Yellow Rain and Related Issues: Implications for the United States

The United States has charged that the Soviet Union is implicated in the use of chemical weapons in Afghanistan and of chemical and toxin weapons, including the toxin known as "Yellow Rain," in Laos and Kampuchea (Cambodia). These charges raise two significant sets of issues: First, issues surrounding the evidence that has been presented to show: (a) that such weapons have been used and (b) that the Soviet Union is implicated in this use. Second, issues connected with the implications of Soviet involvement, if proven, in chemical and toxin warfare.

AUTHOR: Steven R. Bowman Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division Steven R. Bowman Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE MAJOR ISSUES SYSTEM DATE ORIGINATED 0 2 / 2 5 / 8 2 DATE UPDATED 0 9 / 2 9 / 8 3 FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION CALL 2 8 7 - 5 7 0 0 0929 CRS- 1 ISSUE DEFINITION The United States has charged that the Soviet Union is implicated i n the use of chemical weapons in Afghanistan and of chemical and toxin weapons, including the toxin known as "Yellow Rain," in Laos and Kampuchea (Cambodia). These charges raise two significant sets of issues: Fir,sc, issues surrounding the evidence thac has been presented to show: (a) that such weapons have been used and (b) that the Soviet Union is implicateC in this use. The Department of State has prepared extensive documentation intended to demonstrate that the evidence on both counts is compelling. Some observers, however, while acknowledging the existence of a growing body of evidence, believe that t h e r e - i s still room for doubt and argue against too aggressive a U.S. stance on the evidence at this time. Second, issues connected with the implications of Soviet involvement, if proven, in chemical and toxin warfare. Biological toxin use would clearly be contrary to the 1972 Biological and Toxin weapons Convention, and the use of toxins and gases could violate other treaties as well a s Customary international law. One issue is whether, a s some argue; these alleged violations reveal degrees of Soviet treachery, deception, and inhumane conduct so great as to require a reevaluation of the entire Western relationship with the Soviet government. Another is whether arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union should be abandoned because the Soviets Cannot now be trusted .to abide by any agreement. Finally, should U.S. policy on the modernization of its own chemical warfare capability be influenced by the evidence presently available from southeast Asia and Afghanistan? BACKGROUND AND POLICY ANALYSIS The Evidence The United States, under two Administrations, had taken the lead i n attempting to expose the alleged use of chemical and toxin weapons in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia. The Carter Administration, in 1980, published a detailed compilation of the allegations. It also pushed for a n investigation of the charges under the sponsorship of the UN General Assembly (having anticipated a Soviet veto of an investigation by the Security Council). Under the Reagan Administration, the State Department has presented the first evidence based on toxicological testing (the Department of State released a comprehensive review of the available 'evidence on Mar. 22, 1982). Ex-Secretary of State Haig publicly raised the issue. Evidence has also been given to other countries through diplomatic. channels, and the matter has been brought up in private meetings with Soviet officials at a l l levels. The United Nations has also undertaken an investigation. The Soviet Union vigorously opposed this investigation, but was unable to block it. The investigation is continuing, despite what many believe to be inadequate funding and other difficulties allegedly created by Soviets in UN staff A complece report is planned for the fall, though some argue this positions. is an unjustified delay which creates opportunities for the Soviets t o CRS- 2 IB82025 UPDATE-09/294$3' manipulate t h e conclusions. On Nov. 25, 1 9 8 2 Kenneth A d e l m a n , U.S. Deputy Delegate to the U N , stated that the U.S. plans to allow t h e UN inquiry i n t o t h e use of chemical weapons i n Asia to &ie. Adelman cited t h e inability of the investigative team to reach substantive conclusions a s t h e reason f o r t h i s U.S. action. R e c e n t l y , excerpts of interviews by UN investigators of Afghan refugees were published i n the Wall Street J o u r n a l , J u n e 7, 1982: 20). In an editorial accompanying the a r t i c l e , the J o u r n a l a l s o reported t h a t Considerable physical evidence gathered by the team had been mishandled by the UN. T h e publicly available evidence consists mostly of eyewitness and second-hand accounts. However, on Nov. 2 9 , 1 9 8 2 , Secretary of State G e o r g e S h u l t z released a 12-page report providing additional toxicological e v i d e n c e , and offered a t t h e same time t h e first physical evidence i n the form of t w ~ Soviet gas m a s k s contaminated with "Yellow R a i n v . Both m a s k s were obtained i n Afghanistan i n l a t e 1981. These have been supplemented, however, by toxicological testing o n evidence from L a o s a n d Kampuchea. Afghanistan Deputy Secretary of State Walter J. S t o e s s e l Jr. charged o n Mar. 8 , 1 9 8 2 , that more than 3 , 0 0 0 Afghanis had been k i l l e d by S o v i e t troops using a variety of c h e m i c a l weapons and possibly toxins. This marked t h e f i r s t public U.S. allegation of possible toxin u s e i n the South Asian country. A S t a t e Department spokesman said that the evidence cited by Stoessel c a m e from r e f u g e e s , defectors, victims, a n d doctors who had treated victims. He acknowledged t h a t physical evidence, such a s a chemical w e a p o n s p r o j e c t i l e , w a s lacking. T h e Stoessel allegations w e r e repeated i n t h e Mar. 22, 1982 S t a t e Department report. T h e United S t a t e s has charged the S o v i e t Union with using lethal c h e m i c a l w e a p o n s i n Afghanistan, including nerve a g e n t s , phosgene o r phosgene oxime, a n d mustard gas. T h e use of incapacitating a n d riot-control gases by Soviet t r o o p s , or by Soviet-backed Afghan forces, h a s also been alleged. According to information released by t h e State Department i n an A u g u s t 1 9 8 0 compendium o n the i s s u e , one such g a s apparently causes i t s victims to lose consciousness f o r some hours, without subsequent ill effects. The c h e m i c a l makeup of t h i s g a s i s not known to U.S. analysts. Other non-lethal gases, including tear gas and laughing g a s , have a l s o been reported. T h e s e U.S. c h a r g e s have apparently been confirmed by t h e UN investigation mentioned a b o v e , investigators having interviewed n u m e r o u s victims and eyewitnesses o f Soviet biochemical warfare attacks. T h e alleged poison gas a t t a c k s in Afghanistan have reportedly been mounted i n connection with battlefield operations, but C i v i l i a n targets have evidently been h i t during such operations. S o v i e t f o r c e s i n Afghanistan h a v e (CBW) been observed t o be equipped with chemical and biological warfare decontamination equipment, including a standard Soviet d e v i c e making u s e of a jet engine f o r decontaminating tanks, and w i t h gas masks. L a o s and K a m p u c h e a Information compiled by t h e State Department from s o u t h e a s t Asia s u g g e s t s t h a t gases a s w e l l a s " Y e l l o w Rain" h a v e been Used i n both L a o s a n d 1981 Kampuchea. .[See t h e August 1 9 8 0 State D e p a r t m e n t compendium; t h e March CRS- 3 IB82025 UPDATE-09/29/83 update, the Mar. 22, 1982, Special Report, and the November update.] In Kampuchea, these substances appear to have been employed primarily in battlefield situations by Vietnamese troops and 'troops of the Vietnam-supported Kampuchean elements against the forces of the rival Khmer Rouge. But there are also reports of the distribution of poisoned food to civilians and of the poisoning of wells in Kampuchean refugee camps in Thailand. In Laos, in addition to battlefield uses by the troops of the Pathet Lao government, there have been numerous reports of attacks with chemical and particularly the villages of the Hmong toxin weapons against villages people in the remote highlands of central Laos. These reports come from Hmong refugees themselves and from Laotian defectors. [See the State Department Compendium, update, and Special Report.] A former Laotian air force pilot has stated that he was assigned to disperse toxic chemical substances over Hmong villages on numerous missions beginning in 1976. The fiercely-independent Hmong have long resisted government attempts to resettle them in more easily controlled lowlands areas. Many Hmong assisted the United Sfices during the period of U.S. military involvement in southeast further information, see CRS IB79079, Indochinese Refugees: Asia. Issues for U.S. Policy.] -- o or Accounts of the use of Yellow Rain, a fungus-produced toxin (mycotoxin), originate in these two countries. Many refugee reports have referred to a yellow powder or yellow drops disseminated by aircraft. Contact -with these subszances is said to lead to itching, nausea, difficulty in breathing, diarrhea, bleeding from the nose and mouth, and death. Leaves of vegetation in stricken areas are said to develop brown spots. U.S. scientists were initially puzzled by the Yellow Rain accounts, since no known CBW agent produced such a combination of effects. Analysts hypothesized, however, that mycotoxins produced by the common fusarium fungus could be responsible. In August 1981, a leaf, leaf parts, and a twig from an alleged Yellow Rain site in Kampuchea were found to contain three of these mycotoxins, from what is known as the trichothecene group. Among the mycotoxins is a poisonoas substance called T2. According to a State Department report, these trichothecenes were present in unusually large amounts and could probably not have resulted from natural processes. In November 1981, the Department reported that trichothecene poisons had also been found in a water sample from a Kampuchean village and and in two samples The State Department has of a yellow powder scraped from rocks in Laos. noted that trichothecenes have not been found in control samples collected in reportedly unaffected areas of Kampuchea, and this suggests to some U.S. analysts that the poisons are not naturally occurring substances in the region. Other evidence has been provided by sources outside the U.S. government. An unofficial report of the Canadian government submitted to the UN in June concludes that reports of alleged yellow rain attacks in Southeast Asia cannot be explained by diseases known to occur in the area or by naturally A University of Minnesota plant pathologist, regarded occurring mycotoxins. as the nation's foremost expert on the trichothecene family of toxins, has found significant quantities of these toxins in samples collected in Southeast Asia. A private Philippine doctor who spent two years working in a Laotian refugee camp in Thailand has concluded that "chemicals have been used against the Hmong intermittently since 1976" and indicates that other doctors are similarly convinced. CRS- 4 IB82025 UPDATE-09/29[83' ABC News obtained i t s own Yellow Rain s a m p l e , thought to be from L a o s , a n d reported i n Dedember 1 9 8 1 that this sample contained t h e same t h r e e trichothecenes a s well a s a derivative of polyethylene g l y c o l , a material that does not occur i n nature. [ S e e New York T i m e s , Dec. 1 8 , 1981.1 According to a researcher cited by A B C , this substance might h a v e been used to carry a n d disperse the toxins. T h e S t a t e Department issued a n additional report in January 1 9 8 2 , based o n preliminary tests run on blood s a m p l e s from suspected victims of a Yellow Rain attack in Kampuchea. A 1 2 n ~ v e r s i t yresearcher tentatively identified a product of T 2 , a s metabolized by the human body, i n a t l e a s t two of t h e n i n e Samples. Eight of t h e alleged v i c t i m s had bel'ow-normal white blood cell counts, which could h z v e resulted from trichothecene exposure. In s u m , evidence of the use of chemical and toxin weapons i n S o u t h e a s t Asia and Afghanistan i s very strong. Moreover, a s investigations have proceeded, n o evidence disproving t h e charges h a s been found. Although some members of the scientific community have been skeptical of t h e e v i d e n c e , a bit of that skepticism seems to have waned i n recent months. A recent a r t i c l e in t h e weekly publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Science Magazine) serves a s a n example of this change: the a r t i c l e termed the c a s e made by the U.S. "persuasive" a n d " w e l l - e s t a b l i s h e d w , though in earlier i s s u e s , Science termed t h e charges premature. Hany o b s e r v e r s , however, remain unconvinced. On Oct. 2 6 , 1 9 8 2 , a s the 37th session of the United Nations General Assembly c o n v e n e d , a UN team of chemical warfare experts returned to B a n g k o k , Thailand, to continue their investigation of evidence obtained from reported Yellow Rain victims. U.N. Investigation F i n a l Report On Dec. 3 , 1 9 8 2 t h e Secretary General released t h e f i n a l i n v e s t i g a t i v e r e p o r t concerning t h e use of chemical weapons L n Asia. T h e report stated that the investigative team found t h a t allegations concerning the u s e o f "harrassing a g e n t s " i n Afghanistan and " t o x i c material" i n L a o s were well-supported by "circumstantial evidence". No further definitive C O n C l ~ ~ i o nwse r e reached, T h e investigative team cited t h e inability t o gather on-site evidence a s t h e major hindrance t o their study. The governments of L a o s a n d Afghanistan had refused them . entry, and C a m b o d i a n officials had n o t provided what t h e team members f e l t to be sufficient guarantees of safety i n the midst of the on-going civil war. T h e U.S. response to the U.N. final r e p o r t w a s to object t o t h e "self-defeating standards of evidence" of the investigative team and t o criticize their unwillingness to enter Cambodia. T h e U.S. delegation said that i t would a l l o w t h i s investigation to d i e , but intended to sponsor a resolution i n conjunction with F r a n c e , Belgium, E c u a d o r , t h e Netherlands, S w e d e n , and Uruguay requesting the Secretary G e n e r a l to c o m p i l e a l i s t of experts a n d laboratory facilities which can b e used o n short n o t i c e f o r f u t u r e investigations. Soviet Involvement T h e Soviets n o longer deny the presence of y e l l o w r a i n toxins i n S o u t h e a s t in Their scenario, released t o the UN A s i a , but they deny a n y complicity. CRS- 5 June, was prepared by the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences and the Ministry of Health; it contends that the U.S. use of herbicides and napalm in ~ i e t n a m , combined with'wind patterns in the region, created the conditions for the Spread of the toxin by natural means. The theory has been termed "bizarre" by some and "science fiction" by one of the world's foremost authorities on Fusarium (a fungus) , some varieties of which produce the T 2 toxin found in Southeast Asia. Soviet involvement in chemical and toxin warfare in Afghanistan should not be difficult to substantiate if the evidence from Afghanistan is confirmed. Soviet troops are directly involved in the Afghan fighting itself and they work Closely with the troops of the Afghan central government. In southeast Asia, the exact nature of Soviet involvement remains uncertain. Reports of Soviet advisors and pilots in the area have occasionally reached the West, and if such SDviet personnel are present they may have engaged in the use of poison weapons. The State Department alleged in its March 1982 report that Soviet advisors and technicians in Laos had been directly involved in the use of c h e m i c a l weapons. In addition, according to the State Department, the Soviets have transferred chemical and toxin weapons to their local allies, who are not generally regarded as capable of producing such weapons themselves. There is a possibility that Vietnam could be manufacturing a t least small quantities of Yellow Rain through a fermentation process, although State Department experts do not believe that this could be done without Soviet assistance. State Department whether as information analysts note, moreover, that there is no evidence from defectors, Vietnamese scientific publications dealing with mycotoxins, or in some other form -- to indicate that local manufacture is taking place. -- According to some observers, there is enough evidence of continuing Soviet research in chemical and biological weapons to indicate that the Soviets are fully capable of using such weapons themselves or of providing them to others. Reference is often made to a 1 9 7 9 outbreak of anthrax near a suspected Soviet CBW facility in Sverdlvosk in support of this contention. Soviet explanations for this outbreak have not been accepted by the United States. Researchers have also noted that Soviet scientists have had much experience in dealing with natural outbreaks of fusarium poisoning in grain crops, and argue that this experience may have given the Soviets the capacity to manufacture such poisons on a large scale. Nor can the evidence that the Soviet Union provided Egypt with gas weapons for use in North Yemen in the 1960s be disregarded, in this view. Finally, it is argued, Soviet resistance a t the UN to the General Assembly-sponsored investigation of the Yellow Rain reports in southeast Asia must be viewed with suspicion. Debate Over the Evidence Despite the considerable documentation provided by the State Department under both the Carter and the Reagan Administrations, some observers remain skeptical of the evidence that has been presented from Afghanistan and southeast Asia. Skeptics have made the following points: --- Many of the eyewitness accounts come from unsophisticated lifelong residents of rural areas. The physical evidence is based on a very small number of samples from the field. CRS- 6 -- -- -- ---- PB82025 UPDATE-09/29,:'83 L i t t l e information has been released on where and under what conditions the samples of vegetation and blood were gathered or on how they were shipped to t h e United States. Consequently, the possibility of alteration of t h e samples by contamination, whether intentional or u n i n t e n t i o n a l , cannot be ruled out. Although trichothecene poisons have not been found i n control samples of soil and vegetation from southeast Asia, skeptics a s s e r t that too l i t c l e i s y e t k n o w n about t h e natural occurrence of t h e s e substances i n t h e region. D e f e n s i v e Soviet CBW equipment in Afghanistan could be explained by the possibility, acknowledged by military a n a l y s t s , that such equipment i s n o r m a l l y deployed with a l l S o v i e t infantry units. I t s presence i n Afghanistan t h u s would not necessarily indicate that chemical o r biological weapons were being used. T h e Soviet Union has a long history of naturally occurring a n t h r a x , and s o m e believe that this history could explain t h e Sverdlvosk incident. S o v i e t opposition t o investigations of t h e Sverdlvosk incident may simply reflect long-standing S o v i e t suspicion of outsiders and opposition to o n s i t e inspection.. T h e Soviet Union may not have sufficient m o t i v e for becoming involved i n the use of chemical a n d toxin weapons. T h e alleged uses would not appear militarily d e c i s i v e , and exposure would be too damaging t o the S o v i e t Union's a t t e m p t to portray itself, both in Europe and t h e T h i r d World, a s a responsible power committed to peace and to t h e control of dangerous weapons. Professor Mathew Meselson of Harvard University has suggested t h a t t h e presence of mycotoxins o n vegetation s a m p l e s collected i n S o u t h e a s t A s i a could be explained a s a natural phenomenon. H e cites t h e high concentration of pollen f o u n d i n several s a m p l e s , and noting the fertility of pollen a s a growth m e d i u m , suggests t h a t the mycotoxins could r e s u l t from t h e natural growth of the fusarium f u n g u s on the pollen spots. T h e large s i z e of t h e pollen concentrations Professor Meselson attributes t o t h e seasonal excrement of bees. C r i t i c s of t h i s theory point to the lack of reported mycotoxin poisoning prior to the a d v e n t of " Y e l l o w Rain" i n the a r e a , and t h e unlikelihood t h a t a single bee could have collected t h e diversity o f pollen found in each of the pollen spots. Alternative explanations f o r t h e presence of the pollen h a v e included the speculations that Y e l l o w Rain l e a v e s a sticky residue to which pollen a d h e r e s o r that t h e pollen h a s been used a s a carrier f o r the mycotoxin which could be readily inhaled. T h o s e w h o believe t h a t chemical toxin weapons have been used in Afghanistan a n d southeast Asia maintain t h a t the skeptics simply f a i l t o appreciate t h e totality of t h e evidence t h a t has already been presented. Any single eyewitness account o r piece of physical evidence might be open t o CRS- 7 question, but, they argue, considered as a whole the evidence room for reasonable doubt. leaves little Nor, from this perspective, is there reason to doubt that the Soviet Union had adequate incentive for using gas or toxin weapons or for providing them to allied states. The areas in which these weapons have reportedly been used, it is pointed o u t , are all highly remote, and the Soviets may have concluded that chemical and toxin warfare in these regions would go undetected. Any scattered reports reaching the outside world, Soviet leaders may have reasoned, would probably be confused and subject to doubt. Soviet military planners may have felt that gas and toxin weapons would be particularly appropriate in the battlefield conditions they or their allies faced in Afghanistan, Laos, and Cambodia. Lightly armed guerrillas operating in rugged or forested terrain can be difficult to engage with conventional weapons. But gases and toxins offer the prospect of killing guerrilla troops that lack CBW defensive equipment in their hiding places or of flushing them into the open. Such weapons might thus appear cost effective at a time when Soviet military expenditures may be constrained by competing demands and poor performance of the Soviet economy. Finally, while many observers doubt that combat lessons learned in Afghanistan or southeast Asia will have much relevance for the European theater, some believe that the Soviets may have wanted to test their CBW capability in preparation for possible deployment against NATO or Chinese troops. Applicable International Law The 1972 multilateral Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention is directly gernane to the alleged use of mycotoxins in southeast Asia. This treaty, sweeping in its terms, prohibits the development, production, or stockpiling of bacteriological (biological) or toxin weapons. It also prohibits the transfer of biological agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, or means of delivery to any recipient; and it outlaws any assistance, encouragement, or inducement to any state in the development of biological weapons. The Soviet Union is a party to this convention, and it is clearly in violation if it has used toxin weapons; provided toxin weapons to allies in southeast Asia; or helped an ally to develop such weapons. Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Afghanistan have also ratified the Biological Weapons Convention, as has the United States. Application of the 1925 Geneva Protocol is more problematic. The protocol prohibits the use in warfare of bacteriological weapons as well as "asphyxiating, poisonous, or other gases and of all analagous liquids, materials, or devices." While the Soviet Union has ratified this convention, it did so with the reservation that it would be bound only with respect to other ratifying nations. Thus it could be argued that the protocol does not apply in situations in which Soviet troops are fighting against a guerrilla movement, as in Afghanistan, or in providing assistance to allies. It might also be claimed that the confli.cts in Afghanistan and Laos are internal conflicts and not wars under the terms of the protocol. Afghanistan, Laos, and Kampuchea are not parties to the protocol and could argue, if they chose to do so, that they are not bound by its terms.' Vietnam has ratified the protocol but might deny that it is binding with respect to the Khmer Rouge. Many international lawyers argue, however, that the prohibition against the use of gas weapons is older than the Geneva Protocol and so widely recognized that it has become a part of customary international l a w , binding CRS- 8 IB82025 U P D A T E - O ~ / ~ ~ / on a l l states. I n d e e d , they n o t e , the Protocol itself i s phrased as a document intended to perfect a long-standing doctrine of customary law. Others point o u t , however, that customary l a w i s difficult to establish and li,kely to be controversial when a t t e m p t s a r e maae to a p p l y it to specific cases. I n so far a s noncombatant civilians h a v e been h a r m e d , governments using C B W can be a c c u s e d of violating t h e 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of C i v i l i a n Persons in T i m e of War (one of t h e so-called Red Cross Conventions). T h i s convention commits a l l parties to the humane treatment of civilians even during civil wars. T h e S o v i e t Union, A f g h a n i s t a n , L a o s , and Kampuchea have a l l ratified this convention, a s has t h e United States. substantiated T h e Genocide Convention wocld apply i n Laos if it could be t h a t a campaign was underway t o exterminate the Hmong people. T h e convention prohibits a c t s intended " t o d e s t r o y , i n whole or i n part, a n a t i o n a l , ethnical, r a c i a l , o r religious g r o u p , a s such." T h e S o v i e t Union and Laos h a v e ratified t h i s convention, but the United States h a s y e t to do so. As a r e s u l t , some o b s e r v e r s suggest that the United States i s i n a poor position t o raise the g e n o c i d e issue. ANALYSIS Implications f o r U.S. Policy Soviet C o n d u c t T h e a l l e g a t i o n s of Soviet involvement i n chemical a n d toxin warfare a r e a n important consideration for t h o s e observers w h o believe that the Western nations should g i v e u p hope of cooperation with the S o v i e t s o n a r m s c o n t r o l a n d perhaps o t h e r issues. T h e allegations of a Soviet willingness t o use i n h u m a n e w e a p o n s i n violation of treaty obligations and customary international l a w w o u l d , if c o n f i r m e d , f i n a l l y and convincingly d e m o n s t r a t e , according to t h i s v i e w , that t h e Soviets w e r e treacherous in their f a i l u r e to k e e p solemn o b l i g a t i o n s and ruthless i n their determination to use a n y a n d a l l means to a c h i e v e their objectives. I n d e e d , some s u g g e s t , the a l l e g e d S o v i e t resort t o t h e use of chemical and toxin weapons i s o n e sign a m o n g o t h e r s of a n e w a n d highly a g g r e s s i v e phase i n Soviet policy. During such a p h a s e , in their v i e w , i t would be particularly dangerous t o believe t h a t the t h e Soviets w o u l d respect a n y agreements with the Western nations. According to another v i e w , h o w e v e r , t h e possible S o v i e t u s e of C B W , w h i l e perhaps u n p a r d o n a b l e , i s understandable a n d not especially dangerous to Western interests. From t h i s perspective, t h e Soviet U n i o n , facing a long war in Afghanistan and demands f o r assistance from i t s southeast Asian a l l i e s , may 'have succumbed to the tempting belief t h a t escalation to c h e m i c a l a n d toxin w e a p o n s offered a way out of a l l three problems. A few observers h a v e pointed o u t that the United States itself w a s n o t immune t o the temptation of escalation i n southeast Asia and i n d e e d used non-lethal, riot-control g a s e s a s well a s herbicides i n combat situations there. U.S. officials a r e quick t o insist that there i s n o parallel between U.S. and Soviet c o n d u c t because t h e riot-control gases and h e r b i c i d e s used by the United States w e r e n o t intended to be lethal. &or was t h e United States a party to the G e n e v a Protocol o r the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention CRS- 9 IB82025 UPDATE-09/29/83 when it used these substances' Critics of U.S. policy in Vietnam, however, have noted that gas weapons and herbicides were sometimes intended to expose the enemy to lethal w e a p o n s , and some have contended that the use of these substances was a t least a violation of customary international law. This view continues to be strongly contested. In any event, many will continue to believe t h a t some a r m s control agreements with the Soviets a r e desireable and can succeed. In their v i e w , the lesson of the current allegations against the Soviet Union i s n o t that arms control agreements must inevitably f a i l but that a n y new agreements must be backed up by effective mechanisms f o r assuring compliance. T h e problem with the Geneva Protocol, i n this v i e w , i s that i t l a c k s any such mechanisms. T h e Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention provides f o r the UN Security Council to launch a n investigation once a complaint has been received, but such an investigation would be subject t o the veto cf any one of the f i v e permanent members of the Council, and this includes t h e Soviet Union. Thus, many maintain, better verification procedures must be devised. But t o give up any hope of a r m s control agreements with the Soviets woul'd be a mistake, from their perspective. The United States would be damaged over the long term by such a decision, according t o this view, by the cost of a n ever escalating a r m s race. In the short t e r m , the United States might find i t s security interests in Western Europe jeopardized. T h e current U.S.-Soviet talks on intermediate-range theater nuclear forces i n Europe a r e being closely watched in the Western European nations. If t h e United States were perceived a s responsible f o r any b-reakdown in i n these talks, i t might not be permitted t o modernize i t s theater nuclear forces on t h e continent. A U.S. Program? T h e possibility that the Soviet Union may be testing CBW weapons in Afghanistan and southeast Asia suggests t o some observers that t h e United States should resume a chemical weapons program of i t s own. They h a v e argued that the United States should expand i t s existing chemical capabilities and enhance i t s ability to defend against CBW attack. Most critics of this v i e w a r e not generally opposed to increased CBW defensive capabilities a m o n g U.S. forces a s a prudent measure. They believe, however, t h a t the existing U.S. stockpile of g a s and g a s weapons i s adequate and t h a t U.S. nuclear and In their conventional capabilities will deter the Soviets from a CBW attack. view, a n e w U.S. chemical weapons production program would only a p p e a r to vindicate those who maintain that the U.S. Government i s exploiting the Y e l l o w , R a i n issue to make its own chemical weapons plans politically acceptable. [For further information, see IB81081, Chemical Warfare: Background and Issues.] Current U.S. Policy The stated goals of present policy, according t o U.S. officials, are: to stop the use o f chemical and toxin weapons; to f o c u s world attention on Soviet conduct; and to highlight the need f o r effective compliance procedures i n a l l a r m s control agreements. Richard Burt, Director of t h e S t a t e Department's Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, noted in November 1 9 8 1 Senate testimony, "There should be no doubt...that t h e U.S.. Government will insist that a n y future a r m s control agreements contain whatever provisions a r e needed t o permit verification and t o insure that questions of compliance, a r e dealt with seriously.'' In J u n e , President Reagan made Soviet complicity . in yellow rain a k e y part of his speech before the UN Disarmament Session. Some critics of t h e current U.S. stance argue that i t g o e s beyond w h a t might be justified on t h e basis of existing evidence. Bccording to this position, excessive U.S. emphasis o n the issue could damage t h e prospects f o r further a r m s control agreements a n d create an atmosphere of a l a r m that w i l l result i n a headlong chemical and biological a r m s race. Another view i s t h a t the United States has n o t y e t d o n e enough to condemn the Soviet Union or to hel? z n e aileged victims of chemical and toxin attacks. T h e Reagan Administration has been praised by some w h o hold t h i s view for taking what i s perceived a s a firmer stance than t h e Carter Administration. It has been pointed o u t , however, that the Reagan Administration has been able to m a k e use of additional information from southeast Asia i n pressing its case. In any e v e n t , some believe that t h e United S t a t e s remains far too cautious on the Yellow Rain issue. Many h a v e suggested i n particular that too l i t t l e i s being done to a s s i s t t h e Hmong people, w h o placed their trust i n the United S t a t e s during the period of U.S. involvement i n southeast Asia. One S t e p that has been recommended i s a formal complaint t o the Securify Council under the Biological Weapons Convention. T h e executive branch h a s been reluctant to bring i t s case to t h e Council, h o w e v e r , because a S o v i e t veto of a n investigation seems a l m o s t inevitable. Such a v e t o , though embarrassing to the U.S.S.R., could seem to put an end to t h e i s s u e and l e a v e the United States with reduced options for f u r t h e r action. There i s n o provision i n the Biological Weapons Convention whereby a s i n g l e state may convene a conference of all s i g n a t o r i e s , a s some have suggested. T h e Reagan Administration has decided in f a v o r of producing binary gas weapons i n order to modernize U.S. chemical w e a p o n s capabilities. Funding for these weapons has been requested for F Y 8 3 , and the certification required to begin chemical munitions production has been sent to Congress. No link h a s been drawn by the executive between binary g a s weapons development a n d t h e allegations of Soviet involvement in chemical and toxin warfare Afghanistan and southeast Asia. T h e Administration's position o n binary weapons, however, may a t least h a v e been conditioned by t h e allegations. Some believe that t h e allegations indeed strengthen the case f o r binary g a s weapons. Others a r g u e that binary gas weapons development o r production n o w would be a mistake precisely because, in the e y e s of world o p i n i o n , i t would weaken t h e U.S. standing for criticizing the S o v i e t Union o n t h e Yellow R a i n issue. LEGISLATION P.L. 97-113 (S. 1 1 9 6 , H.R. 3566) 716 International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1981. Sec. states t h a t Congress condemns t h e u s e o f , and t h e provision f o r use o f , chemical agents and toxin weapons a g a i n s t t h e peoples of L a o s , K a m p u c h e a , o r Afghanistan. Further states that t h e President should seek measures to bring a n end to such a c t i o n , allocate t h e highest possible priority to developing further evidence on t h e nature and origins of t h e chemical a n d toxin weapons being u s e d , and vigorously seek a satisfactory explanation from the S. 1 1 9 6 had contained a n a m e n d m e n t Government of the S o v i e t Union. introduced by Senator Humphrey o n Sept. 3 0 , 1981. T h i s a m e n d m e n t condemned t h e use of toxins, o r biological o r chemical a g e n s t s against t h e peoples of - Laos, Kampuchea, and Afghanistan; urged UN action on violations of international law; and urged the President to obtain an explanation from the Soviet Union. Passed by a roll call vote, 92-0, on Sept. 30. The House amendment, by Representative Leach, was comparable and also stated the sense of the Congress that the President allocate the highest priority to the development of further evidence. Introduced and passed by a voice vote on Dec. 9. 1981. Conference (H-Rept. 97-413) adopted the House position. S. 1196 was introduced on May 1 5 , 1981. Passed the Senate, amended, on Oct. 20. Passed the House, amended, in lieu of H.R. 3566 on Dec. 9. Senate agreed to Conference Report (H-Rept. 97-413) on Dec. 15.; House agreed to Conference Report on Dec. 16. Signed inco law by the President on.Dec. 2 9 , 1981. HEARINGS U.S. Congress. House. Committee on For-eign Affairs. Subcommittee on International Security and Scientific Affairs. Strategic implications of chemical and biological warfare. Hearing, 96th Congress, 2d session Apr. 2 4 , 1980. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1980. 6 9 p. U.S. Congress. House. Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Subcommittee on Oversight. The Sverdlovsk incident: Soviet compliance with the biological weapons convention. Hearings, 96th Congress, 26 session. May 29, 1980. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1980. 1 8 p. U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations. Subcommittee on Arms Control, Oceans, International Operations and Environment. Yellow rain. Hearing, 97th Congress, 1st session. Nov. 1 0 , 1981. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1982. 8 1 p. REPORTS AND CONGRESSIONAL DOCUMENTS U.S. Congress. House. Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Subcommittee on Oversight. Soviet biological warfare activities: a report. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1980. 6 p. At head of title: Committee print. United Nations. General Assembly. Report of the Secretary General Report No. A/37/259. Dec. 1 , 1982 CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS 12/08/82 -- 12/03/82 -- Kenneth Adelman, U.S. Deputy Delegate to the U.N. suggested that evidence indicated the possible use of nerve agents by Soviet-backed Ethiopian troops against Eritrean rebels. The final report of the U.N. investigative team concerning the use of chemical weapons in Asia stated that the possibilities of the u s e of "toxic material" i n Laos and "harrassing a g e n t s " in Afghanistan were well-supported by circumstantial evidence, but draws n o definite conclusion. 11/29/82 -- 11/25/82 -- Kenneth Adelman, U.S. Deputy Delegate to the UN, stated that the U.S. plans to a l l o w t h e UN inquiry i n t o t h e use of chemical weappns i n Asia to die. Adelman cited the inability of the investigative team to reach substantive conclusions a s the reason action. f o r this U. 5- 06/21/82 -- Canada submitted to UN a n independent r e p o r t prepared by a n emminent veterinary pathologist t h a t concludes that alleged yellow rain a t t a c k s in L a o s and Kampuchea cannot be explained by d i s e a s e s known to occur in the a r e a o r by naturally occurring mycotoxins. 06/07/82 -- T h e Wall Street Journal published excerpts of i n t e r v i e w s conducted by members of the United N a t i o n s team investigating allegations a b o u t the u s e of chemical a n d biological warfare a g e n t s by the S o v i e t Union and i t s allies i n Southeast Asia a n d Afghanistan. The interviews were conducted with Afghan refugees w h o claimed to be victims and eyewitnesses of Soviet biochemical w a r f a r e a t t a c k s i n Afghanistan. 05/21/82 -- Soviet Union submitted to UN a critique of the U.S. State Department's report of Mar. 2 2 , terming it a, "malicious fabrication". T h e report acknowledges t h e presence of yellow rain toxins in S o u t h e a s t Asia, b u t blames them on the herbicides and napalm used by t h e U.S. i n Vietnam. 05/13/82 -- 03/30/82 -- Secretary of State George S h u l t z released a 12-page r e p o r t providing additional toxicological evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Asia. He also offered the first physical evidence i n t h e form of t w o Soviet gas masks contaminated iiith " Y e l l o w Raln" mycotoxins. aoch masks were obtained i n Afghanistan i n l a t e 1981. T h e Department of S t a t e released a n a n a l y s i s of f u r t h e r evidence of chemical warfare in southeast Asia, indicating positive identification of T 2 toxin and i t s metabolite H T 2 i n t h e blood and urine s a m p l e s taken from f o u r victims of a chemical attack in K a m p u c h e a (Cambodia). Evidence indicated exposure to high concentrations o f t h e toxin a n d symptoms consistent with t h o s e caused by trichothecenes. Environmental control samples contained n o trichothecenes. T h e House subcommittees o n Asian and P a c i f i c and o n International Security and S c i e n t i f i c began a series of joint hearings o n c h e m i c a l toxin warfare. T h e hearings were to examine o n such warfare in Afghanistan and s o u t h e a s t Affairs Affairs and the e v i d e n c e Asia and to consider the implications for arms control. 03/22/82 -- 03/08/82 -- The United States charged that the Soviet Union had killed more than 3,000 people in Afghanistan with chemical and possibly toxin weapons. (Deputy Secretary of State) Walter J. Stoessel Jr. said i n Senate testimony that " A s a result of chemical a t t a c k s , 3042 deaths atcributed to 47 separate incidents between the summer of 1979 and the A State summer of 1981 have been reported." Department source said that the evidence came from defectors, refugees, victims, and doctors who had treated victims. He acknowledged, however, that physical evidence was lacking.) 02/21/82 -- T h e New York Times reported that Eritrean guerrilla forces i n Ethiopia were claiming that So-viet-supplied Ethiopian troops were ( A U.S. using chemical weapons against them. official had said that there was no independent confirmation of this c l a i m , according to the Times. ) 02/16/82 -- 02/14/82 -- 02/08/82 -- The Department of State released a report (Special Report No. 98) on chemical warfare i n southeast Asia and Afghanistan. (The report provided numerical estimates of the deaths occurring from such warfare; made new allegations on Soviet involvement; and indicated that "Yellow Rain" mycotoxins might have been used in Afghanistan. Information provided in prevlous Stace ilepartment documents was summarlzed and additlona; medical information given. ) Max Kampelman, chief U.S. delegate to the European Security Conference in Madrid, charged the Soviet Union with operating 2 0 chemical and biological weapons facilities in violation of international conventions. (Kampelman a d d e d , "It i s unmistakable that innocent people i n L a o s , Kampuchea, and Afghanistan have been victims among other lethal agents, potent mycotoxins of the trichothecene group.") Secretary of State Haig, speaking on ABC's "This Week With David Brinkley," said that Soviet chemical weapons had caused "scores of thousandsn of civilian casualties in Afghanistan and southeast Asia. President Reagan certified to Congress that renewed manufacturing of chemical weapons was "essential to the national interest." (The certification was required prior to the' production of lethal binary chemical munitions by Sec. 8 1 8 of Public Law 94-106. The Department of Defense disclosed that its FY83 budget contains $ 3 0 million for building chemical weapons. ) 01/29/82 -- 12/09/81 -- 11/25/81 -- T h e United States urged = h e United Nations to broaden the General Assembly-sponsored investigation into allegations of the use of toxin weapons i n L a o s , K a m p u c h e a , and Afghanistan. (A preliminary r e p o r t by the four-man UN panel said that they had been "unable to reach a final conclusion a s to whether or not chemical warfare agents had been used." 9 u t the panel had been denied entry i n t o a n y of the countries where these agents had been reported. ) 09/14/81 -- Walter J. S t o e s s e l , Under Secretary of State f o r Po.litica1 Affairs, released further information of the physical evidence with r e s p e c t to t h e use of lethal toxin weapons i n southeast Asia. 09/13/81 -- Secretary of State H a i g , speaking in Berlin, announced that the United S t a t e s had physical evidence of the u s e of chemical and toxin w e a p o n s in southeast 3 s i a . 08/07/80 -- T h e S t a t e Departm'ent released a report on a n a n a l y s i s of victims of a n alleged chemical attack in Kampuchea. (According to the r e p o r t , two of the nine blood samples showed preliminary evidence of the presence of a metabolite of T 2 , a trichothecene poison. Other indications of trichothecene exposure were a l s o noted.) T h e UN General A s s e r ~ b l ~desplte ~, SoVlet o b ~ e c t l o n s ,voted to contlnue a n lnvestlgatron anto charges of them-c 1 and toxrn warfare rn Afghanistan and southeast Asla. (Only t h e S o v i e t Union and rts closest a-llles opposed the - 3 vote of 8 6 - 2 0 , e x t e n s r o n , whlch was a p r r ~ e dby wlth 3 4 a b s t e n t ~ o n s . ' T h e Department of Stat? reieased a 124-page compendium of reports and allegations o n the use of chemical and toxin weapons in Afghanistan a n d southeast Asia. (An update of this compendium was released i n March 1981.)