The world is officially ‘free’ of chemical weapons. Here’s what that means

The United States has destroyed its last declared stockpile of chemical weapons, making it the last of eight countries to do so under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Driving the news: The last of America’s chemical weapons was destroyed at the Bluegrass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in Kentucky.
* Kingston Reif, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Threat Reduction and Arms Control, oversaw the process and confirmed the destruction of “one hundred percent of the world’s declared chemical weapons.”

Historical Background: Chemical weapons have previously caused significant casualties, particularly during World War I.
* Following World War I, nations globally stockpiled these weapons in case they were used again.
* The U.S. had over 30,000 tons of chemical agents, and Russia had at least 40,000 tons by 1990.

The Challenges: The process of destroying chemical weapons was complicated due to the hazards they presented, requiring careful handling and complex disposal techniques.
* Local resistance due to fears of environmental pollution led to the need for entirely new weapon destruction techniques.
* Issues such as underfunding and poor management also hampered the U.S.’s chemical weapon destruction program according to David Koplow, a law professor at Georgetown University.

Evaluation: Despite covert use of chemical weapons by some nations, the overall effectiveness of the Chemical Weapons Convention is regarded as positive, with Reif stating that the world is safer without them.
* Cases of recent covert use include Syria’s deployment of chlorine and nerve agents in its civil war, and targeted assassination attempts by Russia and North Korea using chemical weapons.

View original article on NPR

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