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Russia may have to engage in elimination of Syrian chemical weapons

September 13, 2013, 21:51 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, September 13 (Itar-Tass) - It looks like the Russian saying ‘Initiatives are punishable’ is to become applicable in the most immediate way to Russia’s own proposal to place the Syrian chemical weapons under international control.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said at a news briefing in the White House: “[…] it is clear that President Putin has invested his credibility in transferring Assad’s chemical weapons to international control and ultimately destroying them. This is significant. Russia is /President Bashar/ Assad’s patron and protector, and the world will note whether Russia can follow through on the commitments that it’s made.”

“Russia, as we saw just now in Geneva, has put its prestige and credibility on the line in backing this proposal to have Syria […] give up the chemical weapons that until two days ago it claimed it did not have, turn them over to international supervision with the purpose of eventually destroying them. And we are going to work with the Russians to see if this diplomatic avenue to resolving this problem can bear fruit,” Carney claimed. “And that is absolutely worthwhile and the right thing to do.”

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party /LDPR/ played the role of a self-styled motivator of the transfer of Syrian poison gasses to Russia last Tuesday. As he was speaking in front of the cameras of federal TV channels, he made a stroking gesture and uttered a statement: “We must take all the chemical weapons out of Syria, bring them to Russia and eliminate them here.”

It looked as if an armload of casks containing sarin were to be delivered to Zhirinovsky’s office in the State Duma.

The true fact of the situation around these weapons, according to Dr. Sergei Rogov of the Moscow-based Institute of U.S. and Canada Studies is that about 1,000 tons of the weapons of mass destruction have been accumulated in Syria.

Is Russia capable of destroying an arsenal as large as this one?

Russia’s own arsenal of chemical weapons that totaled 39,967 tons in the 1990’s and was considered to be one of the world’s biggest. The U.S. stockpiles stood at 31,500 tons at the same time.

Under the provisions of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, Russia plans eliminating by December 31, 2015, the 14,000 tons of warfare poisonous agents it still has at its disposal.

It might look like an extra thousand tons of chemical weapons from Syria would not be too big a burden for Russia, and yet people well-familiar with the situation indicate that the Russian stockpiles have run out of their warranted service life and are subject to a speedy destruction. KM.RU multi-portal quotes an expert assessment provided by Colonel Vladimir Mandych, a deputy chief of the Federal Department for the Storage and Elimination of Chemical Weapons who said: “All the Russian chemical warfare agents were manufactured between from 1963 through to 1987 and they had warranty periods of up to ten years. When the first warranty period was over, it was extended the first time, and then the second time.”

“As a result, all of them were well past the period of safe storage by the beginning of 2013,” Col Mandych said. He added that the fact makes the last stage of the arsenal’s destruction the most complicated and dangerous one.

Considering the fact that Moscow is having a difficult enough time as it tries to fit into the deadlines established under the Chemical Weapons Convention, it will be rather difficult to accept for destruction yet another thousand tons of chemicals, this time from Syria if a decision on this is taken.

Russia is getting assistance from more than fifteen countries, including the EU and the U.S., in destroying its chemical weaponry arsenal. Moscow and Washington plan to continue cooperation in this sphere. It was launched in the framework of the Nunn-Lugar program envisioning the destruction of nuclear, chemical and other weapons on the Russian territory.

“Quite possibly will have to take over all those Syrian arsenals of warfare chemical agents in case the operation to establish control over them is successful, and what else could we possibly do?” Fyodor Lukyanov, a senior expert at the Council for Foreign and Defence Policies told Itar-Tass. “Still if this scenario gets into play, the destruction should be paid up by the United Nations, not from Russia’s federal budget.”

“Along with this, Russia will need an agreement on cooperation with the U.S. in the framework of a new program or on the prolongation of the current Nunn-Lugar programme,” he said.

Sergei Karaganov, the dean of the world economy and international relations department at Moscow’s Supreme School of Economic told Itar-Tass the effort to establish control over the Syrian chemical weapons might take one or two or even five years. He explained for the forecast by saying that “it’s practically impossible and too dangerous for mankind to take the weapons out of Syria in the conditions of a civil war continuing there and this means a UN peacekeeping force will have to guard and protect it on the spot.”

“As for the destruction of the Syrian arsenals of chemical weaponry, that’s an issue for the future,” he said.