Episode 20. Syria And Chemical Weapons: Asst. Sec. Countryman & WMD Military Advisor Col. Terrell On The 2013-14 Destruction Of Weapons Stock & Chemical Weapons Challenges Today
Former Assistant Secretary Tom Countryman and Dept. of Defense WMD Military Advisor Colonel Pat Terrell discuss the 2013-2014 operation to remove and destroy Syria’s stock of chemical weapons and the diplomatic/ military tools required today given continued use of chemical weapons in Syria and new uses by countries such as Russia.
Amb. McCarthy: (00:09) Welcome to another conversation in the Academy of Diplomacy series, The General and the Ambassador. We focus on how our senior military officers work with our senior diplomats to advance our global interests. My name is ambassador Deborah McCarthy and I'm the host. Today we will focus on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. I'm delighted to welcome former Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation, Tom Countryman, and Colonel Pat Terrell who served as the military adviser and Deputy Director for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense policy in the office of the Secretary of Defense. Tom Countryman is now the chair of the board of directors of the Arms Control Association. Pat Terrell is a senior research fellow at the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction at National Defense University. You can find their full biographies on our website, generalambassadorpodcast.org. Gentlemen, welcome to the show and thank you for participating.
Amb. Countryman: (01:07) Thank you.
Col. Terrell: (01:07) Thank you for giving us this opportunity.
Amb. McCarthy: (01:09) In late 2012 and early 2013 the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own population. Pictures went around the world of the victims in agony. You worked together in an unprecedented effort led by the United States and Russia and involving the United Nations and an organization called the OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] to remove chemical weapons from Syria and to destroy them. This effort involved diplomatic negotiations and an operation led by our military to secure and destroy the weapons. President Obama gave time to allow for a negotiated diplomatic solution, but was committed to use military action if it failed. In the end force was not required. Pat, let's start with the basics. What is a chemical weapon exactly and what does it do to victims?
Col. Terrell: (01:55) A short, kind of layman's answer to this is really the use of any kind of toxic chemical with the intent to commit harm to a person, either to kill them or incapacitate them. Some of these are chemicals that have been deliberately designed for warfare, such as the nerve agents that Assad used in Syria, North Korea used in an assassination in Malaysia, and most recently Russia used in an assassination attempt in the United Kingdom that cost a bystander her life, and then others are toxic industrial chemicals like chlorine, which Assad has also used against his people in Syria.
Amb. McCarthy: (02:25) I mentioned the organization OPCW and I know it played a huge role in what we're going to discuss today. Tom, can you tell us what OPCW is?
Amb. Countryman: (02:34) The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was established by the Chemical Weapons Convention signed in 1997, in which virtually every country in the world agreed that chemical weapons production and use had to be strictly prohibited and this is the organization in The Hague that enforces that convention.
Amb. McCarthy: (02:57) Today, which countries still possess chemical weapons and how do we manage this threat?
Amb. Countryman: (03:03) One interesting thing is that the country with the largest stockpile of chemical weapons continues to be the United States.
Amb. McCarthy: (03:10) Really?
Amb. Countryman: (03:10) We have been destroying the enormous stockpile of Cold War chemical weapons shells for 20 years and we haven't finished yet. We expect to finish in the near future. The countries that we're concerned about are Syria, as we'll discuss further here, North Korea, which has an active chemical weapons program, and then there are other countries that have suspected research and possibly production of chemical weapons.
Amb. McCarthy: (03:37) A lot of preparatory work had been done in the run up to the events of 2013. How did that fit into taking a diplomatic approach to the issue rather than using force from the beginning? I want to get a little bit into that.
Amb. Countryman: (03:53) With the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, beginning in late 2011 early 2012 the White House, that is the National Security Council or NSC, coordinated a series of interagency discussions about every aspect of the Syrian Civil War, whether political, economic, humanitarian, and it included an interagency working group on the chemical weapons arsenal that we knew Syria possessed. So this group focused on many different issues, but I would highlight three. One how to warn and deter the Syrian government against using these weapons. Secondly, what to say to the opposition that was fighting the Assad regime, and that in 2012 still had hopes of overthrowing the regime. What do we say to the opposition about the location and the future of these chemical weapons? And third, what are our capabilities to destroy these chemical weapons? Either kinetically that, is with our own weapons, or in a different situation where we have some kind of permission to destroy them. So that effort was very intense and really was a textbook example of how the inner agency process should work. I led a group within the State Department that worked on the issues in our lane. I was extremely impressed and I hope Pat will talk about the SIG effort at the Pentagon.
Col. Terrell: (05:26) A couple of key points to talk about in this run up to 2013 is placing Syria within [the] context of all of [the] Arab spring. So in 2011 we also have Libya occurring with a small chemical weapons stockpile that still existed. So many of the players within the interagency dealing with Libya were also dealing with Syria. So a lot of our friendships got built, a lot of our understandings of each other and how we could work together across both Department of State, Department of Defense, and the National Security Council, and eventually as we get to Syria, starting to bring in other departments, Commerce, Transportation. Within the Department of Defence, we established a couple of working groups. One, a technical working group run by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff to look at technical solutions and technical problems to support the opposition, to support the messaging effort, that met on a routine basis and then a senior level integration group, the SIG, that could bring in the head of the Comptroller's Office, the head of the Office of General Counsel, the head of the acquisition side to find--we need a solution to something, how do we get the legal piece to it? How do we get the money in place? So we would actually have capabilities to support a military operation or what turned out to be a diplomatic solution.
Amb. McCarthy: (06:33) Eventually we had an agreement with Russia. Why Russia, and what was the agreement we arrived at, after, I gather, a number of all nighters in Geneva with everybody present. It was rough negotiating but came out with an agreement.
Amb. Countryman: (06:49) Well first, one of the important things that the interagency group, led by the National Security Council, did was to have three meetings between the Russian National Security Council and the United States NSC well before the terrible incident in August of 2013, at which the discussion was not about politics, causes, or solutions to the Syrian civil war, it was about the threat posed by the chemical weapons arsenal and how we may be able under different scenarios to address it together. So that laid the basis for a cooperative agreement that was reached later in 2013. To the question of why Russia is important, the Russians were concerned by the United States military action in Libya and did not want to see the United States use military force in still another Middle Eastern country, and as a government that had significant influence over the Assad regime in Damascus.
Amb. McCarthy: (07:52) They were supporting the Assad regime.
Amb. Countryman: (07:52) They were supporting.
Amb. McCarthy: (07:54) And still are.
Amb. Countryman: (07:54) They are supporting far more actively today than they were in 2013. The Russians proposed that instead of a US military strike against Syria, that we jointly pursue an agreement by Syria to voluntarily give up its CW [chemical weapons] arsenal.
Col. Terrell: (08:13) I think something to remember too on the Russian's approach to this is they're very much about protecting Assad. From my vantage point, they believed that if they could get this into the chemical weapons convention and the normal process, as Tom said, the US was still destroying our stockpile, this would drag out for a long time. It would prevent the military action which we were already planning, so we had options.
Amb. McCarthy: (08:32) But it staved off that option.
Col. Terrell: (08:34) Right.
Amb. McCarthy: (08:35) They negotiated an agreement with us.
Amb. Countryman: (08:37) You asked about the negotiations in Geneva in September, 2013, between Secretary Kerry and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Most of the all-nighters were actually at a different level that is...
Amb. McCarthy: (08:51) The Secretary didn't do an all-nighter, but the team did.
Amb. Countryman: (08:53) Well, some of the team did. There were two things happening simultaneously there. One was, down at our level, we were working on a plan for destruction of serious chemical weapons. Secretary Kerry and Minister Lavrov were spending most of their time on the broader political issue: How do we get a solution to the civil war? Can we do another United Nations conference? So actually the discussions about chemical weapons were less intense and more readily came to closure than the much tougher issue of how to address the overall conflict.
Amb. McCarthy: (09:32) In the agreement that was arrived at, what did it take to find and get hold of the weapons? The country was in a civil war, the chemical weapons, I understand, were scattered all over. And who took what role?
Amb. Countryman: (09:45) Just a word about how the negotiations went. When we arrived in Geneva, we quickly agreed between the US and Russia, that we would form two working groups there. One would write a draft of the decisions that were necessary from the United Nations Security Council and from the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague. And so our two ambassadors to the OPCW drafted those initial resolutions. I led, with a Russian counterpart, a different working group that looked at the question of what would be the most ambitious goal that we could set, or removing and destroying chemical weapons. And thanks to the great support from military logistical officers on both sides, but of course primarily from the United States, we came to an agreement fairly rapidly.
Col. Terrell: (10:46) We had, it was five or six of us who were there from the Department of Defense. So we could very quickly get the military aspects of the support for a diplomatic solution in place. We had also already, in the run up to all this in 2012, been having engagements with allies. So we talked to allies in the region and across Europe, laying out potential scenarios for accidents that might occur so that they would be sensitized to a problem in Syria, which allowed them to go back and get through a lot of their own domestic legal hurdles they had to have, and helped us recognize you really need a UN Security Council resolution for some of these countries to be able to participate. So that then helped to lay out so we could allow countries to volunteer what capabilities they had, what their role would be.
Amb. McCarthy: (11:30) And what their laws allowed them to do also, because every legal structure is different.
Amb. Countryman: (11:35) One other point about the discussions in Geneva in September, 2013. It was not only the State Department and the Department of Defense, but we also had the best intelligence officers, the real experts in the quantity and location of Syrians chemical weapons who met with their Russian counterparts as they already had in order to ensure that we had a similar picture of the size of the challenge.
Amb. McCarthy: (12:02) Was there disagreement or huge differences?
Amb. Countryman: (12:06) I would not say a huge difference. There was some difference, and it was evident to me that the United States intelligence community was better informed even than the Russian intelligence services. Because we had, not identical but similar estimates of the size of the arsenal, that made it possible for the military planners to agree that the fastest this could reasonably be done would be about nine months, and so at the end of the discussions that was the target we set to complete the process, by the 1st of July, 2014.
Amb. McCarthy: (12:40) As I understand it, the chemicals had to be found located, secured, taken out of the country, neutralized, and then there was a last step to fully destroy them. Can you walk us through what those steps were?
Col. Terrell: (12:55) We knew the locations because we had good intelligence. We could get agreement from the Syrians on what those locations were and they had to declare them for the OPCW, which is requirement under the chemical weapons convention. So the organization knew exactly where they were at so they could go in and verify quantities. The United States, through the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, was able to provide materials to the OPCW and the United Nations to assist the Syrians in safe packaging of these chemicals.
Amb. McCarthy: (13:20) So the Syrians packaged them up?
Col. Terrell: (13:21) The Syrians packaged them. The Syrians loaded them on trucks. The Syrians delivered them to a port. So all of the movement inside of Syria, in the midst of the civil war, was done by the Syrian government.
Amb. Countryman: (13:32) I see.
Col. Terrell: (13:33) Now, what we did, because we didn't necessarily totally trust the Syrians, again we provided the packing materials, the United Nations provided instructions on how to safely pack, and we put GPS trackers on every container so that the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons joint mission could track the movement and know where they were at any given time. Because we'd had these early conversations with our allies, the Danes and the Norwegians were quickly able to step up and say, we can provide container ships to move them out of the port and we'll provide naval escorts to protect them.
Amb. McCarthy: (14:02) Because they were still active.
Amb. Countryman: (14:03) Dangerous.
Col. Terrell: (14:04) Dangerous.
Amb. McCarthy: (14:05) Dangerous. Ok, dangerous is the proper term.
Amb. Countryman: (14:06) One point about the division of labor that was agreed in Geneva, this wasn't quite so explicit in the agreement, but it was that the Russians would do everything they could to make sure that the Syrians delivered the chemical weapons to the port of Latakia before the goal date, the target date, and the US would primarily worry about getting them out of the port and destroying them. That was not an absolute division of labor, but we did rely very heavily on the Russians to hold serious feet to the fire, as we kept saying, to keep poking their elbow into the back of the regime to meet that target date, and in general, the Russians performed very well on that task.
Amb. McCarthy: (14:54) And then once they departed port, it was a process to neutralize them, can you tell us about that?
Col. Terrell: (15:01) Actually this goes back to 2012 and starting to think about the Syrian problem early and doing military planning for what if we had to go in and secure locations. We recognized that the chemicals as the Syrians stored them, were in large bulk quantities and we really didn't have a deployable capability to be able to destroy those chemicals on site. So some engineers and chemists up at the US Army's Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, with some money from OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, and others, were able to build a prototype system based on technologies we had already used in destroying our own stockpiles and our bulk agent that we had had stored for a number of years at a couple locations. So we could quickly come to an engineering solution for this technical problem. The idea initially was to be able to take it into Syria, if we had to, or take it to another country where US government employees or contractors or third country nationals could operate it. Fortunately, some smart people went, you know what, if we put this on a ship, in case we can't get a country. Can we find a ship that this will fit on? So we came up with a plan C of how to do this, but we also recognized that there was far more chemicals than we could do on one ship. Just a matter of space. And this is where the OPCW was creative and stepped up and put out a call to countries and to companies for some of the precursor chemicals that are just toxic industrial chemicals that are destroyed around the world every day in civilian companies.
Amb. McCarthy: (16:29) So, didn't need extra special handling, so to speak.
Col. Terrell: (16:32) They didn't need extra special handling, extra security, so we could do multiple things at the same time.
Amb. Countryman: (16:37) Before we got to the solution of destroying these chemicals on a ship, we left Geneva in September, 2013 without clear agreement about where these chemicals would be destroyed with this innovative Department of Defense developed process. And so that was a major task of mine immediately after the Geneva meeting, was to try to locate a friendly country, ideally close to Syria, but really anywhere, that would be willing to host this destruction process. And as enthusiastic as all of our allies in Europe and in the region were about the agreement, and about the opportunity to destroy the chemicals, all of them realize that this would be politically difficult, although many of them couched it in terms of legally we cannot do it without major changes to our laws.
Amb. McCarthy: (17:28) I remember reading about a couple, they said yes, we'd like to help, but there's no way our population is going to support having all this stuff in one of our ports or nearby.
Amb. Countryman: (17:37) That's correct. We worked especially on a country that I had dealt with in my previous job, when I was responsible for the Balkans. Albania, under its Prime Minister Edi Rama, leaned forward and was trying to find a way to do this, and I thought that was politically courageous of him, but in the end he faced such overwhelming public protest that our last best option for on land destruction went by the boards and that's when we turned to the sea based option.
Amb. McCarthy: (18:10) Pat, can you tell us a little bit about how it was done at sea? It was a special ship? It was like a hydrolysis method used?
Col. Terrell: (18:18) So the ship we were able to use was out of our ready reserve fleet. So we have a number of ships that actually belong to the Department of Transportation, with the real intent of being able to deploy forces overseas. So the roll on roll off ships, so we can drive tanks and large trucks right on onto them, deliver a force to someplace like the Korean Peninsula or to Europe or the Middle East, and recognized that it had the space that we needed to be able to put the system on board, which was built into regular shipping containers just like you see moving down the highway every day, for the whole purpose of we want to be able to take it overseas, put it on a ship, get it someplace easily. And they were able to lay out the ship in a really kind of interesting way because it had multiple decks, five decks, where they could put the reagents that they needed on the top deck along with the housing areas, the reagent being what's going to help break down to chemicals.
Amb. McCarthy: (19:05) I see.
Col. Terrell: (19:06) And water. And then a deck that had the actual system and the chemicals, so it was all isolated, they could put in additional protective measures to protect the crew of the ship as well. And then in the lower decks, put in empty containers that the waste product would go into. Because the basic process of hydrolysis is you're adding water to a chemical to break it down. Just like when you are cleaning something, often you're just using water to to break the chemical bonds in it. In these cases you had to add a couple of additional chemicals and you end up with some byproducts that then still have to also be destroyed to meet the treaty requirements, which is where Germany and Finland stepped up and they took those byproducts so that they could eventually be incinerated so we would meet full treaty requirements.
Amb. Countryman: (19:48) We concluded that the best location was somewhere in the Mediterranean. There were a couple of good allies, such as Italy and Greece who were concerned about where exactly this would be done, and we went to great effort not just to make sure that we had, for example, backup ports which could become necessary in an emergency, not just to make sure that there was adequate security around this US vessel, the Cape Ray, many countries in Europe step forward to work on that. But we also had to deal with the fact that the Greek and Italian governments were concerned that there could be protests about this process happening in the Mediterranean even though there was no release of any effluent from the ship, either into the water or into the air. It was a self contained system. But that was just one more diplomatic task that we had to do to enable the military operation.
Amb. McCarthy: (20:48) I mentioned in the beginning that we always retained the threat of the use of force, that the President retained that. Did that help the process, that it was clear that if this process broke down, if the Syrians didn't cooperate or cheated or whatever, that we had that threat.
Amb. Countryman: (21:03) Perhaps that was in the back of people's minds and perhaps that is one thing that made the Russians, generally, not perfectly, but generally consistent in pressing Syria to export all the chemicals that they had declared. Significant I think since this operation was concluded in the summer of 2014, is that neither the OPCW nor intelligence services have ever been able to confirm that Syria declared everything and removed everything, and the fact that the regime has continued to use chemical weapons against civilians indicates that we were right to be specific, and that's why the threat of force as we've seen under this administration as well is still relevant to this case.
Amb. McCarthy: (21:52) I was going to get into that because, as you mentioned, they have continued, both the Assad regime, but also ISIS has used chemical weapons, and under the Trump administration we've used military force twice. In April, 2017, the US launched Tomahawk missiles to destroy the base from which an attack was launched, and one year later we, together with France and the UK, launched strikes against three Syrian chemical weapons facilities. What is your sense of the calculation today? Since chemical weapons still continue to be used in that country.
Col. Terrell: (22:28) One, we have to make sure we put everything into context. In 2013, we had a large attack that gets a lot of publicity, we're willing to use military force if we have to, and we have a partner that is willing to cooperate with us to try to find a diplomatic solution, that being Russia. We don't have that same relationship with Russia today. I don't think that we could actually find a true diplomatic solution in Syria. Russians have been very upfront about creating every possible type of disinformation about use there, continuing to deny Assad's use of chemical weapons.
Amb. McCarthy: (23:01) I know they've been obstructionist in every international forum
Col. Terrell: (23:06) In the United Nations Security Council, they canceled the joint investigative mechanism that was looking at accusations of use, and proving that the Assad regime was responsible for it. And proving ISIS use of it as well. In general, we would always still prefer a diplomatic solution even if it has to be coerced through threats of military force. What is somewhat disheartening, whether it's a diplomatic solution or military force in this administration, is that there needs to be a steady drum beat against the chemical weapons use in the Middle East, and what that does to the norms against use and what causes people to be restrained. You set a red line and then a year later you say something again. You take a military action then a year later, you take the next one. There's a lot that happens in those intervening years that gets completely ignored. So it has to be consistent and we also have to recognize that whether it's a military or a diplomatic solution, it's not the fast food lane. This takes time. The French have stepped up with a partnership against immunity for chemical weapons use, where they're keeping track of who has been associated with the programs. Those names are public, they are on no-travel lists, they're sanctioned. And eventually some of those people may end up in the International Criminal Court, or another court someplace, where they will pay for the crimes that they've committed. So we have to look at this over a long horizon, how we deal with chemical weapons use in the Middle East, so we maintain the taboo against that use.
Amb. Countryman: (24:28) When you compare what a diplomatic solution was in 2013 with what it is in 2019, they are two different problems. In 2013, there is no military action that we could have taken that would have destroyed serious chemical weapons arsenal. We're talking about over a thousand tons of chemical weapons whose precise location was not known. The diplomatic solution that was achieved in 2013 removed 1300 tons of chemical weapons agents. Now, that was a diplomatic solution that covered probably 99%, or maybe 96 or 92%, of serious chemical weapons. To get to the last 1, 2 or 3%, there's not a diplomatic solution at the moment, unless it comes in the context of a solution to the broader civil war. So I continue to believe that President Obama did the right thing in not simply launching a military attack that would not have eliminated 99% of the chemical weapons problem.
Amb. McCarthy: (25:39) Yea they were scattered all over the country. There's not one place to hit, as you described earlier.
Amb. Countryman: (25:43) There was not something that you could do that would eliminate all of the chemical weapons. I think our solution removed the vast majority. The Syrian civil war is a humanitarian disaster of the first scale. Of perhaps 200,000 civilians who have been killed, probably less than 2% of them have been killed by chemical weapons. Still, there is an extra responsibility on the part of the world community to react to the use of chemical weapons in any country, and that's why there is a particular need to address this issue even if it does not immediately contribute to resolving the larger tragedy of Syria.
Amb. McCarthy: (26:30) What lessons should we take away on the cooperation between our diplomats and our military on the challenge of weapons of mass destruction?
Amb. Countryman: (26:39) Start early. This was a case where we could anticipate a problem, a serious issue arising, [we] couldn't predict exactly what it would be, but by preparing for many different contingencies, we were ready for what ultimately did occur. The second is communication. Anybody at a senior level who's worked in Washington at the Department of Defense or State or other agencies gets really tired of all the interagency meetings at the White House and how bureaucratic they seem.
Amb. McCarthy: (27:13) I was going to ask you later how you both cut through that, working together.
Amb. Countryman: (27:17) It was tiring. The number of meetings that we went to, and of course that also meant that two thirds of the things we discussed never became relevant, but because we discussed everything, we were ready. And third, I think what was exemplary was the followup after the Geneva meeting. The very close coordination between DoD and State meant that DoD was able to articulate exactly what they needed to complete this technical mission and was able to recruit military partners for items such as the security of the naval operation, and the Department of State was able to use our diplomatic contacts, our work with allies throughout Europe and the Mediterranean to ensure that this operation went very smoothly, on the technical side. I think I said before, this really was, for any imperfections it may have had, a textbook example of how the interagency is supposed to work.
Col. Terrell: (28:21) Everywhere we typically went to meet with partners or allies we went as an interagency team. There were diplomats and there were military, and I've got to say that's not just military, Department of Defense civilians, because in each aspect of everything that got done, you realize that you really had to have the right experts in the room. Because some things were legal problems, and you need to have the right lawyers. Some things were engineering problems and you needed to have the right civilian engineer. Some things were military problems and you need to have the right uniformed service representatives there. We maybe had some different views, but nowhere in this process did we really have a disagreement where it was taking different positions and fighting it out.
Amb. McCarthy: (28:59) Well the mission was clear and everybody was on board.
Amb. Countryman: (29:02) The one area where we had a technical discussion, before we proceeded with the hydrolysis at sea, my experts in the State Department Bureau of Non-Proliferation believed that there was an alternative technology that would be equally effective and less costly, and that would be incineration at sea with very high temperature incinerators, and that kind of skip the hydrolysis step in destruction. Other technical experts in defense and elsewhere disagreed. We had a good long discussion about it. The final decision turned out to work very well and that was to use this innovative technology DoD had developed, rather than a technology that was not tested, even if it held the prospect of being cheaper.
Amb. McCarthy: (29:55) Well, I can't help but ask in addition, as you both continue to work in this field, what you sense are the greatest threats today?
Amb. Countryman: (30:04) I think Pat already referred to this when he talked about the need for consistent attention to this issue. There is the threat, every time nerve agent or even chlorine is used in Syria, every time North Korea or Russia attempts to assassinate a political opponent, the world becomes used to it. There is a reason why the global community has been focused on outlawing the most terrible weapons. We have to be prepared, I also salute the government of France for keeping a focus on this issue, to really point out and to react wherever we can. One of the most important decisions was taken just a month or two ago in The Hague where the majority of OPCW members, over the objection of Russia, gave the organization greater authority to actually conclude who was responsible and to publicly state who was responsible for a chemical weapons attack. That should've been done years ago and it was finally accomplished just recently. That's the kind of step that we need to keep focused on.
Col. Terrell: (31:17) That's absolutely true on the diplomatic side. I think on the military side, you know, as Tom said earlier, we worry about North Korea because they have a large stockpile of chemical weapons located right across the demilitarized zone from Seoul and the ability to use them against a large civilian population that includes large numbers of Americans, both military, family members...
Amb. McCarthy: (31:36) We have a huge presence.
Col. Terrell: (31:36) And US businessmen working there, and their families. The recent use by Russia in the United Kingdom reiterates the fact they have a longstanding chemical weapons program and they have the engineers and the scientists that still exist. So whether they have a stockpile or not, or they just produced what they needed to try to assassinate the Skripals...
Amb. McCarthy: (31:55) And somehow found the means to get it into another country.
Col. Terrell: (31:58) Found the means to move it to another country. As a military, we need to be prepared for chemical weapons use on our next battlefield, Whether it's war with Russia in Europe, whether it's in a war in the Korean Peninsula with the North Koreans, it could come back again, and we need to be prepared for that. And we need to be prepared for it in innovative ways. New compounds, which is what we saw with the Russians, ones that were specifically designed to get around the chemical weapons convention. The fentanyl and opioid problem that we have today, would somebody attempt to weaponize fentanyl? Maybe not kill people, just thinking they're going to incapacitate them or harm them, but in fact actually kill them. So how do we think about innovative uses by an adversary, and we need to be preparing for that.
Amb. Countryman: (32:37) One of the most interesting developments just this month, is that for the first time since the chemical weapons convention was adopted in 1997, a new compound chemical was specifically added to the list of proscribed chemicals, and that is the family of Novichoks, a new, or fourth generation, chemical agents that the Russians used in the United Kingdom. It is now explicitly on the list of prescribed chemicals.
Amb. McCarthy: (33:09) Well, gentlemen, this has been extremely educational, but also I commend you on the work that you did to destroy that stockpile and using, as we noted from the beginning, a diplomatic solution to something that otherwise would have called for a military action. So thank you very much. Thank you for your continued work in this area, for as you've pointed out, it continues to be a major threat.
Amb. Countryman: (33:33) Thank you Deborah.
Col. Terrell: (33:33) Thank you.