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Storm in flask of poison

Why has the OPCW got into the center of a diplomatic scandal?

28.11.2018 12:29 Igor Nikolaichuk, Center of Special Mediametric Studies

Storm in flask of poison

            A rather humble Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has now got into a public eye. The thing is that the decision to vest the OPCW with the right to independently, bypassing the UN Security Council, establish those guilty of chemical attacks was made in July at the UK insistence. This decision has now been formalized at a meeting of the OPCW Executive Council in The Hague. Western countries decided to act with no red tape – not to change the charter but to create a special team within the organization and allocate funds for it.

            Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov linked these intrigues with the global trends. "A large set of reprisals ranging from military force and unilateral economic sanctions to demonizing in the spirit of the notorious 'highly likely' are applied to dissenters. There are lots of examples of such unfair game. Just look at reckless attempt to vest the Technical, I repeat, the Technical Secretariat of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons with powers of prosecutor. This is a blatant violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the UN Security Council prerogatives," Sergei Lavrov said.

            Let's get to the core of the matter. The OPCW has what Sergei Lavrov called a "technical secretariat." This is a scientific and technical unit. Chemists work there with test-tubes, mass spectrometers and other equipment. These guys are tasked to study "upon request" a suspicious substance on the spot, define its composition, establish whether it is poisonous or not, and mainly whether it is on the list of substances banned as chemical weapons. Then a report is prepared. It goes to the Executive Council, a "political body," where diplomats, lawyers and permanent representatives to the OPCW comprehensively discuss the problem and if needed pass it for consideration or information to the UN Security Council. This standard structure of a bureaucratic machine has fully justified itself on the global historical arena.

            In the early hours of September 26, 1983, Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov was an officer on duty of the Serpukhov-15 command post 100 kilometers away from Moscow. That was the summit of the Cold War, just three and half weeks after the Soviet Union had downed South Korea's Boeing 747 that had twice breached the Soviet airspace. The command post got computer information that missiles were launched from a US base monitored by a Soviet satellite capable of registering ICBM launches. However, having analyzed the situation Petrov decided that it was a false alarm caused by a rare alignment of sunlight on clouds. He sent a notification to the higher command. The Soviet defense minister agreed with conclusions of the lieutenant colonel. The world was saved. On January 19, 2006, Stanislav Petrov received a special World Citizen Award at the UN Headquarters in New York. The award is a crystal hand holding the globe with an inscription "The Man Who Saved the World," although in this case it was Marshal Ustinov, who finally did it.

            So, professionals are exposing and processing objective data, while other people, that is politicians whom society gave special powers, make so to speak life-changing decisions

            It is a separate issue who, how and by what means poisoned the Skripals and several more people in the UK. But the hysteria of British authorities had started much earlier than anyone understood anything. Firstly, the supreme leadership assessed the incident as much as a chemical attack on the territory of a sovereign country in Europe, "the first one since WWI."

            Secondly, having analyzed the chemical agent, the UK immediately decided at the political level that the poison had been made in Russia, as the spectrometry showed that the "substance" can be classified as A234 agent (according to Russian Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told him in March that "the nerve agent used against the Skripals had been identified as A234") and its specter complied with something that the Soviet Union had been doing, thus sparking another anti-Russian mayhem. The logic is very simple here. If someone gets poisoned with a hotdog and forensic biochemists establish that the hotdog is a Frankfurter, then London must immediately smash Berlin's face against a table because Frankfurt is in Germany. But Frankfurters are made in New York and Odesa. Think of it!

            Thirdly, London started to induce the OPCW in various spheres: a) why was not A234 banned if it had been identified as poisonous in the West long time ago? b) why are not you establishing the sources of origins of this substance?

But the OPCW is addressing prohibition of chemical WEAPONS! No less than a dozen thousands (!) of new chemical substances are synthetized worldwide weekly. All of them are studied, although just a few of them are of practical interest. For sure (and there is evidence) various countries and laboratories are studying microscopic quantities of newly synthesized nerve agents of the GV class of which the notorious Novichok is a part. According to OPCW document, such agents are banned. But what does this ban mean? You can easily study them, but if you have a stockpile of more than 100 grams, please register it with the OPCW, and if you fail to do that, then you are producing and stockpiling chemical weapons. This means you are violating the Convention and you will become an international community outcast. And here the sanctions will catch you. But things are not that easy as far as localization of production is concerned. The hotdog example will not work here. A producer of a poor-quality Frankfurter can easily be found through analyzing raw products and technologies. And in case with a nerve agent there is just a "sterile" portrait, a specter, of a molecule.

            And this is what it all about! British politicians who lost the sense of reality are demanding that the OPCW take on the responsibility of establishing the place of where substances were produced in order to substantiate its anti-Russian claims with the OPCW authority and then escort Russia to the UN Security Council for discussion in a comfortable legal environment.

            This March, British chemists analyzed the agent used to poison the Skripals. They said the following: there was no problem with the formula, but we went into details and found out that the formula is close to the formula of the Novichok substance (A234 to be more precise) that we got from shady people from Russia for money in tumultuous 1990-s (they could have brought more!) and that our man, Vil Mirzoyan, immediately identified it as Novichok, which is allegedly a Soviet chemical weapon. However, the Czechs and others produced something similar. In any case, here is the formula, decide for yourself. The British establishment immediately decided to play a heartrending comedy, "Russia is ready to kill thousands of us."

            To make the ground solid, London invited OPCW experts to act in the comedy and even paid them. International experts politely praised the professionalism of their British colleagues and fully confirmed that the found formula was correct. And that is it. Naturally, they were not able to designate a laboratory that produced the poison. This caused not only Britain's noble fury but also made it search for palliative explanations of their awareness of the Russian trace.

            British envoy to the OPCW Peter Wilson said without any propaganda twirls at the 59th session of the OPCW Executive Council on April 18 the following. "But of course, while the identification of the nerve agent used is an essential piece of technical evidence in our investigation, neither DSTL’s analysis, nor the OPCW’s report, identifies the country or laboratory of origin of the agent used in this attack. So, let me also set out the wider picture, which leads the United Kingdom to assess that there is no plausible alternative explanation for what happened in Salisbury than Russian state responsibility. We believe that only Russia had the technical means, operational experience, and the motive to target the Skripals."

            Well, laughter of diplomats and lawyers at this "general picture" and "highly likely" made the Anglo-Saxons to twist the arms of OPCW officials so that they don't shy away from their political responsibilities.

            They passed the copyright for novelties to the French. Look, they are neutral. A high-ranking French diplomat told Reuters in May 2018, "On Syria everything is blocked at the U.N. Security Council and in general we are seeing repeated and systematic flouting of multilateral frameworks, including proliferation of chemical weapons. We need a mechanism to apportion blame. Salisbury was a step too far."

            On November 20, signatories of the Chemical Weapons Convention decided to increase the OPCW budget for 2019 by 2.4 million euros at a conference in The Hague. In fact, this is a small sum, just 2% of the annual budget. The major part of the sum will be spent at funding a special team of ten people that will (attention!) establish "those guilty of chemical attacks in Syria and throughout the world." If the organization previously was able to just establish the fact of using chemical weapons, it is now getting the power of "establishing those guilty."

            Since, as we understand, Russia is intentionally deprived of the presumption of innocence, head of the Russian delegation Georgy Kalamanov said at a press conference in The Hague that he doubted that representatives of Russia or CSTO member states would be a part of the OPCW attributive mechanism.

            However, it seems that Russia's envoy to the OPCW was the closest one to approach the truth, saying that the decisions made at the conference were a result of a disinformation campaign unleased by the US and its allies. And rightly so!

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