Letter from Helms to Lott

Jesse Helms
United States Senate
Committee on Foreign Relations

January 29, 1997

The Honorable Trent Lott
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington DC 20510

Dear Trent:

I greatly appreciate youre efforts to ensure that the many concerns regarding the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) are adequately addressed before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee undertakes consideration of this treaty. However, I must say at the outset that I remain opposed to the CWC as transmitted by the President and that I believe it inadvisable to begin the 105th Congress considering one of the most contentious foreign policy issues among Republicans.

Last year we acted in good faith with the Administration on the CWC, reporting the treaty from Committee on April 30, 1996. It was the Administration which asked that the CWC be pulled from consideration on the day of its scheduled vote by the full Senate.

Now the President's advisors are back at it again, demanding "bipartisan cooperation" when they have acted in neither a bipartisan nor cooperative way with the Committee.

I was particularly heartened to see your comments, for example, on the Administration's refusal to submit amendments to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) for Senate advice and consent.

This time around, my recommendation would be to focus on top Republican priorities first. These would include:

1. enactment of legislation fundamentally restructuring the antiquated foreign policy agencies of the U.S. (You and I worked very hard last year to enact legislation that would have achieved that goal, but, regrettably, the President vetoed it.)

2. Enactment of legislation that ensures comprehensive reform of the United Nations. (This should be taken up as part of the Foreign Affairs Reorganization legislation).

3 - Submission of ABM and CFE Treaty modifications to the Senate for advice and consent.

4. Enactment of legislation to deploy a national missile defense.

Mr. Leader, this is by no means the total list of major Republican foreign policy initiatives. But once we have succeeded in having our top priorities enacted into law, we can turn our attention to the matter of the CWC.

As you know, I am convinced that the CWC, as it now stands, is fraught with deficiencies totally inimical to the national security interests of the United States. Accordingly, at a minimum the only acceptable end-result of our efforts must be a resolution of ratification, approved by the Foreign Relations Committee, which provides key protections relating to the following concerns:

(a) Pariah nations, such as Libya, Syria, Iraq, and North Korea, which have neither signed nor ratified the CWC, will be free to continue their aggressive chemical weapons programs;

(b) The then-Director of Central Intelligence, James Woolsey, testified before the Foreign Relations Committee on June 23, 1994, that "the chemical weapons problem is so difficult from an intelligence perspective, that I cannot state that we have high confidence in our ability to detect noncompliance, especially on a small scale." In short, the intelligence community is unable to assure that the CWC is verifiable.

(c) The treaty is interpreted by the Clinton Administration as forbidding United States commanders in the field from using tear gas and other riot control agents to protect American servicemen and minimize civilian casualties.

(d) The CWC will create yet another international bureacracy costing millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars every year to impose costly new regulatory burdens on thousands of U.S. companies -- including potentially unconstitutional inspections by a United Nations-type organization. In fact, between 3,000 and 8,000 businesses in each of the 50 states will be affected by this instrusive Convention; and

(e) The CWC may have several unanticipated consequences, such as liberalization of chemical trade restrictions on Cuba, China and Iran, which should be thoroughly evaluated before any further action on the treaty.

Another key concern is the facat that Russia does ont intend to implement the six-year old U.S.-Russian Bilateral Destruction Agreement (BDA) or pursue ratification of the CWC in the near future. Moreover, I understand that the Russian Parliament also just rejected the President's proposed chemical weapons destruction plan. Before any action on the CWC, the Senate needs to be informed by the Administration precisely how these actions will affect U.S. efforts to secure the destruction of Russia's chemical weapons stockpile.

In view of the above, I believe that the starting point for any further discussions on the CWC must be the resolution of ratification which I presented to the Foreign Relations Committee on April 25, 1996. That resolution contained many conditions essential to ensuring that the

Chemical Weapons Convention enhances, rather than reduces, our national security. I have attached a list of the key provisions for your review.

I am convinced that the CWC should not be considered for advice and consent until the aforementioned concerns are resolved, and only after the Foreign Relations Committee has held additional hearings. While I am committed to continuing discussions of these issues, it is likely to be difficult to reach agreement with those who support the Convention in order to resolve these problems.

I appreciate your leadership on this important matter.


[signed] Jesse Helms

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