At the edge of the possible

11.09.2013

We need to understand all the difficulties of the process of elimination of Syrian chemical weapons. I cannot remember such a huge and difficult operation in history.

First of all, there is a difficulty of verification. Syria faces a civil war right now, and observers, who will be sent to secure the chemical facilities, would face a great danger (all observers were evacuated from Syria with the beginning of civil war in 2011)”. Not many Europeans will agree to become observers under such conditions. We could expect that Americans will be ready to accept these conditions, providing their own security, but in this case Damascus would hardly agree to tolerate a large armed American contingent on his soil.

Secondly, chemical weapons are not normally moved from the country and are disposed on-site during several years. If due to the urgency of task we imply the physical transportation, the operation becomes unprecedented. The most ambitious project up to date, on the experience of which we can rely, was the withdrawal of Soviet nuclear weapons from Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine to Russia. Back then, in the beginning of 1990-s in the framework of Lisbon agreement, the operation ended successfully, but it took several years to complete the task even with a transportation scheme, special trains, special containers, and direct railway connection. With Syrian chemical weapons there will be a need for improvisation. The only way to transport the chemical weapons would be by sea, and to get to the ports you will have to use the roads. In that case there is a high possibility of facing a rebel attack. Even if we suppose, that all chemical weapons in Syria is stored in a binary condition (which is not confirmed), it is still dangerous.

Thirdly, the funding question appears – such sorts of expenses are definitely not included in the current Russian budget.

Nevertheless, I believe, that Russia is ready to actively participate in the realization of this proposal to prevent the overthrowing of Bashar al-Assad. We have seen on several occasions how the limited strikes with clearly marked targets developed into military operations supporting one side of the conflict.

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