Safeguarding Syrian chemical weapons: an opportunity for Russia-NATO cooperation?


It is reported that President Bashar al-Assad has signed a legal document confirming that his government will comply with an international ban on chemical weapons. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s office said that it has received a letter from Syria’s government saying Assad has signed a legislative degree providing for accession to the 1992 Convention on the Prohibition, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction.

NATOWatch_logoIf so,  in their NATO Watch comment, Andreas Persbo and Ian Davis have mapped a way of strengthening the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which has verified the destruction of more than 80% of the world’s declared stockpiles of chemical weapons.

OPCW has just over 100 inspectors who are already thinly stretched thinly around the globe and the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission which previously provided in-house expertise, was disbanded by the Security Council in June 2007.

However, with the assistance of its archived website, its structure could be revisited and set up at relatively short notice.

A joint Russian-NATO CWC Disarmament Task Force is also suggested; there are precedents of operational cooperation between NATO and Russia, one being the participation of the Russian Navy in NATO’s anti-terrorism patrols in the Mediterranean.

What do the two sides have to offer in terms of capabilities for a joint disarmament mission in Syria? The NATO Response Force has a Czech-led Multinational Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Defence Battalion of around 500 – 600 troops, with a readiness time for deployment of 5 – 20 days, depending on the decision of the North Atlantic Council and the Russian military has considerable experience in handling chemical munitions and leverage with the Assad government.

The prospective prizes?

“(A) tentative route map out of the mess in Syria but also a broader strategic, normative and political rapprochement between NATO and Russia and a re-invigorated United Nations”.


Dr Andreas Persbo is the Executive Director of the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre ( and Dr Ian Davis is the Founding Director of NATO Watch (

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