Armas químicas

Alexei Navalny gestures while speaking to a crowd during a political protest in Moscow in July 2019. (Pavel Golovkin/AP)

The film “Navalny” won the Academy Award in March for best documentary feature. The picture details the Kremlin’s 2020 apparent attempt to assassinate Alexei Navalny using a chemical nerve agent and Navalny’s subsequent imprisonment. Today, he languishes in poor health in solitary confinement within a Russian penal colony.

That Oscar for the film about Navalny was well-deserved, but there is a better way to honor his legacy: by holding Russia accountable for its ongoing, banned possession and use of chemical weapons.

This month, the United States and its allies have a chance to right that wrong at an important conference to be held in The Hague by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which monitors international efforts to eliminate the production and use of chemical weapons.…  Seguir leyendo »

The aftermath of Russian shelling in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, March 2022 Viachaslev Ratynski / Reuters

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has not gone as the Kremlin imagined, with its forces bogged down around key cities and the Ukrainian army providing stiff resistance. As its troops grow demoralized and its supplies are exhausted, Russia may turn to more drastic measures to win. In Washington, U.S. national security officials are already meeting and planning for a growing possibility that was once unthinkable: that Russia might use biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine.

After German chlorine gas suffocated masses of British and Canadian troops in 1915 during World War I, such “scientific warfare” horrified the international community and led, ten years later, to the League of Nations’ Geneva Protocol, which prohibits the use of chemical and biological agents in war.…  Seguir leyendo »

¿Se usarán armas químicas en Ucrania?

Rusia aseguró, sin pruebas, que Estados Unidos opera laboratorios de guerra biológica en Ucrania. Estados Unidos tildó las acusaciones de «ridículas» y (junto con el mando de la OTAN) advirtió de que el Kremlin tal vez esté buscando inventar un pretexto para usar armas químicas o biológicas, como parte del infructuoso ataque militar contra su país vecino. Ucrania ya había informado que, igual que muchos otros países, tiene laboratorios de salud pública dedicados a investigar el modo de reducir el riesgo de enfermedades peligrosas que afectan a animales y personas.

El 11 de marzo, hubo una reunión del Consejo de Seguridad de las Naciones Unidas, a pedido de Rusia, para analizar el tema; pero una vez más, Rusia fue incapaz de ofrecer alguna prueba creíble de sus acusaciones.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Syrian soldier films the damage to the Syrian Scientific Research Center in Barzeh, near Damascus, Syria, on April 14, 2018. The site was attacked by U.S., British and French military strikes to punish President Bashar al-Assad for suspected chemical attacks against civilians. (Hassan Ammar/AP)

A chemical weapons confrontation is escalating in Syria, after an international watchdog agency concluded this month that Damascus used chemical weapons, lied to investigators and violated its commitment to dismantle its chemical weapons arsenal. Syria has 90 days to respond — or face a referral to the U.N. Security Council for possible punishment.

Since 2013, the independent Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), often in coordination with experts from the United Nations, has led efforts to collect evidence on the use of toxic gas on civilian targets in Syria. Most recently, the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team concluded that the Syrian government was responsible for the use of chemical weapons in March 2017, and thus lied about dismantling its entire stockpile.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian soldiers checked containers at a chemical weapons storage site in Gorny, Russia, in 2000. A man and a woman in Britain were recently sickened by Novichok, a nerve agent developed by Russia during the Cold War.Credit Associated Press

In 1973 in Shikhany 1, a secret Russian military nerve gas laboratory near the city of Volsk on the Volga River, two scientists developed a nerve gas many times more powerful than any the world had seen. They called it Novichok, which means newcomer.

In March of this year, experts in Britain said the nerve agent used to poison Sergei V. Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer, and his daughter Yulia in the quiet English town of Salisbury was Novichok. Both were placed in intensive care and survived. Prime Minister Theresa May said it was “highly likely” that the poison came from Russia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Smoke rises after the Assad regime carried out an airstrike at Douma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria, on 7 April 2018. Anadolu Agency/Mouneb Tai

What do we know about the 7 April chemical weapons attack?

On the evening of 7 April 2018, the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma was subjected to an apparent chemical weapons attack. According to local first responders, the attack killed more than 42 residents sheltering in their homes and affected more than 500. The attack came as Syrian government forces subjected the city to a surge in conventional bombing after negotiations stalled over the city’s surrender.

So far, no international party has said definitively or presented conclusive evidence that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons use.…  Seguir leyendo »

Civil defence members remove the remnants of a rocket on the outskirts of Douma in February. Photo: Getty Images

Only days after a supposed ceasefire was declared in eastern Ghouta, at least 100 people were reportedly killed, and many more injured, by what appears to be a chemical attack in Douma city.

Local medical sources reported more than 500 cases with symptoms indicative of poisoning by a chemical agent. The symptoms are consistent with an organophosphorous compound, which is the basis of sarin and other nerve agents. Some reports also suggest that the weapon may have contained chlorine.

The already shattered health system in Douma city struggled to manage this mass causality incident: it was difficult to identify the exact chemical used and the sparse medical supplies there were insufficient to treat injuries and reverse neurological symptoms.…  Seguir leyendo »

A rescue worker carried a child following an alleged chemical weapons attack last week in the rebel-held town of Douma, near Damascus, Syria.Credit Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, via Associated Press

A year ago, the United States launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base in retaliation for the government of President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own population. Almost exactly a year later, Mr. Assad seems to have once again unleashed a chemical agent on the besieged suburbs of Damascus, killing dozens.

Will President Trump decide, again, that the use of chemical weapons is intolerable and respond with missiles? Perhaps. But it won’t matter. When it comes to Syria, Washington is incoherent and, ultimately, disinterested. Mr. Assad knows this. He also knows that as long as there isn’t prolonged, focused American military action, his regime can survive.…  Seguir leyendo »

Can we clear something up at the outset? The Russian government is not coming over all outraged because it knows it is being falsely accused of complicity in the attempted murder in Salisbury of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. It has more knowledge of the nature of its own involvement than anyone.

No, its theatrical expressions of outrage stem from quite other feelings. The feeling that it should be allowed to get away with poisoning “traitors” in the UK, as it did with Alexander Litvinenko. The feeling that London, having been more greedy than any other financial centre for Russian mafia money, is not showing appropriate respect to the capo di tutti capi himself — Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.…  Seguir leyendo »

La tragédie syrienne sera-t-elle le tombeau des Nations unies ? Après la tragédie d’Alep, celle de la Ghouta orientale pose la même question assortie de deux nouvelles interrogations : la première sur la capacité du Conseil à faire respecter ses propres résolutions ; la seconde, brûlante, sur le contrôle des armes chimiques.

Face à la Ghouta orientale, le Conseil a montré qu’il n’est désormais plus bloqué en raison du droit de veto de l’un au moins de ses cinq membres permanents, comme cela avait été le cas à Alep. Mais il est désormais impotent, et le spectre de la faillite de la Société des nations rôde plus que jamais.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Russian embassy in Ottawa. Canada joined Britain and other allies in expelling Russian diplomats in response to the Salisbury attack. Photo: Getty Images.

Soon after the Salisbury nerve gas attack on Sergei and Yuliya Skripal, James Nixey and I set out principles that should govern the UK’s response, and assessed potential actions against them. We argued that Britain should:

  • impose measures that are not merely symbolic, but impose costs to deter future unacceptable actions;
  • target key Russian interests, not the wider population; and
  • accept that an effective response will impose costs on some UK interests.

The UK response set out by Theresa May on 14 March comprises three sets of measures:

  1. Diplomatic sanctions: high-level bilateral contacts have been frozen, and no ministers or members of the royal family will attend the World Cup.
…  Seguir leyendo »

Un domingo tranquilo en Madrid me sorprendió el artículo en ABC «Negación, distracción y confusión» del señor Simon Manley, embajador del Reino Unido en España. Simon es un colega a quien aprecio por su alta profesionalidad y a quien tengo una simpatía personal. Como veo, los representantes del Reino Unido han recibido las instrucciones desde Londres para promover insistentemente la postura británica sobre el llamado «caso de los Skripal» a través de la prensa. Nosotros, los diplomáticos, estamos convencidos de que «los canales diplomáticos» son los más adecuados para resolver problemas. Pero si la parte británica se siente incapaz de convencernos a través del diálogo profesional y escoge la prensa como el canal de comunicación, no me queda otra opción sino responder por la misma vía.…  Seguir leyendo »

Un domingo tranquilo en Salisbury, una ciudad con una de las catedrales más bonitas del Reino Unido, un padre y su hija fueron víctimas del primer ataque con agente nervioso cometido en Europa desde el fin de la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

Serguéi y Yulia Skripal todavía están en el hospital y un agente de policía que acudió en su ayuda también se encuentra en estado crítico. Sin olvidar a las otras 35 personas que tuvieron que recibir tratamiento médico por encontrarse en aquel momento cerca del lugar del ataque.

El ataque en Salisbury el pasado 4 de marzo fue un descarado intento de asesinato de civiles en suelo británico que puso en peligro a cualquier persona, de cualquier nacionalidad, que por azar se encontrase allí.…  Seguir leyendo »

A police officer stands near the scene of the attack on Sergei Skripal in Salisbury. Photo: Getty Images.

There can be little doubt that the Russian government is behind the attempted assassination of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter. While there were the typical official denials, the Russian state has ways of communicating its innocence to foreign governments. In this case, it has not done so.

The use of a nerve agent fits a pattern established by the murder of Alexander Litvinenko with polonium in 2006. This was not a McMafia-style operation commissioned by ‘rogue elements’. If they were to blame, Moscow would be even more alarmed than London. Since the chaos of the 1990s, Putin has restored the state’s traditional prerogatives in foreign covert operations, as well as the president’s prerogatives within it.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sberbank offices in London. Photo: Getty Images.

If confirmed, the attack on double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter would be the second known Russian state-sponsored murder in the UK, following the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. Other suspicious cases are now being reopened.

What principles should guide an effective response?
  1. Effective measures are more than symbolic. They impose costs that punish unacceptable actions and deter future ones. The UK’s response to Litvinenko’s death – expelling four diplomats, imposing visa restrictions for officials, and suspending security service liaison – was clearly not sufficient enough to deter the latest attack. Symbols matter, but only if they credibly convey intentions about the consequences of further action.
…  Seguir leyendo »
Victims of the Aug. 21, 2013, sarin gas attack on the city of Ghouta, Syria, that killed hundreds of civilians. Credit Reuters

On Aug. 21, 2013, a Damascus suburb called Ghouta was attacked with sarin gas, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians.

President Barack Obama had warned that the United States would take military action if President Bashar al-Assad of Syria used chemical weapons. The attack on Ghouta crossed Mr. Obama’s “red line,” but he chose coercive diplomacy instead of military action.

Syria acknowledged that it had chemical weapons. The United States and Russia reached a deal in mid-September 2013 under which Syria had to destroy its chemical weapons program.

The Syrian government hurriedly acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention and turned over what it said was its complete chemical weapon arsenal to a team of experts from the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which monitors adherence to the convention.…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korea and the Threat of Chemical Warfare

The war of words between President Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over Pyongyang’s nuclear program has rattled nerves around the world. But the trial of two women in Malaysia for using the nerve agent VX to kill Mr. Kim’s half brother is a reminder that North Korea’s lethal arsenal isn’t limited to nuclear weapons. The North’s chemical weapons pose a grave risk to South Korea and to regional stability.

Experts say chemical munitions have long been deployed along the demilitarized zone that separates the North and South. In the event of a military attack against the North, analysts say, the regime sees chemicals as an option for a first response.…  Seguir leyendo »


El reciente intento de fabricar un artefacto improvisado para la dispersión de una sustancia química tóxica en Australia contó con el asesoramiento directo del Daesh desde Siria. Esto muestra el interés del terrorismo yihadista por transferir y adaptar en Occidente distintas tácticas, técnicas y procedimientos desarrolladas en zonas de conflicto.


El intento fallido de fabricar en Australia un artefacto para la dispersión de sulfuro de hidrógeno, a través de las instrucciones directas del Daesh en Siria, muestra que los intentos de exportar tácticas, técnicas y procedimientos desde zonas de conflicto se extienden también al empleo de armas químicas. La experiencia adquirida por el Daesh en el empleo de sustancias químicas tóxicas en Irak y Siria podría ser transferida a Occidente no sólo a través de redes sociales o medios de comunicación electrónicos sino a través de combatientes retornados que hayan participado en operaciones con armas químicas.…  Seguir leyendo »

La última palabra en relación con el ataque con armas químicas en Khan Sheikhoun (provincia de Idlib, Siria) del 4 de abril, que dejó 85 muertos y una cifra estimada de 555 heridos, todavía no está dicha. Pero tres puntos, sobre la responsabilidad por el ataque, la respuesta militar de Estados Unidos y el efecto del episodio sobre el curso de la guerra civil en Siria, deben quedar claros.

En primer lugar, todos los gobiernos mienten, no por naturaleza, sino cuando les conviene y piensan que pueden hacerlo impunemente. Todo intento de establecer la verdad de lo sucedido debe basarse en esta premisa.…  Seguir leyendo »

Leer un buen periódico

"Leer un buen periódico”, dice un verso de Vallejo, y yo creo que se podría añadir “es la mejor manera de comenzar el día”. Recuerdo que lo hacía cuando andaba todavía de pantalón corto, a mis 12 o 13 años, comprando La Crónica para leer los deportes mientras esperaba el ómnibus que me llevaba al colegio de La Salle a las siete y media de la mañana. Nunca he podido desprenderme de esa costumbre y, luego de la ducha matutina, sigo leyendo dos o tres diarios antes de encerrarme en el escritorio a trabajar. Y, desde luego, los leo de tinta y de papel, porque las versiones digitales me parecen todavía más incompletas y artificiales, menos creíbles, que las otras.…  Seguir leyendo »