The first chemical weapons consisted of poisonous industrial gases, such as phosgene and chlorine. Later, new agents specifically for military warfare were developed. Soldiers have had a particular fear of chemical weapons since the First World War, as death is agonising and often prolonged. Moreover, survivors frequently suffer permanent damage. The binding prohibition of these weapons under international law through the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force in 1997, triggered large-scale destruction activities, to which the eight states in possession of chemical weapons have committed themselves.
Destruction of more than 70,000 tonnes of chemical weapons
The destruction of the more than 70,000 tonnes of chemical weapons, largely stockpiles from the Cold War, was a huge undertaking. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), established to monitor the destruction and prohibition of these weapons, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013.
Germany, which did not itself possess any such weapons when the Chemical Weapons Convention was concluded, has wholeheartedly supported the worldwide destruction of these arsenals. We have contributed more than 350 million euro for the destruction of declared stocks of chemical weapons in Russia alone, and another 15 million euro for the destruction of stockpiles in Iraq, Libya and Syria. These funds were used, among other things, to build local chemical weapons destruction facilities, in order to destroy these dangerous weapons safely and in an environmentally friendly way.
Goal of a world free of chemical weapons is not yet achieved
However, we are still a long way away from the goal of a world free of chemical weapons. The deployment of chemical weapons in Syria and the use of prohibited chemical warfare agents to poison opponents, as in the case of Alexei Navalny, in violation of the obligations deriving from the Chemical Weapons Convention, indicate the threat that these weapons could re-emerge. There are grounds for concern that chemical weapons could be deployed in Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine. Four states, including North Korea, have not acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention to date. Our engagement for a world free of chemical weapons is therefore not over: Germany will continue to work for a strong OPCW and for the worldwide prohibition of chemical weapons.
With an assessed contribution of 4.2 million euro, Germany is the third-largest contributor to the OPCW. In addition, since 2020 we have made available an additional 4 million euro to the OPCW, not least to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria, train OPCW inspectors and support African states in implementing their obligations.