Roundup: Nolan Center Experts on the Final Destruction of the U.S. Chemical Weapons Stockpile

A Major Step Toward Ending the Era of Chemical Weapons

On Friday, July 7, the Department of Defense announced that it had completed the final destruction of the nation’s legacy chemical weapons stockpile, which it pledged to eliminate in 1997 when the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force. 

Several experts at CSR’s Janne E. Nolan Center on Strategic Weapons hold deep experience in chemical weapons threat reduction and elimination, including oversight of the destruction of the U.S. stockpile and treaty compliance, and weighed in today on the nation’s achievement:

A world free of chemical weapons is within our reach, and this extraordinary achievement is a giant step forward. I am thrilled to see the last of our Cold War stockpile safely eliminated. The world should build on this momentum and redouble our efforts to call out and eliminate covert Russian, Syrian, and North Korean illegal chemical weapons. Today represents a major step toward ending the era of chemical weapons. But there are more steps to take.

Andy Weber, Senior Fellow, Janne E. Nolan Center on Strategic Weapons, and former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs

This remarkable milestone is a testament to the Department of Defense’s ability to leverage technological innovation for addressing weapons of mass destruction threats broadly—not just eliminating the U.S. stockpile. The experts who conducted this work had to develop new ways of handling and destroying old, degrading munitions and other challenges that came up. I’ve witnessed the same problem-solving applied to the Department’s work to eliminate the risks of chemical weapons stockpiles in Russia, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere. The Department of Defense should both celebrate today’s incredible achievement, and recommit to ensuring its unique chemical demilitarization expertise endures for addressing future threats. This is the path forward for finally ending the era of chemical weapons.

Christine Parthemore, CEO of the Council on Strategic Risks, Director of the Nolan Center, and former Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs 

Despite a pandemic and taking the time to assist other countries with disposing of their chemical weapons stockpiles, it is great to no longer have these horrendous, impracticable, deteriorating munitions in the United States. This end of the chemical weapons era offers cautious hope.

John Moulton, Deputy Director, Janne E. Nolan Center on Strategic Weapons, and retired U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Officer

The civilians and military personnel at the Department of Defense who contributed to achieving this remarkable feat despite a number of challenges and delays deserve immense praise. This milestone comes at an inflection point as the rules-based international order has been repeatedly challenged by authoritarian regimes. This is a positive moment for the rule of law and an opportunity to highlight the need for vigilance in continuing the important work of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and eventually eliminating these weapons from the world.

Shannon Green, Non-resident Senior Fellow, Janne E. Nolan Center on Strategic Weapons, and retired U.S. Marine Corps judge advocate

In a moment where leaders are too often indulging arms racing instincts or bowing to the risky behaviors of their rivals, the final elimination of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile stands apart as a great success—not just for arms control itself, but for the important need for us all to stand on principle and cooperate for a safer future.

Andrew Facini, Senior Fellow, Janne E. Nolan Center on Strategic Weapons

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