Main Positions and Issues

The main issues regarding CWC ratification are discussed briefly below. More information can be found in the “Twelve Myths about the Chemical Weapons Convention” distributed out by the Business Executives for National Security in 1997. Also, a complete listing of publications, news reports, petitions and other documents can be found in the U.S. ratification section of the document archive.

CWC Verifiability

Against treaty: As a voluntary treaty, the CWC is not fully verifiable. The international community will be relying upon individual nations to be honest with their reporting of chemical weapons activities, facilities and stockpiles. There is simply no way to guarantee that the OPCW will have full knowledge of each state’s capabilities. In addition, many lethal chemicals are relatively common and used for peaceful purposes. It will be extremely difficult to determine a state’s intended use for many dual-use chemicals. With these things taken together, critics argue that it would be very easy for a state to “cheat” and very hard for other nations to detect the “cheaters.”
For treaty: No arms control agreement is 100 percent verifiable, but the CWC actually has one of the most extensive sets of verification provisions in arms control history. State declarations of chemical weapons and facilities submitted to the OPCW will be followed up with inspections for verification. Inspections will extend to industry to facilities that utilize chemicals listed in the treaty, to ensure that they are only being used for purposes not prohibited by the treaty. Routine inspections of those facilities would be required and if any credible suspicions were raised about a state’s chemical weapons activities, short notice challenge inspections will occur. Finally, the CWC imposes significant restrictions on the trade of many chemicals with non-member states, thereby limiting their access to deadly or precursor chemicals. Taken together, supporters argue that these provisions will remove the easiest means for rogue actors to acquire chemical weapons material in militarily significant quantities. The provisions will make nations’ activities more transparent, allowing for their actions to be discovered during many of the research, development, production, stockpiling or weaponizing stages of developing a functional chemical weapons program.


CWC Enforceability

Against treaty: The CWC is not enforceable and nations which violate the convention will not be punished. The Convention recommends only that sanctions be imposed upon a state which is caught violating it. Violators may also be reported to the U.N. Security Council. The U.S. should be concerned because both Russia and China have veto power in the U.N. Security Council, so there would be no means to bring a complaint against either state.
For treaty: The CWC is truly enforceable and calls for a collective response from all of its members to punish treaty violators. Sanctions would be imposed upon the violator and they would be reported to the U.N. Security Council for action. There is no restriction in the treaty against unilateral military response by any nation. If the U.S. felt that the violation was severe and that sanctions were not sufficient punishment, the CWC would not stand in the way of a U.S. military response.


Cost of CWC on Industry

Against treaty: The CWC will be prohibitively costly to industry and will expose their trade secrets to foreign inspectors. It is not only chemical companies that are affected by the treaty, but also industries that utilize chemicals including many food, pharmaceutical, electronics, fertilizer, textile, etc. companies. Some estimate that as many as 7,700 U.S. companies will be affected. The industry is already highly regulated and the time and financial requirements to comply with the paperwork and inspections are prohibitive. Any inspection exposes the company to industrial espionage, threatening U.S. trade secrets and competitiveness. These burdens are likely to affect smaller manufacturers much harder than the larger companies.
For treaty: The U.S. chemical industry, led by the Chemical Manufacturers Association and the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Associations, are strong supporters of the CWC. They have been involved in the negotiation of the treaty text to ensure that inspections do not impose an unnecessary or unfair financial burden on companies, nor threaten proprietary information. In fact, the U.S. chemical industry recognizes that the financial burden of not joining the CWC is much higher. The trade restrictions under the CWC would label the U.S. as an unreliable supplier of chemicals. U.S. chemical trade would immediately be affected as CWC members would not be allowed to trade many chemicals with the U.S. as long as it remained outside of the CWC. The CMA estimates that fewer than 200 facilities in the U.S. will endure regular inspections and only a further 1,000 companies would be required to file paperwork with OPCW. Petrochemical firms, biotechnology firms, textile firms, plastics producers and companies which only produce small amounts of chemicals are exempt from the convention. Inspection and compliance costs are expected to be less than the costs of currently required by OSHA and EPA inspections.


U.S. Maintenance of a Chemical Weapons Stockpile as a Deterrent

Against treaty: Arms control alone is not an effective way to promote chemical weapons non-proliferation; it needs to be balanced with credible defense and deterrence strategies as well. Destruction of the U.S. supply of chemical weapons leaves America without the threat of responding to a chemical attack in kind.
For treaty: The U.S. has already committed to destroying its chemical weapons, so there is no reason not to use this to pressure other nations to do the same. In the event of a chemical weapons attack the U.S. will be able to retaliate fully using a range of non-chemical weapons. U.S. credibility and the threat of retaliation are not undermined simply because weapons other than chemical weapons would be used.


Russian Ratification

Against treaty: The U.S. should not ratify the CWC unless Russia does. Russia continually tries to conceal their weapons development programs and stockpiles and if Russia does not ratify the CWC it will leave the U.S. vulnerable.
For treaty: The U.S. has much to gain by convincing Russia to become part of the CWC. They will be required to report all of their weapons stockpiles and allow inspections to occur, decreasing the opportunity for dishonest reporting. The world will finally have an accurate accounting of Moscow’s chemical weapon arsenal, and a promise that it will be disabled. Russia will not ratify the CWC unless the U.S. does, and in this case it is better to lead by example. If the U.S. ratifies the CWC it will provide significant political leverage to pressure Russia to do the same.


Constitutionality of the CWC

Against treaty: The CWC violates the 4th amendment of the U.S. constitution because it fails to protect against unreasonable search and seizure. Foreign inspectors will be allowed to search private business or residences with very little notice. Under the CWC provisions a country may deny inspectors access and challenge the inspections if they present a constitutional violation or pose a national security risk, but doing so would make them look like they were using the provision to hide a violation.
For treaty: The CWC is not unconstitutional and when the Bush Administration was negotiating the text of the treaty they ensured that it would not violate the 4th amendment. All inspections will require a warrant issued by U.S. authorities. Should the inspection raise constitutional issues, it may be blocked under the CWC challenge inspection provisions.


Technology Transfer

Against treaty: The CWC will actually promote chemical weapons proliferation by requiring that industrialized countries not restrict trade to other states in order to further scientific and technological advancement. This “poisons for peace” program is analogous to the “atoms for peace” initiative in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which allowed Iraq, Iran, and North Korea to obtain the knowledge, under the guise of peaceful purposes, to develop their nuclear weapons programs.
For treaty: The CWC does not undermine any current export control agreements, such as those implemented by the Australia Group, that are currently in place. Article I of the CWC specifically prohibits trade to nations that are seeking to develop or expand chemical weapons programs, regardless of their participation in the treaty. The convention also does not contain any provisions related to economic development, only pledging assistance for states to aid costly destruction of declared chemical weapons stockpiles.


New Chemicals and Technologies

Against treaty: The schedules of chemical laid out in the convention are very specific and nations with an interest in possessing chemical weapons will simply develop new agents that are not covered in the schedules.
For treaty: The CWC bans all toxic chemical agents under the definition “chemical weapon” regardless of whether they are listed in the schedules. The chemicals listed in schedules 1-3 are subject to verification and the lists of chemicals will expand as advancements in science and technology that produce novel agents.


Riot Control Agents

Against treaty: Because of the CWC the U.S. will be unable to use tear gas or other riot control agents in critical situations.
For treaty: Under the CWC riot control agents may not be used as a method of warfare (i.e. cannot be used against combatants or mixtures of combatants and non-combatants during armed conflicts). However, for law enforcement, peacekeeping or hostage rescue situations, riot control agents may still be employed.


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