|The Chemical and Biological Weapons Threat Reduction Act of 1997 (S.495) introduced by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) March 20 falls far short as an alternative to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
While S.495 incorporates some elements contained in the CWC and its implementing legislation, the bill is deficient because it only restricts the United States, requiring us to go it alone in fighting two of the most serious threats facing us today -- the spread of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. S.495 walks away from a major international agreement, and takes a “do it yourself” approach. Chemical proliferation and terrorism are problems the United States must fight in cooperation with other countries, not alone. The CWC provides such global cooperation.
Only U.S. Elimination of Chemical Weapons. S.495 only requires the United States to do what it is doing already under existing law signed by President Reagan -- getting rid of its chemical weapons. The national security challenge before us is to require other nations to get out of the chemical weapons business as well. The CWC does exactly this. Strong U.S. leadership over more than 15 years of negotiations has succeeded in rallying broad international support for the CWC which outlaws chemical weapons around the world. One hundred and sixty one countries have signed the CWC. Seventy have ratified so far. While supporters of S.495 hope that the rest of the world follows our example and destroys chemical weapons, the CWC requires other nations to do so.
Limited Trade Controls. In the fight against the spread of these very dangerous weapons, S.495’s solution is simply to continue to do what we already are doing -- U.S. export controls and multilateral controls under the existing, informal “Australia Group.” The CWC allows for the maintenance and strengthening of the controls already in place, while also formally expanding controls over a broad range of chemicals and precursors, including new agents, which are not covered by S.495. The informal Australia Group only consists of 30 countries; the CWC is at 70 countries and growing. Furthermore, CWC provides for trade restrictions that will go into force April 29 against states who are not party to the treaty.
Only U.S. Sanctions. S.495 provides only for U.S. sanctions against countries that use chemical weapons (which U.S. law already requires). S.495 tells us
to go it alone in trying to work to obtain international support for multilateral sanctions after having turned our backs on the CWC. The CWC, while allowing nations to apply their own sanctions, also requires the parties to the Convention to take the necessary measures to ensure compliance. These measures could include multilateral sanctions, which are far more effective than unilateral ones are. The CWC would punish not only chemical weapons use, but the full range of chemical weapons activity, including production, stockpiling and transfer.
Only U.S. Penalties Against Terrorism. While S.495 incorporates penalties included in the CWC implementing legislation, the penalties apply only to terrorist activities in the United States or by U.S. citizens. By contrast, the CWC requires other countries to punish such activities abroad where the threat is growing. By joining the CWC, the United States would also benefit from information sharing with other Parties, which could provide early warning -- an essential component in the fight against terrorism.
Dead-end Diplomatic Approach. S.495 directs the Secretary of State to negotiate an international agreement which would enforce the 1925 Geneva Protocol against use of chemical weapons. The international community, following the U.S. lead, has already done this and more in the CWC. “Ratify the CWC” will be the most certain answer to any Secretary of State requesting a meeting on enforcement mechanisms against chemical weapons use.
No Relief for Industry. Furthermore, S.495 is incapable of addressing the concerns of the U.S. chemical industry regarding the trade restrictions that will be automatically imposed against the United States if it has not ratified by April 29. The industry estimates potentially $600 million a year in lost sales.
U.S. Leadership Undermined. While sponsors of S.495 claim that their legislation reinforces U.S. international leadership on chemical weapons, in fact, U.S. leadership will be undermined if it is intended as an alternative to the CWC. As Former Secretary of State James Baker III recently stated, “Failure to ratify the Convention would send a message of American retreat from engagement in the world. For this reason -- and because our national interest is better served by joining the convention than by lining up with pariah states outside it -- I support the treaty and urge my fellow Republicans to do the same.”