REMARKS BY SECRETARY OF STATE MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT
BEFORE THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE
ON CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION (CWC)
TUESDAY, APRIL 8, 1997
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I appreciate the opportunity
to testify before you this afternoon. As evidenced by the bipartisan
show of support at the White House last week, timely approval of the
Chemical Weapons Convention, or CWC, is one of the President's top
foreign policy priorities.
This afternoon, with the help of my colleagues, I would like to
I begin with the imperative of American leadership. The United States
is the only nation with the power, influence and respect to forge a
strong global consensus against the spread of weapons of mass
destruction. In recent years, we have used our position wisely to gain
the removal of nuclear weapons from Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakstan. We
have led in securing the extension of the Nuclear Nonproliferation
Treaty. We have frozen North Korea's nuclear program. We have
maintained sanctions against Iraq. And we have joined forces with more
than two dozen other major countries in controlling the transfer of
dangerous conventional arms and sensitive dual-use goods and
In these and other efforts, we have counted on the strong support and
wise counsel of this committee and your Senate colleagues. Your
consent to ratification of the START II Treaty made possible the
agreement in Helsinki to seek further significant reductions in Cold
War nuclear arsenals. And the Nunn-Lugar program set the standard for
forward-looking bipartisan action to promote nuclear security.
American leadership on arms control is not something we do as a favor
to others. Our goal is to make the world safer for Americans and to
protect our allies and friends. We have now another opportunity to
exercise leadership for those ends. And once again, we look to this
committee for help.
The CWC will enter into force on April 29. Our goal is to ratify the
agreement before then so that America will be an original party. By so
doing, as the President said last Friday (April 4), we "can help to
shield our soldiers from one of the battlefield's deadliest
killers...and we can bolster our leadership in the fight against
terrorism and proliferation around the world."
Chemical weapons are inhumane. They kill horribly, massively and --
once deployed -- are no more controllable than the wind. That is why
the United States decided -- under a law signed by President Reagan in
1985 -- to destroy the vast majority of our chemical weapons
stockpiles by the year 2004. Thus, the CWC will not deprive us of any
military option we would ever use against others; but it would help
ensure that others never use chemical weapons against us.
In considering the value of this treaty, we must bear in mind that
today, keeping and producing chemical weapons are legal. The gas
Saddam Hussein used to massacre Kurdish villagers in 1988 was produced
legally. In most countries, terrorists can produce or procure chemical
agents, such as sarin gas, legally. Regimes such as Iran and Libya can
build up their stockpiles of chemical weapons legally.
If we are ever to rid the world of these horrible weapons, we must
begin by making not only their use, but also their development,
production, acquisition and stockpiling illegal. This is fundamental.
This is especially important now when America's comparative military
might is so great that an attack by unconventional means may hold for
some potential adversaries their only perceived hope of success. And
making chemical weapons illegal is the purpose of the CWC.
The CWC sets the standard that it is wrong for any nation to build or
possess a chemical weapon, and gives us strong and effective tools for
enforcing that standard. This is not a magic wand. It will not
eliminate all danger. It will not allow us to relax or cease to ensure
the full preparedness of our armed forces against the threat of
chemical weapons. What it will do is make chemical weapons harder for
terrorists or outlaw states to buy, build or conceal.
Under the treaty, parties will be required to give up the chemical
weapons they have, and to refrain from developing, producing or
acquiring such weapons in the future. To enforce these requirements,
the most comprehensive and intense inspection regime ever negotiated
will be put in place. Parties will also be obliged to enact and
enforce laws to punish violators within their jurisdictions.
Of course, no treaty is 100 percent verifiable, but this treaty
provides us valuable tools for monitoring chemical weapons
proliferation worldwide -- a task we will have to do with or without
CWC inspections and monitoring will help us learn more about chemical
weapons programs. It will also enable us to act on the information we
obtain. In the future, countries known to possess chemical weapons and
who have joined the CWC will be forced to choose between compliance
and sanctions. And countries outside the CWC will be subject to trade
restrictions whether or not they are known to possess chemical arms.
These penalties would not exist without the treaty. They will make it
more costly for any nation to have chemical weapons, and more
difficult for rogue states or terrorists to acquire materials needed
to produce them.
Over time, I believe that -- if the United States joins the CWC --
most other countries will, too. Consider that there are now 185
members of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and only five outside.
Most nations play by the rules and want the respect and benefits the
world bestows upon those who do.
But the problem states will never accept a prohibition on chemical
weapons if America stays out, keeps them company and gives them cover.
We will not have the standing to mobilize our allies to support strong
action against violators if we ourselves have refused to join the
treaty being violated.
The core question here is who do we want to set the standards? Critics
suggest that the CWC is flawed because we cannot assume early
ratification and full compliance by the outlaw states. To me, that is
like saying that because some people smuggle drugs, we should enact no
law against drug smuggling. When it comes to the protection of
Americans, the lowest common denominator is not good enough. Those who
abide by the law, not those who break it, must establish the rules by
which all should be judged.
Moreover, if we fail to ratify the agreement by the end of April:
-- we would forfeit our seat on the treaty's Executive Council for at
least one year, thereby costing us the chance to help draft the rules
by which the convention will be enforced;
-- we would not be able to participate in the critical first sessions
of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which
-- we would lose the right to help administer and conduct inspections;
-- because of the trade restrictions imposed on non-member states, our
chemical manufacturers are concerned that they would risk serious
According to a letter signed by the CEOs of more than 50 chemical
manufacturing companies, the American chemical industry's "status as
the world's preferred supplier...may be jeopardized if...the Senate
does not vote in favor of the CWC."
According to those executives "we stand to lose hundreds of millions
of dollars in overseas sales, pulling at risk thousands of good-paying
Eliminating chemical weapons has long been a bipartisan goal. The
convention itself is the product of years of effort by leaders from
And the treaty has strong backing from our defense and military
I am aware, Mr. Chairman, that the committee heard this morning from
three former Secretaries of Defense who do not favor approval of this
convention. There is no question their arguments are sincerely held,
and deserve consideration. I would point out, however, that other
former Secretaries of Defense from both parties are on record in
support of the treaty, and that every former chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, going back to the Carter Administration, has endorsed
Just this past week, we received a letter of support signed by 17
former four star generals and admirals, including three of the former
chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and five former service chiefs.
In their words:
"Each of us can point to decades of military experience in command
positions. We have all trained and commanded troops to prepare for the
wartime use of chemical weapons and for defenses against them.... Our
focus is not on the treaty's limitations, but instead on its many
strengths. The CWC destroys stockpiles that could threaten our troops;
it significantly improves our intelligence capabilities; and it
creates new international sanctions to punish those states who remain
outside of the treaty. For these reasons, we strongly support the CWC.
I also note, Mr. Chairman, that the former officials who testified
before the committee this morning have not had the benefit of the
intensive dialogue we have been conducting with members of the Senate
leadership, including yourself, the ranking member and other key
members of this committee. We have attempted, in the course of this
dialogue, to address the major issues the opponents of the treaty have
raised, and to provide appropriate assurances in binding conditions to
accompany the resolution of ratification.
For example, critics have asserted that the CWC obliges member states
to exchange manufacturing technology that can be used to make chemical
agents. This is untrue. The CWC prohibits members from providing any
assistance that would contribute to chemical weapons proliferation.
Nothing in the CWC requires any weakening of our export controls.
Further, the United States will continue to work through the Australia
Group to maintain and make more effective internationally agreed
controls on chemical and biological weapons technology. And, as I have
said, the CWC establishes tough restrictions on the transfer of
precursor chemicals and other materials that might help a nation or
terrorist group to acquire chemical weapons.
Opponents also suggest that if we ratify the CWC, we will become
complacent about the threat that chemical weapons pose. This, too, is
false -- and this body can help ensure it remains false. The President
has requested an increase of almost $225 million over five years in
our already robust program to equip and train our troops against
chemical and biological attack. We are also proceeding with theater
missile defense programs and intelligence efforts against the chemical
Some critics of the treaty have expressed the fear that its inspection
requirements could raise constitutional problems here in the United
States. However, the CWC provides explicitly that inspections will be
conducted according to each nation's constitutional processes.
Another issue that arose early in the debate was that the CWC could
become a regulatory nightmare for small businesses here in the United
States. But after reviewing the facts, the National Federation of
Independent Business concluded that its members "will not be affected"
by the treaty.
Finally, I have heard the argument that the Senate really need not act
before April 29. But as I have said, there are real costs attached to
any such delay. The treaty has already been before the Senate for more
than 180 weeks. More than 1,500 pages of testimony and reports have
been provided and hundreds of questions have been answered. The Senate
is always the arbiter of its own pace. But from where I sit, a
decision prior to April 29 would be very much in the best interests of
the United States.
Mr. Chairman, America is the world's leader in building a future of
greater security and safety for us and for those who share our
commitment to democracy and peace. The path to that future is through
the maintenance of American readiness and the expansion of the rule of
law. We are the center around which international consensus forms. We
are the builder of coalitions, the designer of safeguards, the leader
in separating acceptable international behavior from that which cannot
This leadership role for America may be viewed as a burden by some,
but I think to most of our citizens, it is a source of great pride. It
is also a source of continuing strength, for our influence is
essential to protect our interests, which are global and increasing.
If we turn our backs on the CWC, after so much effort by leaders from
both parties, we will scar America with a grievous and self-inflicted
wound. We will shed the cloak of leadership and leave it on the ground
for others to pick up.
But if we heed the advice of wise diplomats such as James Baker and
Brent Scowcroft, experienced military leaders such as Generals Powell,
Mundy and Schwartzkopf, and thoughtful public officials such as former
Senators Nunn, Boren and Kassebaum-Baker, we will reinforce America's
role in the world.
By ratifying the CWC, we will assume the lead in shaping a new and
effective legal regime. We will be in a position to challenge those
who refuse to give up these poisonous weapons. We will provide an
added measure of security for the men and women of our armed forces.
We will protect American industry and American jobs. And we will make
our citizens safer than they would be in a world where chemical arms
This treaty is about other people's weapons, not our own. It reflects
existing American practices and advances enduring American interests.
It is right and smart for America. It deserves the Senate's timely
Thank you very much.