Chronology

Additional Protocol I to the Tlatelolco Treaty comes into force for France.
24.08.1992
The first thermonuclear bomb test is conducted in France.
24.08.1968

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PIR PRESS NEWS

21.08.2019

Amb. Roland Timerbaev – a luminary in the field of nonproliferation, an undisputed authority, a great teacher and mentor – has passed away.


27.06.2019

“Autonomous systems are gradually displacing humans from the battlefield, and in many aspects, this can be a boon to the military, who are exposed to less risk. However, at the same time, humans transfer to artificial intelligence (AI) a part of their powers, and consequently a part of their responsibility. According to experts, neural networks will probably never learn to explain their decisions to humans. This can become a serious problem once AI is involved in such areas as intelligence, data analysis, communications and control, scenario development, and in the long run decision making.” – Director of PIR Center’s Emerging Technologies and Global Security Project Vadim Kozyulin.

12.05.2019

“The latest prepcom has two main opposite results: in two weeks it was not possible to reach consensus among the NPT members and agree on the text of recommendations for the 2020 Review Conference, but it was decided to appoint Argentinean diplomat Rafael Mariano Grossi as the Chair of the Review Conference – his formal appointment will take place at the end of 2019," Adlan Margoev, PIR Center “Russia and Nuclear Nonproliferation” Program Director. 

Syrian chemical weapons – a solution found?

On September 9, 2013 during the press conference in London Secretary of State John Kerry, replying to a question, said: “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could avoid a U.S. military strike by surrendering all his chemical weapons within a week to international community”. The White House tried to downgrade the statement referring to it as a figure of speech, and pointing to the fact that Damascus would never comply. Nevertheless, the proposition was taken up by Russian MFA and delivered to Syrian side by the Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. After that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said that “Damascus welcomes Russian initiative”, which was also supported by the UN, Arab League, EU, China, Iran and, with some reservations, by the USA. Congress vote on military intervention to Syria was delayed. US President Barack Obama declared, that he is ready to examine Russian proposition.

Russia and the USA are ready for cooperation

The idea that the USA and Russia could work together on WMD threat reduction isn’t new. On June 21, 2013 PIR Center President Vladimir Orlov in his comments to Kommersant newspaper (in Russian) on a perspectives of Russian-American cooperation in WMD security, said: “Nowadays Russia at its own expense is completing the destruction of our stocks of chemical weapons. But the parties could transfer their cooperation in this field to third countries”. The experience of the Russian Federation and the United States in combating the spread of WMD, according to PIR Center President, will be in demand in the Middle East (including Syria). The upcoming opportunity could not only resolve the Syrian chemical weapons question, but also become a solid basis for US-Russian cooperation.

Our analysis

Authors indicate an urgent threat connected to the Syrian chemical weapons: “A far more serious threat, however, is the possibility of chemical weapons being seized by the rebels. There is no comprehensive information about the size of the Syrian stockpile of chemical weapons and precursors. This lack of information makes it more difficult to keep track of the state of the Syrian WMD arsenals. The world's secret services - especially the US and Israeli agencies - are keeping a very close watch on the Syrian chemical weapons sites. Nevertheless, there is still a real threat of those weapons falling into the hands of rebels or Islamist terrorists.”

Current situation in Syria develops almost exactly the same way as was predicted by PIR Center authors: “Clearly, in case of confirmation that Syrian government troops have used weapons of mass destruction, the existing balance of power will shift <…>. The United States <…> will gain broad international support for a legitimate military operation to secure all known Syrian chemical weapons sites. Little is known about the Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles. There is, therefore, a real possibility that not all of these stockpiles will be taken under strict international control, and that some of them will end up in the hands of radical Islamists. The situation in Syria, meanwhile, will probably unfold according to the Iraqi scenario”.

PIR Center experts have already proposed their recommendations for solving Syrian question and reiterate their position. In the article «Prospects for resolving the problems of nuclear security and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East: the experience of the Global Partnership» to be published in the Security Index journal Artem Blashchanitsa says: “The only acceptable alternative is the one, wherein the main concerned parties for the peaceful settlement will achieve a ceasefire regime between Damascus and National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.

PIR Center experts Artem Blashchanitsa, Aleksandr Plugarev and Aleksandr Cheban in the article for Russia Confidential, stress the idea that such a scenario “will become possible if the United States, Russia and other countries manage to exert effective diplomatic pressure on both of the warring factions and force them to agree to a ceasefire”. In June PIR Center experts proposed the following recommendations for achieving such scenario:

  * The United States, Russia and other countries should exert effective diplomatic pressure on both of the warring factions and force them to agree to a ceasefire. The situation has reached a dead end; it is therefore important to make sure that we will get a peaceful stalemate instead of a pointless bloodbath, with a growing risk of chemical weapons use.

 * The United States, Russia and Iran might then be able to reach a compromise, and identify some mutually acceptable (or equally inconvenient, but practical) ways of safeguarding their own interests in that conflict

* If the negotiations succeed, the next logical step after forming a national reconciliation government must be for that government to declare all existing chemical weapons arsenals and sites, and to begin eliminating those arsenals - possibly with international help.


Evgeny Buzhinsky, Lieutenant-General (ret.), PIR Center Vice President:

“We need to understand all the difficulties of the process of elimination of Syrian chemical weapons. I cannot remember such a huge and difficult operation in history.

First of all, there is a difficulty of verification. Syria faces a civil war right now, and observers, who will be sent to secure the chemical facilities, would face a great danger (all observers were evacuated from Syria with the beginning of civil war in 2011)”. Not many Europeans will agree to become observers under such conditions. We could expect that Americans will be ready to accept these conditions, providing their own security, but in this case Damascus would hardly agree to tolerate a large armed American contingent on his soil.

Secondly, chemical weapons are not normally moved from the country and are disposed on-site during several years.

If due to the urgency of task we imply the physical transportation, the operation becomes unprecedented. The most ambitious project up to date, on the experience of which we can rely, was the withdrawal of Soviet nuclear weapons from Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine to Russia. Back then, in the beginning of 1990-s in the framework of Lisbon agreement, the operation ended successfully, but it took several years to complete the task even with a transportation scheme, special trains, special containers, and direct railway connection. With Syrian chemical weapons there will be a need for improvisation. The only way to transport the chemical weapons would be by sea, and to get to the ports you will have to use the roads. In that case there is a high possibility of facing a rebel attack. Even if we suppose, that all chemical weapons in Syria is stored in a binary condition (which is not confirmed), it is still dangerous.

Thirdly, the funding question appears – such sorts of expenses are definitely not included in the current Russian budget.

Nevertheless, I believe, that Russia is ready to actively participate in the realization of this proposal to prevent the overthrowing of Bashar al-Assad. We have seen on several occasions how the limited strikes with clearly marked targets developed into military operations supporting one side of the conflict.”

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