NUCLEAR, BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL WEAPONS
April 28, 2007: Russia has
destroyed over 9,000 tons of its Cold War era nerve gas stockpile. That's
nearly 25 percent of the total. Much of this has been done with financial and
technical assistance from the United States. However, over a billion dollars
flowing into Russia attracted the usual assortment of corrupt officials. This
almost derailed further cooperation, until the United States could obtain an
agreement to allow American officials to supervise the way the money was used.
In other words, to make sure a lot of it was not stolen, and that the chemical
weapons were destroyed.
Russias Cold War chemical
stockpile held 40,000 tons of munitions. You'd think that the Russians would be
eager to get this stuff destroyed safely. Well, sort of. But after World War
II, thousands of tons of chemical weapons were just buried. Some of that stuff
is now showing up, via erosion or leeching into the water supply. None of the
World War II stuff was nerve gas, but most of it was still poisonous. Lots more stuff was dumped into the ocean
after World War II, but salt water and the vastness of the oceans prevented any
lasting problems. Not so with chemical weapons buried in out-of-the-way places.
Most Russians want the
Cold War stockpiles disposed of safely, and permanently. But corruption doesn't
take the long view, and unless you watch the disposal carefully, things can go
wrong, and leave future generations with a nasty clean-up job. The most feared
scenario is corrupt officials having nerve gas bombs and shells, which costs
very little, and then pocketing the money that was to have been spent on the
much more expensive destruction process.