Russian Ambassador Alexander Shulgin was deeply critical of moves to grant new authority to the international chemical weapons body. During comments to reporters, he warned the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is being severely damaged by the move.
“The OPCW is sinking like the Titanic,” Shulgin warned. He said all options remain on the table for Russia with respect to the OPCW, saying the body’s “collapse is currently in the making. ”
The Wednesday meeting at the OPCW granted the body the power to identify those it believes are behind chemical attacks. This was pushed by British officials, with the expectation it would implicate Syria and Russia.
The ability of the OPCW to do this remains to be seen. The body has always been empowered to identify if chemical attacks took place and, if possible, specify which chemicals were used. They’ve never been asked to decide who the culprit was, and previously were explicitly forbidden from trying to do so.
These are two very different jobs. Details on if attacks took place are purely scientific investigations. Coming up with responsible parties would require a lot of detective work, and in many cases may still not be possible.
This also risks politicizing the OPCW. Several nations have major interest in seeing specific countries blamed for certain attacks, and repeat this narrative irrespective of evidence. The OPCW will be expected by those nations to sign off on those stories, and if they don’t play ball, they could quickly find themselves with enemies.