On July 7, the United States announced it has completed the safe destruction of its obsolete chemical weapons stockpile, a complicated technological challenge that took more than 30 years. In so doing, the United States fulfilled a major obligation as a signatory to the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention.
President Joe Biden said in a statement that the destruction of the final munition in the U.S. stockpile brings us “one step closer to a world free from the horrors of chemical weapons.”
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the OPCW, confirmed that with the elimination of the U.S. stockpile, all declared chemical weapons stockpiles of States Parties are now verified as irreversibly destroyed. "This is the first time an international body has verified destruction of an entire category of declared weapons of mass destruction,” noted U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante.
World War I was the first time chemical weapons were used in modern conflict. The horror of the suffering they caused -- the choking, burning, and suffocation -- impelled nations to come together to ban their use, production, and stockpiling.
While the elimination of the declared stockpiles is a momentous accomplishment, the threat from chemical weapons still remains: four nations have not joined the Chemical Weapons Convention; and undeclared chemical weapons from States Parties pose a significant danger.
In recent years, the Assad regime in Syria, which is a signatory to the CWC, has repeatedly used chemical weapons against its own people. Its ally, Russia, also a CWC signatory, not only shielded Syria from accountability for its chemical weapons use, Russia itself used Novichok nerve agents on two occasions in attacks on Russian opposition leader Aleksey Navalny.
“I continue to encourage the remaining nations to join the Chemical Weapons Convention so that the global ban on chemical weapons can reach its fullest potential,” said President Biden. “Russia and Syria should return to compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention and admit their undeclared programs, which have been used to commit brazen atrocities and attacks.
“We will continue to stand with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to prevent the stockpiling, production, and use of chemical weapons around the world,” the President declared. “And together with our partners, we will not stop until we can finally and forever rid the world of this scourge.”