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Volume 72, Issue 17, Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Chemical weapons still pose threat

Zach Lee
Opinion Columnist 

On Friday, Russia opened its third chemical weapons destruction plant in an effort to comply with an international agreement in which the country's leaders promised to eliminate its chemical weapons stockpiles by 2012.

To date, it has eliminated just 3 percent, though the 17 percent ? 6,900 tons of nerve agents ? housed in the new plant is set to be destroyed by April 2007.

The United States, on the other hand, is doing a bit better, and the Army announced on Aug. 30 that half of the U.S. stockpile of chemical weapons ? 1.7 million munitions, 39 percent of the stockpile by weight ? had been destroyed.

The United States is also set to destroy the rest of its stockpile ? second in size only to Russia's ? by 2012.

Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union kept massive stores of mustard gas as deterrent against a chemical attack through the Cold War, and now, almost two decades after the Berlin Wall fell, everyone can let their guards down a little bit.

On the blister agent front, anyway.

But the new Russian facility is destroying mustard gas in relatively small amounts, focusing instead on dismantling and neutralizing munitions containing the deadly nerve agents VX, soman and sarin, all considered to be weapons of mass destruction.

Needless to say, this presents an opportunity for everything to go terribly wrong.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Russia is only a shadow of the U.S.S.R. and is no longer a world power by any stretch of the imagination.

So as much as the U.S. can relax when it comes to aggression from the Soviet bloc, Americans must be wary of the way in which Russians dispose of their chemical weapons. In the age of terrorism, the real possibility that any number of Russia's chemical weapons could be stolen exists, and as the country focuses on destroying those weapons anyway, it would be even easier for one or two missing warheads full of sarin to slip through the cracks and end up on a Japanese train, for example.

Ian Fleming, eat your heart out.

If deterrence is effective, now is not the time for the United States to speed ahead of Russia in chemical weapon destruction.

If our own supply of chemical weapons had anything at all to do with the fact that the Soviet Union never attacked American soil, it is worth its weight, and it might still work to hold off those who would threaten our citizens with the horrible, painful deaths that accompany exposure to nerve agents.

Let's wait to get rid of our deterrent until we're sure we don't need it.

Lee, an English and Spanish senior, 
can be reached at

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