Sunday, October 11, 2020

Moscow’s Attitudes toward Chemical Weapons Rooted in Tsarist and Soviet Past, Luzin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 10 – Two-thirds of the soldiers who died from chemical weapons during World War I were Russian, and consequently, the Bolshevik regime, which arose in the wake of that conflict, believed that maintaining and developing stockpiles as well as providing training to defend against their use by others were key tasks, Pavel Luzin says.

            The Bolsheviks believed,” the Russian analyst says, “that previous problems were due to the shortage of chemical weapons and insufficient training of the relevant military units. The manufacturing infrastructure that was created also played an important role in the accumulation of the world’s largest stockpile of these weapons” (

            He continues: “World War II proved the uselessness of chemical weapons, and the advent of a nuclear bomb should have encouraged the abandonment of these weapons altogether. But just the opposite happened: in the case of the USSR, chemical weapons compensated for the lag in production of nuclear weapons in the first post-war decades.”

            In the 1990s, the West helped post-Soviet Russia to destroy its stockpiles; but with the deteriorating relationship between Moscow and the Western powers, the Kremlin has adopted “a cynical approach,” viewing them as something any ruler having them entitled to use them to advance his interests and as a means to intimidate more than destroy his enemies.

            What this means, Luzin argues is that “Moscow no longer considers the destruction of Russian chemical weapons or the ban on the use of such weapons by anyone in the world as a value in itself, but only as an argument in the context of hostile or friendly relations with the United States and the current interests of the Russian leadership.”

            Today, he says, Moscow “simply does not view the existence of a small laboratory” capable of manufacturing such poisons as a weapons of mass destruction facility and is willing to use its products itself or support those like Syria’s dictator who use them against their own populations.

            But what is most important to understand is that the current Russian government like its Soviet predecessors does not view chemical weapons as an effective tool in military conflict. Instead, it sees them as something it and others can use to intimidate its and their opponents given the horror most people around the world feel about these poisons.

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