The executive secretary of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) — the group that will monitor compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention — expressed guarded optimism yesterday that both Russia and the U.S. might still ratify the convention before it enters into force on April 29. (Reuter, January 13) These two countries have by far the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the world and both have signed — but not ratified — the convention. The Hague-based OPCW will open its inaugural conference on May 6 and countries that have not ratified the convention will be unable to vote. This founding meeting will establish policies and procedures that will certainly effect Russia and the U.S. more than any of the other signatories, so both have a vested interest in making their voices heard. Should they fail to ratify the convention prior its entry into force, their citizens would be barred from serving with the OPCW and their chemical industries would face expensive punitive measures.
President Bill Clinton has sent a message to the Senate urging speedy ratification of the convention, calling it "extraordinarily important." He added that the failure to do so would "adversely affect both U.S. national security and economic interests." (USIS, January 13) In Moscow, some Russian lawmakers have balked at ratifying the convention because of the expenses — estimated at $5 billion — involved in destroying the 40,000 tons of chemical weapons in the country. However, in December the State Duma did pass a law establishing a legal basis for the destruction process. Perhaps the legislators will realize that it would also be very expensive for Russia not to ratify the convention before April 29.
Yeltsin Issues Plan for Unification with Belarus.