% HD and 40% agent T)
Lewisite – blister agent, the central atom is arsenic
VX – nerve agent

Quantity and Type of Former U.S. Chemical Agents and Munitions by Stockpile Location

Storage Site Agent Type Munitions Quantity
(number of munitions)
Destruction
Start Date
Destruction
End Date
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland HD ton containers 1,818 Apr 23, 2003 Feb 2006
Anniston Army Depot, Alabama HT 4.2-inch cartridges 183,552 Aug 9, 2003 Sep 22, 2011
HD 4.2-inch cartridges 75,360
HD 105mm cartridges 23,064
HD 155mm projectiles 17,643
HD ton containers 108
GB 105mm cartridges 74,014
GB 105mm projectiles 26
GB 155mm projectiles 9,600
GB 8-inch projectiles 16,026
GB M55 rockets 44,738
GB M56 rocket warheads 260
VX 155mm projectiles 139,581
VX mines 44,131
VX M55 rockets 35,662
Blue Grass Army Depot, Kentucky HD 155mm projectiles 15,492 Jun 7, 2019 Sept 30, 2023
GB 8-inch projectiles 3,977
GB M55 rockets 51,740
VX 155mm projectiles 12,816
VX M55 rockets 17,739
Johnston Atoll HD 155mm projectiles 5,779 Jun 30, 1990 Nov 29, 2000
HD 105mm projectiles 46
HD M60 projectiles 45,108
HD 4.2-inch mortars 43,600
HD ton containers 68
GB M55 rockets 58,353
GB 155mm projectiles 107,197
GB 105mm projectiles 49,360
GB 8-inch projectiles 13,020
GB MC-1 bombs 3,047
GB MK 94 bombs 2,570
GB ton containers 66
VX M55 rockets 13,889
VX 155mm projectiles 42,682
VX 8-inch projectiles 14,519
VX land mines 13,302
VX ton containers 66
Newport Chemical Depot, Indiana VX ton containers 1,690 May 5, 2005 Aug 8, 2008
Pine Bluff Arsenal, Arkansas HT ton containers 3,591 Mar 28, 2005 Nov 12, 2010
HD ton containers 107
GB M55 rockets 90,231
GB M56 rocket warheads 178
VX M55 rockets 19,582
VX M56 rocket warheads 26
VX mines 9,378
Pueblo Army Depot, Colorado HT 4.2-inch cartridges 20,384 Sep 7, 2016 Sept 30, 2023
HD 4.2-inch cartridges 76,722
HD 105mm cartridges 383,418
HD 155mm projectiles 299,554
Tooele Army Depot, Utah H 155mm projectiles 54,663 Aug 22, 1996 Jan 21, 2012
HT 4.2-inch cartridges 62,590
HD 4.2-inch mortar 976
HD ton container 6,398
GB 105mm projectiles 798,703
GB ton containers 5,709
GB MC-1 bombs 4,463
GB M55 rockets 28,945
GB M56 rocket warheads 1,056
GB 155 mm projectiles 89,142
GB Weteye bomb 888
VX M55 rockets 3,966
VX M56 rocket warheads 3,560
VX ton containers 640
VX 155mm projectiles 53,216
VX 8-inch projectiles 1
VX spray tanks 862
VX landmines 22,690
GA ton containers 4
Lewisite ton containers 10
Umatilla Depot Activity, Oregon H ton containers 2,635 Sep 7, 2004 Oct 25, 2011
GB 155mm projectiles 47,406
GB 8-inch projectiles 14,246
GB M55 rockets 91,442
GB 500-lb bombs 27
GB 750-lb bombs 2,418
VX 155mm projectiles 32,313
VX 8-inch projectiles 3,752
VX mines 11,685
VX M55 rockets 14,519
VX spray tanks 156

The data on this chart was sourced from the archived websites of the Program Manager for Chemical Demilitarization (June 24, 1997, Oct. 1, 2000) and the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency (Sept. 22, 2011; Feb. 6, 2012).

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U.S. Mulls Options if Russia Uses WMD


April 2022
By Leanne Quinn

Amid growing concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Ukraine, the Biden administration has gathered behind the scenes a group of national security officials to prepare potential responses should chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons be deployed.

World leaders confer March 24 on the sidelines of meetings of NATO and the G7 in Brussels to discuss the Russian war in Ukraine, L to R: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, U.S. President Joe Biden, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.  (Photo by Henry Nicholls - Pool/Getty Images)Dubbed the Tiger Team, the group also is brainstorming options for the United States and NATO if Russian forces go beyond the Ukrainian border and attack a NATO member in a strike against a convoy carrying weapons and aid to Ukraine. The team meets three times a week in classified sessions, according to a March 23 report by The New York Times.

U.S. President Joe Biden has said that, desperate over Russia’s failure to dominate in the war against Ukraine, Putin could be preparing to use chemical or biological weapons in battle.

Putin's "back is against the wall, and now he's talking about new false flags he's setting up, including asserting that we in America have biological as well as chemical weapons in Europe. Simply not true," Biden said on March 21 at a Business Roundtable event.

"They are also suggesting that Ukraine has biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine. That's a clear sign he's considering using both of those," he said.

Ahead of an emergency meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels on March 24, Biden and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg put the focus on growing evidence that Russia was preparing to use chemical weapons. Stoltenberg said NATO would give Ukraine special equipment to help protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.

Their comments came as Russian forces struggled to make progress in their increasingly brutal assault on Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24.

Russia is a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and to the Biological Weapons Convention, which outlaw those armaments. As recently as January, Russia joined the United States and other major nuclear-weapon states in declaring that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

Speaking at a U.S. Senate hearing on March 10, CIA Director William Burns stated that Russia’s use of chemical weapons “either as a false flag operation or against Ukrainians” is a possibility. The Russians have “used those weapons against their own citizens, they’ve at least encouraged their use in Syria and elsewhere, so it’s something we take very seriously,” Burns said.

Russia could potentially employ chemical weapons in a variety of ways. Russia could use a chemical weapon
“for assassinations against military and political leadership, … to clear buildings, [or] on the military battlefield. They could use it to go after bomb shelters because chemical agents can penetrate into buildings,” Andrew Weber, a top nonproliferation official in the Obama administration, said during an MSNBC interview.

Biden stated on March 11 that “Russia would pay a severe price if they used chemical weapons.”

When asked at a March 14 press briefing what those consequences could entail, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki responded, “[T]that would be a conversation that we would have with our partners around the world.” She predicted there would be a “severe reaction from the global community.”

In a March 16 telephone call, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan delivered a similar warning to Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, about the “consequences and implications” of any possible Russian decision to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine.

The United States and Russia have been publicly trading allegations about chemical and biological weapons across multiple international forums.

In December 2021, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that U.S. military contractors were secretly smuggling chemical weapons components into Ukraine for mercenaries to use. Russia did not provide any evidence to back up its claim, which the United States and Ukraine have categorically denied.

Pushing the issue further, Russia called for a special meeting of the UN Security Council on March 11 to discuss Russian claims that Ukraine was attempting to “clean up” traces of a military biological program funded by the United States. Vasily Nebenzya, Russian ambassador to the United Nations, charged that the United States operates at least 30 biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine.

At the UN, U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield insisted “there are no Ukrainian biological weapons laboratories supported by the United States, not near Russia’s border or anywhere.” She confirmed that the United States has supported Ukraine’s public health laboratory infrastructure, which played an important role in assisting Ukraine’s COVID-19 response, but said none of these labs has anything to do with biological weapons.

Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN undersecretary-general and high representative for disarmament affairs, also dismissed the Russian claims. “The United Nations is not aware of any biological weapons programs” in Ukraine, she told the Security Council meeting.

During a meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Executive Council on March 8–11, the United States and 48 other nations sponsored a joint statement condemning Russian disinformation about chemical weapons in Ukraine.

Joseph Manso, the U.S. ambassador to the OPCW, called Russia’s allegations against the United States “preposterous” and said Russia’s disinformation campaign was “a means to distract from its transgressions and aggressions.” In an attempt to underscore the U.S. commitment to the CWC, Manso announced that the United States would host a virtual chemical demilitarization transparency event on March 22 for OPCW delegates. That meeting, led by Bonnie Jenkins, the U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, highlighted the progress the United States has made in destroying its chemical weapons stockpile and reaffirmed that the destruction efforts would be finished by the treaty-mandated deadline of September 2023.

As a member state of the CWC, the international treaty that bans the use or stockpiling of chemical weapons, Russia was obligated to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal. The OPCW verified that Russia finished destroying its declared stockpile of 40,000 metric tons in September 2017.

Despite this, the U.S. State Department said in April 2021 it “cannot certify that Russia has met its obligations for its complete declarations” of its chemical weapons production and development facilities and stockpiles. The United States and other Western governments have accused Russia of the attempted assassination of Russian defector Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in 2018 and of Alexei Navalny, Russia’s leading opposition leader, in 2020. A chemical nerve agent called Novichok was used in both cases.

Amid concerns that Russia could use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Ukraine, a group of U.S. national security officials is mulling potential responses.

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