Tuesday, September 10, 2013

As Syria rages, US and Russian chemical weapons stockpiles persist

As the United States and Russia lock horns over the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the former Cold War foes are still wrestling with the remnants of their own massive chemical stockpiles that they have been working to eliminate for two decades.

“They are terribly expensive to maintain and provide good security for,” Paul Walker, a former US Congressional staffer and nonproliferation expert who has inspected US and Russian chemical weapons storage facilities, told RIA Novosti on Monday.

Both the United States and Russia still possess thousands of tons of chemical weapons that they are in the process of destroying, a process that has proven more expensive and technically difficult than officials originally envisioned.

The United States has destroyed 90 percent of its declared Cold War-era stockpiles, though it still has some 2,600 tons (2,359 metric tons) of deadly mustard agent at a Colorado storage facility and 523 tons (474 metric tons) of blister and nerve agents at a Kentucky facility that the Pentagon says are slated for destruction by 2019 and 2023.

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