Commentary: Why does Russia destroy its chemical weapons?

China Military Online
Huang Panyue

The U.S. Air Force targeted the Russians in a recent procurement bidding of biological samples, which caused Russian people's concern and doubts, including Russian President Putin.

They are worried that the U.S. is developing bio-weapons targeting the Russians. As the word bio-weapon appeared in the public domain again, new progress is being made on the thorough destruction of chemical weapons, which are also weapons of mass destruction.

Russia recently completed the destruction of the last batch of chemical weapons at the Kizner facility in the Udmurt Republic.

Russian President Putin said this is indeed a historical event and a huge step towards making the modern world more balanced and more secure.

The chemical weapon destruction should have happened five years ago.

Retired Maj. Gen. Xu Guangyu, senior advisor of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said that when the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) took effect in 1997, Russia and the U.S. vowed to destroy all their chemical weapons before April 2012, but they postponed the deadline to 2020 and 2023 respectively due to technical and budget reasons.

Unlike regular modern weapons, chemical weapons cannot choose the target precisely. Once the chemical substance is released, it spreads via air and water and easily harms the civilians. They are weapons of "mass destruction".

Besides, chemical weapons are of a low production cost and are known as the "atomic bomb of poor countries". If they fall into the hands of extremist organizations or terrorists, the consequences would be unimaginable.

Sen. Col. Li Shuyin, female deputy director of the Foreign Military Affairs Institute in the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, said that chemical weapons have been severely criticized because they contravene the international laws and the humanitarian principle.

It is a common understanding of the international community that "the use of chemical weapons is an anti-human crime".

The U.S. even launched the war against Iraq for the "possible" allegation that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (meaning chemical weapons).

There is a solid foundation of international public opinion for the destruction of chemical weapons, and Russia's proactive destruction of them can highlight its image as a responsible power.

In Xu Guangyu's opinion, that's what Russia had in mind when deciding to destroy the weapons three years ahead of schedule.

As a matter of fact, chemical weapons experienced a period of fast development during the Cold War, and Russia inherited the largest chemical weapon arsenal from the Soviet Union.

After the Cold War ended, it was under a lot of international pressure of destroying the weapons. Today Russia has taken a high moral ground through the firm opposition against chemical weapons and support for arms control.

Li Shuyin pointed out that by destroying the chemical weapons ahead of time, Russia not only can establish its positive image and gain the initiative in public opinion, but will also have tangible benefits.

On the one hand, its active fulfillment of international obligations can improve its international image and enhance its national soft power and international influence, Li said.

On the other hand, the image of a "responsible power" can help mitigate the economic sanction on Russia waged by the western society represented by the U.S. and facilitate its diplomatic mediation and foreign economic cooperation, Li noted.

One day after Russia destroyed the last batch of its chemical weapons, Michelle Baldanza, spokesperson of the U.S. Department of Defense, said America has destroyed over 90% of its chemical weapons and will complete the destruction before 2023.

For large countries like Russia and America, actively supporting the destruction of chemical weapons is performing the obligation stipulated by international conventions and relevant agreements and also following the laws of military development.

"The road to harmony and safety is bound to be long and hard, but every time we take a step forward, we are closer to the destination," said Xu Guangyu.


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