News | Oct. 1, 2010

Future Foreign Perceptions of Chemical Weapons Utility

By John P. Caves, Jr. WMD Proceedings

It is inherently speculative to address future foreign perceptions of chemical weapons (CW) utility. This is not only because it concerns things that may be, rather than things that already are, but also because those who might be considering or already pursuing CW capabilities for the future will not be openly sharing their views. Classified sources and assessments also cannot be addressed in this unclassified forum. This paper, therefore, offers some educated guesses about how rational actors might view the future utility of CW on the basis of open source information about relevant technological trends and assumptions about pertinent aspects of the future international security environment.

It is useful to briefly take stock of the present before speculating about the future. Almost all of the world’s countries are state parties to the CWC, which comprehensively prohibits chemical weapons, except nonlethal riot control agents used only for law enforcement purposes and declared as such. Today, only seven states have not acceded to the CWC: Angola, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, North Korea, Somalia, and Syria. Of those seven, Syria and North Korea most evidently maintain active offensive CW programs. Of CWC state parties, the United States has expressed compliance concerns about China, Russia, and Iran. On the one hand, almost all of the world’s countries appear to have formally and sincerely foresworn chemical weapons. On the other hand, there appear to be a small number of countries that continue to place value on possessing, or at least keeping open their options to possess, CW. READ MORE >>