Gregory Koblentz, member of our Scientists Working Group, co-authored an article in The Nonproliferation Review on revising the Chemical Weapons Convention schedules.
ABSTRACT: Novichok agents are a class of nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In light of the use of a Novichok agent in Salisbury in March 2018, two sets of proposals to amend Schedule 1 of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) have been put forth, one jointly by the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands, and the other by Russia. Both sets of proposals will be discussed and voted upon at the next Conference of States Parties of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in November 2019. If either set of proposals is approved, it will be the first time that the list of chemicals subject to verification under the CWC will have been modified. This viewpoint will discuss these proposals, and argue that, if adopted, the joint proposal and the portions of the Russian proposal upon which consensus can be reached would significantly strengthen the CWC by considerably expanding the coverage of its Schedule 1 and bringing Novichok agents firmly within the CWC’s verification system. We also argue that, since the OPCW Technical Secretariat did not deem the fifth group of chemicals proposed by Russia to meet the criteria for inclusion in Schedule 1, Russia should withdraw this part of its proposal from consideration. The proposals have also served an important purpose in clarifying the identity of the chemical agent used in the Salisbury incident, squarely placing it within one of the two families of Novichok agents described by the Russian chemical-weapons scientist and whistleblower Vil Mirzayanov. If either proposal is approved in November, it will be important to conduct a thorough assessment of key precursors for the synthesis of Novichok agents and assess the need to amend CWC schedules and national and multinational export-control lists accordingly. Read more