It is time for Norwegians to get their heads out of the sand regarding chemical weapons. Declaring Norway a chemical weapons free area is an illusion. Those Soviet systems on the Kola Peninsula capable of delivering chemical weapons are not there for the amusement of Russian soldiers.
Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev did not get around to discussing chemical weapons in Iceland. An American official who was there commented that there are only so many hours in a day. Another reason was that there was little public pressure.
This is surprising, since a number of countries have used chemical weapons since World War II, most recently in the Iraq- Iran conflict. Furthermore, they have always been used against countries which had poor chemical defenses and little or nothing with which to retaliate.
A quarter of a century ago, there were about five countries with chemical weapons. There are now about fifteen, and the number is growing.
It is ironic that most discussion recently has been about the US decision to produce binary chemical weapons. These consist of two chemicals, which remain separate until firing. If nothing else, they are safer to transport and store than the present unitary weapons.
Most people have forgotten that the US unilaterally ceased production of chemical weapons in 1969. There has also been little interest until recently in the stocks of American chemical weapons which have been in Europe for decades. Nor did anyone pay much attention to the Soviet buildup of its chemical forces which followed the US decision to stop production.
It was only when the Storting Foreign Affairs Committee went to Washington early this year that the binary weapon issue arose here. At that time, the committee’s members learned that some Congressmen who were opposing the binary weapons insisted on consulting NATO.
During the discussion of the binaries in NATO, some coun- tries, including Norway, registered their objections. Most of the members, however, regretfully endorsed them.
Subsequently, the US Congress has authorized the Pentagon to go ahead with the production of some binary weapons. The US Army will stockpile these in the US. It will also destroy all of its present chemical stocks.
General Bernard Rogers, the senior NATO commander in Europe, has expressed his satisfaction with these arrangements. He is, however, not happy with the unwillingness of NATO politicians to provide him guidance regarding the possible use of chemical weapons.
NATO strategy provides for the possible use of chemical weapons, in response to their use by the Soviet Union. Unlike with nuclear weapons, however, Rogers has no political guidelines regarding how chemical weapons might be used.
If, for example, the Soviets were to use chemical weapons against Norway, how should NATO military commanders respond? Should they only take protective measures, which will greatly limit their ability to fight? If the decision were to retaliate with chemical weapons, what kind should they use and against what targets?
Some people suggest that NATO could retaliate with nuclear weapons. Are they serious? Can anyone imagine an American President authorizing the use of nuclear weapons because the Soviets used some chemical weapons against, for example, Norwegian troops in Finnmark?
Everyone agrees that the best solution would be to destroy all chemical weapons. There have been negotiations on this subject in Geneva for many years now.
The main obstacle is verification. There has been much controversy regarding American charges that the Soviets are producing biological weapons and have used chemical weapons, for example in Afghanistan. If these charges were wrong, the Soviets could have dispelled them easily by allowing on site inspections. Until they understand this, there will be no agreement on chemical weapons. When talking to Russians, Norwegians should point this out.
In writing this article, I am not suggesting that Norwegians should not continue to be concerned about nuclear weapons. After Iceland, one can at least hope that there will be some reduction in their numbers. As things are going, one cannot be equally optimistic about chemical weapons.