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
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
(a) that such weapons have been used and
(b) that the Soviet Union
implicateC in this use. The Department of State has prepared
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
One issue is whether, a s some argue;
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
negotiations with the Soviet Union should be abandoned because
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 United States, under two Administrations, had taken the lead i n
attempting to expose the alleged use of chemical and toxin weapons
and Southeast Asia.
The Carter Administration, in
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
Under the Reagan Administration, the State Department
presented the first evidence based on toxicological testing
of State released a comprehensive review of the available 'evidence on Mar.
Ex-Secretary of State Haig publicly raised the issue.
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
The United Nations has also undertaken an investigation. The Soviet Union
vigorously opposed this investigation, but was unable to block
investigation is continuing, despite what many
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
is an unjustified delay which
creates opportunities for the Soviets t o
manipulate t h e conclusions.
On Nov. 25, 1 9 8 2 Kenneth A d e l m a n , U.S.
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:
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
a n d mustard gas.
T h e use of incapacitating a n d riot-control gases by
t r o o p s , or by Soviet-backed Afghan forces, h a s also been alleged.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
update, the Mar. 22, 1982, Special Report, and the November update.]
Kampuchea, these substances appear to have been
Vietnam-supported Kampuchean elements against the forces of the rival Khmer
But there are also reports of the distribution of poisoned
civilians and of the poisoning of wells in Kampuchean refugee camps in
In Laos, in addition to battlefield uses by the troops of the Pathet Lao
government, there have been numerous reports of attacks with
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.
fiercely-independent Hmong have long resisted government attempts to resettle
them in more easily controlled lowlands areas.
Hmong assisted the
United Sfices during the period of U.S.
involvement in southeast
further information, see CRS IB79079, Indochinese Refugees:
Issues for U.S. Policy.]
Accounts of the use of Yellow Rain, a fungus-produced toxin
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
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.
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.
mycotoxins is a poisonoas
substance called T2.
to a State
Department report, these trichothecenes were present
in unusually large
amounts and could probably not have resulted from natural processes.
November 1981, the Department reported that trichothecene poisons
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
Other evidence has been provided by sources outside the U.S.
An unofficial report of the Canadian government submitted to the UN
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
as the nation's foremost expert on the trichothecene family of toxins, has
found significant quantities of these toxins in samples collected in
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.
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
Eight of t h e alleged v i c t i m s had bel'ow-normal
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
Moreover, a s investigations have
proceeded, n o evidence disproving t h e charges h a s been found.
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 r t i c l e in t h e weekly publication of the American
Advancement of Science (Science Magazine)
serves a s a n example of this
the a r t i c l e termed the c a s e made by
"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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Their scenario, released t o the UN
A s i a , but they deny a n y complicity.
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
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
Soviet involvement in chemical and toxin warfare in Afghanistan should not
be difficult to substantiate if the evidence from Afghanistan
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
Reports of Soviet advisors and pilots
in the area
occasionally reached the West, and if such SDviet personnel are present
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Professor Mathew Meselson of Harvard University
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
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
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
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.
single eyewitness account o r piece of physical evidence might be
open t o
question, but, they argue, considered as a whole the evidence
room for reasonable doubt.
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
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
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.
sweeping in its terms, prohibits the development, production, or stockpiling
of bacteriological (biological) or toxin weapons.
It also prohibits
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.
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
Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and
Afghanistan have also ratified the Biological Weapons Convention, as has the
Application of the 1925 Geneva Protocol is more problematic.
prohibits the use in warfare of bacteriological weapons as well
"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.
also be claimed that the confli.cts in Afghanistan and Laos are internal
conflicts and not wars under the terms of the protocol.
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.'
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
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
document intended to perfect a long-standing
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
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
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.
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.
Implications f o r U.S.
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
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
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
United States w e r e n o t intended to be lethal.
&or was t h e United
party to the G e n e v a Protocol o r the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
[For further information, see IB81081, Chemical
Background and Issues.]
The stated goals of present policy, according t o U.S.
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
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
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
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
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
It has been pointed
o u t , however, that
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
weapons i n order to modernize U.S. chemical w e a p o n s capabilities.
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.
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
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
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
(S. 1 1 9 6 , H.R.
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
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
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
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
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.
amendment, by Representative Leach, was comparable and also stated the sense
of the Congress that the President allocate the highest priority
development of further evidence.
Introduced and passed by a voice vote on
Dec. 9. 1981. Conference (H-Rept. 97-413) adopted the House position.
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
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.
Committee on For-eign Affairs.
Subcommittee on International Security and Scientific
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.
Permanent Select Committee on
Subcommittee on Oversight.
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.
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
Permanent Select Committee on
Subcommittee on Oversight.
biological warfare activities:
a report. Washington,
U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1980. 6 p.
At head of title:
Report of the Secretary General
Report No. A/37/259.
Dec. 1 , 1982
CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS
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.
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
f o r this U. 5-
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
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.
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.
Soviet Union submitted to UN a critique of the U.S.
State Department's report of Mar. 2 2 , terming it a,
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.
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.
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"
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
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
T h e hearings were to examine
o n such warfare in Afghanistan and s o u t h e a s t
the e v i d e n c e
and to consider the implications for arms control.
The United States charged that the Soviet Union
had killed more than 3,000 people in Afghanistan
with chemical and possibly toxin weapons.
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
summer of 1981 have been reported."
Department source said that the evidence came from
defectors, refugees, victims, and doctors who had
He acknowledged, however, that
physical evidence was lacking.)
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
The Department of State released a report (Special
Report No. 98) on chemical warfare i n southeast Asia
(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
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.
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."
certification was required prior to the'
production of lethal binary chemical munitions
by Sec. 8 1 8 of Public Law 94-106.
Department of Defense disclosed that its FY83
budget contains $ 3 0 million for building chemical
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
(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
9 u t the panel had been denied entry i n t o
a n y of the countries where these agents had been
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
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 .
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
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.)