Russia, Britain, and the Chemical Weapons Convention

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is an international arms control treaty which grew out of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament. It was signed in 1993 and came into force four years later. The convention outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and their precursors.

The treaty is administered by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). In total, 192 states, including Russia, are parties to the CWC and have accepted its obligations.

In the wake of the recent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter by a nerve agent in Salisbury, the Convention’s procedures allow Britain 10 days to formally request clarification on Russia’s role via the OPCW. If the response proves unsatisfactory, Britain would be entitled to file a complaint with the organization’s executive council and the conference of member-states.

What do you think the OPCW should do in this situation?


British prime minister Theresa May has already received strong support from the OPCW. In his report of the Eighty-Seventh Session the OPCW Executive Council stated that he „was informed by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland that a chemical weapon was used in an incident in Salisbury on 4 March 2018“. He „expressed grave concern about the use of any chemical weapon, anywhere“ and „decided to remain seized of the matter.“

According to CBS, the UK’s representative to the watchdog told fellow delegates he never expected “to have to brief this Council on the first offensive use of a nerve agent of any sort on European territory since World War II.”

“The stark conclusion is that it is highly likely that Russia, a fellow State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention and fellow member of this Executive Council is implicated in chemical weapons use, whether by failure to control its own materials or by design,” said delegate Peter Wilson.


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