Recent events in Syria have drawn attention to the problem of the proliferation, control, and destruction of chemical weapons.
According to official data of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), established under the auspices of the UN, the total number of declared stocks was 71373 t, and the loaded ammunition and containers - 8671564.
Six states have officially declared they have chemical weapons: Albania, India, Libya, Russia, the United States and an unnamed state party, which, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), is South Korea.
13 of the participating States announced the availability of chemical weapons production facilities (CWPFs): Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, France, India, Iran, Libya, Russia, Serbia, United Kingdom, United States, France, Japan and one other participating State.
The largest stocks of chemical weapons were accumulated in Russia - 40 thousand tons of toxic substances (that is, more than half of the global reserves). Of these, 32 200 tons were organophosphorus toxic substances (FOW) (sarin, soman, vi-gases), and the remainder (skin-blister toxic substances) included such substances as yperite, lewisite, and mixtures thereof. The FOW was completely stored in ammunition and device housings. From blister agents: mustard gas was completely stored in containers; 2% lewisite - in ammunition and 98% - in tanks; Iprit lewisite mixes 40% - in ammunition and 60% - in tanks.
The second place in terms of reserves was occupied by the USA - 28 572 tons of poisonous substances: mustard gas and mixtures based on it, i-X, sarin. More than 60% stocks were stored in tanks (solid containers), and the remaining 40% - in ammunition.
As of November 30, 2011, under the UN Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, 50 619 metric tons or 71,10% of the world's declared reserves have been destroyed.
On 1 March 2012, Russia destroyed more than 24 thousands of 157 tons of toxic agents or 60, 4% of chemical weapons stocks.
As of 18, January 2012, the US has destroyed 27 468 tons of chemicals.
Due to the fact that Russia and the United States do not fit the deadlines in the destruction schedule, the deadlines were extended to December 31 of the 2015 year.
The parties to the Convention that entered into force on 29 on April 1997 are 188 States. Eight countries remain outside the international legal framework of the Convention, two of which - Israel and Myanmar - signed the Convention but did not ratify, six - Angola, the DPRK, Egypt, Somalia, Syria, South Sudan did not sign. Of the states that have not acceded to the convention, the largest reserves of chemical warfare agents have been accumulated in the DPRK.
13 September 2013, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, under pressure from the international community, signed an act of refusing chemical weapons, their full utilization and subsequent ratification by Syria of the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in full. According to the latest data, there are about 1,3 thousand tons of combat agents in the Syrian territory, as well as more than 1,2 thousand unloaded carriers, in particular missiles and shells.
It would seem that chemical weapons will be eliminated in the near future, and the threat to humanity will be less. But is it?
Many experts, because of the relative simplicity of production, availability and cheapness of raw materials and components, call chemical warfare agents a “nuclear bomb for the poor.”
For modern combat agents, such qualities are characterized as: high toxicity, which allows in small doses to cause heavy and deadly mass destruction of manpower, large penetrating ability to leaking structures, military equipment, etc., the difficulty of timely detection of the use of chemical weapons and recognition type of toxic substance, duration of exposure. All this makes chemical weapons particularly attractive for use by terrorist groups and odious dictatorial regimes.
To a large extent, all this relates to fluorophosphoric esters, which were originally obtained in Germany, at the end of the 30-s, in the course of research on the creation of new inkstcididov. Research in this area has led to the creation by German chemists of the most advanced group of toxic and physicochemical properties of highly toxic nerve agents: tabun, sarin and soman.
The lethal dose of the herd during inhalation is 8 times less than that of phosgene. Sarin and soman were even more toxic. In terms of their combination of toxic and physicochemical properties, they were significantly superior to previously known toxic substances and are suitable, without any restrictions on weather conditions, and are simple in equipment and use. With severe lesions, the latent period of these toxic substances is practically absent. The death of the affected comes from paralysis of the respiratory center and heart muscles.
By starting production of nerve poisons in 1943, Germany had accumulated large reserves of these substances by the end of the war, gaining a distinct advantage in the field of chemical weapons.
Fortunately for the Allied forces, the use of nerve gas against them did not take place. The reasons why Germany doomed to defeat in the war has not yet been disclosed have not attempted to turn the tide of the war in their favor with the help of the latest highly effective chemical weapons of those times. One way or another, the leadership of the Third Reich had nothing to lose; it is doubtful that moral and ethical considerations would be an obstacle to this.
In the case of the use of nerve agents, the Allies would have been confronted with the problems of personnel protection against it during the last years of the war. The funds of that time were designed for protection from mustard and lewisite vapors and did not have protective properties against tabun, sarin and soman. At that time, the necessary gas analyzers and degassing facilities were missing.
The use of substances that form the basis of the chemical arsenal of the USSR, the USA and Great Britain would not provide an adequate response.
The USA and the USSR seized the chemical arsenals of Germany. Technological equipment and documentation have taken all measures to organize their own production of nerve agents. The success of the German chemists who discovered herd, sarin and soman caused a sharp increase in the scale of work in this area.
In the military chemical laboratories of the USSR, the USA and Great Britain hundreds of structural analogues of phosphorylthiocholine originally obtained in Germany were synthesized and studied. Research in this area led to the creation in the US of a warfare agent that received the VX code.
In April, 1961, in New Port, Indiana, began operating a VX plant and ammunition equipment. With a slight lag 2-3, the production of a similar substance began in the USSR at factories in Volgograd and Cheboksary.
The substance VX is more toxic than sarin about 10 times. But the main difference between VX and sarin is its high toxicity when it comes into contact with the skin. What provided him with high combat effectiveness. The differences in the toxicological characteristics of sarin, soman and VX determine differences in combat use.
Sarin, being quite volatile, is easily converted into a vaporous state when the ammunition equipped with it explodes, having an insignificant lethal concentration (75 mg / m3). Doses of this level are easily created in 30-60 seconds. on the target area with the massive use of artillery or aviation ammunition.
This time is comparable with the time required for dressing personnel with gas masks when receiving the command "gases". With this method of application, sarin quickly dissipates and does not create a persistent contamination of the terrain. Being, therefore, suitable for use in the immediate line of contact of troops.
Soman and VX, being high-boiling liquids, given the high toxicity, can be used in the form of fine aerosols, affecting through the respiratory system.
However, the greatest damaging effect is achieved when in contact with the skin. High boiling point and low volatility, and high toxicity allows you to create a lesion zone in 10 times more than when using sarin.
Protection against coarse aerosol or droplets of a substance is much more complicated than against vapor. In this case, besides a gas mask, the use of a protective suit, gloves and stockings is required.
The toxic substances soman and VX, when used in coarse and aerosol-drop form, cause dangerous and long-term infection of protective suits, uniforms, personal weapons, combat and transport vehicles, engineering structures and terrain. These substances can literally be absorbed into the paint-and-lacquer protective coatings of weapons and equipment, which makes it difficult to protect against them. Substances soman and VX can be effective against a well-defended adversary due to their high chilling effect.
An example would be the test of protection against agents before adopting a new model of armored vehicles in the 70-s. Experimental animals were placed in a combat vehicle at the test site, as part of field tests of the system of protection against weapons of mass destruction, and then treated with soman aerosol. Technique tests withstood, and the animals were not injured. After testing and degassing, the devices showed the presence of a dangerous residual concentration of a poisonous substance on the surface of the armor. After repeated degassing and measurements that did not show the presence of agents, the combat vehicle was sent to the factory for examination of the condition of the engine and components. Soon the specialists who carried out the work on it, felt the deterioration of their state of health. Control measurements showed the presence of soman, who was ingrained in the paintwork, and later released in the closed volume of the workshop, created a dangerous concentration. Therefore, intensified degassing was carried out, during which the object was exposed to heated alkaline solutions and was blown into the jet of hot gases of the TMS-65 machine for hours.
The paintwork and tarpaulin products burnt out, but highly sensitive display methods continued to detect traces of soman vapors near the surface of the object.
High concentrations of agents make it impossible for a long stay of military units in the area of chemical contamination. And carrying out degassing of persistent agents requires the withdrawal of units from the battlefield. Modern chemical weapons pose a significant threat, their sudden use, especially against troops that do not have adequate defenses, can have a high striking effect. But its use against the civilian population can be compared with the number of victims with nuclear weapons.
Further improvement of chemical weapons went towards the creation of binary toxic substances. The individual components of which did not have a toxic effect.
The peak of the development of chemical warfare agents came at the end of 60's and the beginning of 70's.
Despite significant funds spent on research in this area, new combat poisons have not been put into service. Despite a slight increase in toxicity and improvement of the physicochemical properties of newly synthesized substances, the costs of organizing their mass production did not justify themselves.
Thus, we can talk about stagnation in the development of this type of weapon.
Chemical weapons created for the “big war”, requiring specially prepared storage facilities and specialists, causing a negative attitude in society, became burdensome for the military. All this, as well as the end of the "cold war" led to the adoption of the UN Convention: "On the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons."
However, toxic substances as sabotage and terrorist weapons are of particular interest to various terrorist groups and extremist organizations.
From the point of view of terrorists, the use of agents makes it possible to achieve the greatest public response. Agents have the greatest potential compared to other types of weapons of mass destruction due to their availability and relative ease of production. A small group of chemists (sometimes even to one qualified specialist) is quite capable of synthesizing simple-to-order BOV in quantities that are necessary for a terrorist act.
Some agents have high toxicity, and their number, required to achieve a lethal outcome, is very small (the use of agents can be hundreds of times more efficient than conventional explosives), agents are extremely effective for inducing panic and fear. Losses in a crowd indoors can be measured in thousands.
The terrorists did not put their signatures under the Convention, and their ability to use agents in terrorist acts is not to be doubted after the tragedy in the Tokyo metro.
In the morning of March 20, 1995 members of the Aum Shinrikyo sect opened plastic containers with sarin in the metro, which resulted in the death of 12 subway passengers.
Another 5,500-6,000 people received poisoning of varying severity. This was not the first, but the most "effective" gas attack of sectarians. In 1994, in the city of Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, seven people died from sarin poisoning.
The events in Syria associated with the use of sarin raise numerous questions.
It is clear that the opposing government forces did not make any sense to use chemical weapons, especially with the help of hand-made rockets.
However, UN experts ascertained in Syria the fact of the use of sarin, apparently handicrafts. Apparently, there was a provocation of militants whose goal was to provoke a reaction from the “world community” and, as a result, airstrikes on Syria.
This time, thanks to the position of Russia, the provocation failed. But the question arises, where will this homemade sarin be applied next time?
The repeated interest of terrorist organizations to organic poison of plant origin ricin contained in castor beans has been recorded. The poison is highly toxic and can be easily obtained.
All of the above indicates that the probability of using agents in an act of terrorism is extremely high. Unfortunately, we can only wait for this new stage in the terrorist war.
Despite the majority of countries signing the UN Convention: “On the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons, and the elimination of their stocks, research work in this area has never ceased.
Outside of international agreements, irritants - agents (tears or irritants), provoked irritant reactions when exposed to the mucous membrane or skin, and effects on the respiratory tract. As well as defoliants - substances that destroy vegetation.
Both types of these substances were used by the US military during the Vietnam War.
The areas treated with defoliants containing supertoxic dioxin have become practically unsuitable for life, the consequences of its use in the time interval turned out to be even more than using nuclear weapons.
When using superactive irritants and achieving a certain concentration of them in the air, a toxic effect comparable to non-conventional agents can be achieved.
The agents which are temporarily incapacitated are “emetics causing uncontrollable vomiting.” They, as well as irrianta can be used to "riot".
A great interest in poisons is shown by various special services. In a number of open sources there was information that the CIA funded the research program of various natural toxins of organic origin. The task was to create poisons of various actions, the use of which was not recorded by traditional methods and imitated natural causes in the event of death.
It can be clearly stated that in closed Russian laboratories, work is also being done in this area. The level of professionalism of our toxicologists has always been the highest. And the substances created by them continue to remain in the arsenal of certain structures.
So 20 March 2002 was fatally poisoned by one of the most irreconcilable and odious leaders of Chechen militants, Jordanian Khattab. Among the mail destined to him was a letter from his brother, processed by a potent chemical agent.
Soon, toxic agents were used by Russian special services during a special operation related to the October 26 2002 terrorist act on Dubrovka in Moscow, also referred to as “Nord-Ost”.
In the course of the storming of the building with hostages held by Chechen rebels, a narcotic analgesic was used. The main justification for the need to use gas in the course of a special operation to free hostages of gas is that terrorists have weapons and explosive devices, in the event of which all hostages could have died. The gas released into the building did not affect everyone for a number of reasons: some of the hostages remained conscious, and some terrorists continued to shoot back for 20 minutes, but the explosion did not happen and all the terrorists were neutralized as a result.
Of the 916 people taken hostage, according to official figures, 130 people died as a result of exposure to agents. The exact composition used by the security forces during the storming of the gas remains unknown. Specialists from the laboratory of scientific and technological foundations of security in Salisbury (UK) believe that the aerosol consisted of two analgesics - carfentanil and remifentanil. According to the official statement of the FSB, “special prescription based on fentanyl derivatives” was applied at Dubrovka. Officially, the main cause of death of a large number of hostages is called “exacerbation of chronic diseases.”
It is worth noting here that, according to the disabling action, the most active of narcotic analgesics in terms of their level of action achieve the effect of neuro-paralytic agents. They are quite capable, if necessary, to replace non-conventional agents.
When suddenly applied, when the enemy is taken by surprise, the effect of narcotic analgesics can be overwhelming. Even in small doses, the action of the substance is knocked out - the living force that was attacked after a few minutes loses its ability to resist. In case of overdose, death occurs, which apparently happened to the dead in the "Nord-Ost".
It should be understood that, despite the efforts of the world community in the elimination and prohibition of chemical warfare agents as a means of warfare, in the future there will be attempts to use them for terrorist purposes. Also, work in government laboratories with the aim of creating the most lethal formulations will never stop. Moreover, it can always be justified in the event of publicity by the “fight against terrorism”.
The stockpiles, in accordance with international agreements, the stocks of the most effective nerve agents in the past may well be replaced, if desired, by other, non-banned substances.
Having proven and tested formulations, any technologically developed state is capable of organizing mass production of such substances in a short time.