Ukraine Crisis Highlights Concerns About Whether OPCW Still Has Any Global Relevance, Observers Say

© AP Photo / Peter DejongA car arrives at the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, in The Hague, Netherlands.
A car arrives at the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, in The Hague, Netherlands. - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.07.2022
The executive council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) kicked off its hundredth session at The Hague on Tuesday. Last month, the global watchdog assured that it was “monitoring the situation” in Ukraine closely as far as the potential use of chemical weapons is concerned.
The OPCW’s lack of a coherent, objective and fair-minded response to recent crises centered around Syria and Russia demonstrates its politicization and domination by Western interests, and the longer the watchdog stays out of Ukraine, the better, former diplomats, geopolitical observers, and international legal experts have told Sputnik.
“In Ukraine, the OPCW has fortunately not been pressed into action. This, I suspect, is because the US is satisfied with the situation as it is, with no need for the US itself to be drawn in, as would no doubt be the case if a chemical attack was fabricated,” Peter Ford, Britain’s former ambassador to Syria, said.
The veteran diplomat, who warned the British government against the folly of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and stressed that the campaign by Western powers to topple the Syrian government in the 2010s could open a “Pandora’s box” of endless crises, said the Syria case demonstrated clearly that the OPCW is no longer an independent, impartial agency.

“The Syria crisis proved without a shadow of a doubt that the Western powers have bent the OPCW to their own will, destroying in the process the organization’s credibility, probably irretrievably. This is a tragedy for world peace,” Ford stressed, referring to documented OPCW efforts to censor and smear agency whistleblowers who revealed that the watchdog’s report on the April 2018 chemical attack in Douma, Syria, was doctored to implicate the Assad government.

In Ukraine, Ford fears, the international community can now only depend on “self-interested restraint on the part of the Pentagon in controlling its proxies rather than the deterrent power of a genuinely impartial international watchdog.”

Chemical Weapons Danger in Ukraine

Since the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine in February, Russia has sent the OPCW and its technical secretariat over two dozen notes warning of possible staged provocations by Ukrainian forces or radical nationalists involving chemical weapons. Last month, the agency assured the international community that it was “closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine” for chemical weapons use.
On Wednesday, the Russian military indicated that it had information regarding Kiev's plans to stage a provocation in the Donetsk People’s Republic using chlorine gas to accuse Moscow of indiscriminate attacks targeting chemically hazardous objects.
Chemical warfare experts from a multinational team examine the area for traces of contamination with a toxic agent during the NATO-led Joint Assistance exercise in the Yavoriv military training facility, 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Lviv, Ukraine, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2005 - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.07.2022
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Alessandro Bruno, a Toronto-based geopolitical analyst and political observer at Lombardi Letter, says that while the OPCW’s official mission and goals are “certainly worth pursuing,” the problem is the watchdog’s control by Western interests seeking to obfuscate the truth and objectivity in favor of politicized objectives.
“They seem to have targeted only specific sides in specific wars to suit specific aims, which typically are those of Western powers. There have been many efforts to manipulate these organizations by the dominant powers, particularly in the West,” Bruno said.
The scholar recalled instances of claims by the US and its allies about Russia’s use of chemical weapons, from the allegation that Russia poisoned pro-Western Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko in the mid-2000s, to the 2018 Novichok scandal in Britain, which “many thoughtful journalists have debunked,” to the Alexei Navalny “poisoning” saga of 2020, which doctors treating the opposition vlogger have debunked.
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“Yet the accusations of chemical weapons that Russia used have persisted, even though they defied all logic. That's the biggest issue with these organizations. They must be more neutral. Their headquarters must be in more neutral locations because the fact that many of these organizations operate from Western capitals makes them more prone to Western media misinformation,” Bruno said.
The geopolitical analyst still fears that the West could use the pretext of ‘Russian chemical weapons use’ in Ukraine “to get more directly involved in the conflict and potentially trigger a much wider physical war.”

“So far, I think, some of the powers came to understand that making an accusation like that in this conflict would be riskier than the accusations they made in Syria and Iraq, Navalny and Yushchenko and so on, that this would have much bigger implications, that this would blow back against the West,” Bruno stressed.

Tool of US Interests

Christopher C. Black, an international criminal and human rights lawyer with 20 years of experience covering war crimes and international relations, echoed Bruno’s sentiments about the OPCW’s noble stated aims and their stark contrast with the body's actual history, which “shows that [the watchdog] acts to serve the interests of the United States and its NATO and other allies.”
“We saw strong evidence of this when the USA tried to get rid of the Director General Jose Bustani of Brazil in 2002, when the United States was preparing its invasion of Iraq and John Bolton went to The Hague and threatened his family if he did not resign,” Black recalled, pointing to Bustani’s 2018 interview with The Intercept in which the former OPCW chief detailed the threats made against his children living in the United States.
“In August 2020, it was revealed through leaks from Austrian government sources that the OPCW and British claims that Novichok had been found in the blood of the Skripals allegedly poisoned in the UK were false, that in fact no such agent had been found in their blood at all. But the findings were suppressed and a false report issued to back the UK claims,” the lawyer added. “Similar results were seen regarding the alleged poisoning of Mr. Navalny. We can quickly understand what goes on behind the scenes at the OPCW,” Black said.
Medical specialists carry Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on a stretcher into an ambulance on their way to an airport before his medical evacuation to Germany in Omsk, Russia August 22, 2020. - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.09.2020
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Black finds it unlikely that the chemical weapons watchdog will change “without a change in the balance of power in the world,” which is taking place, but whose effects on international organizations will be slow to appear.

In Ukraine, the lawyer fears, “We cannot expect any objective consideration of Kiev regime or NATO claims of Russia using chemical weapons in Ukraine for the reasons stated above, despite the fact that Russia has not used them, does not use them and will not use them. To the contrary, we have a situation in which Kiev and NATO forces keep making false claims while themselves preparing chemical weapons attacks to be staged as false flag attacks to be blamed on Russia and when Russia asks the OPCW to investigate this, Russia is met with silence,” he said.

How OPCW Can Regain Credibility

Dr. Alfred De Zayas, a lawyer, writer and former independent expert on international order with the United Nations, similarly doubts the OPCW’s ability to reform itself under current conditions, saying the agency “has long been instrumentalized to pursue the geopolitical interests of Western powers.”

The international legal expert is confident that agencies like the OPCW, the International Criminal Court and the Human Rights Council can regain their credibility by demonstrating impartiality. “This is possible if the BRICS countries become more vocal and more visible on the international scene. There is no reason why African, Asian and Latin American countries should dance to the tune of the ‘Washington consensus’,” De Zayas stressed.

In Ukraine, the OPCW’s assurance about “monitoring the situation” carries only a “purely propagandistic value,” and is “intended to charge and convict Russia even before there is any evidence of violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention,” the observer believes.
“If the OPCW investigates not only potential Russian war crimes, but also expands its investigation to potential chemical weapons violations and war crimes by Ukrainian forces and by foreign mercenaries, including US, UK, French, Georgian and others, then the OPCW might regain some credibility. That, however, would be ‘out of character’. It is not unlike the ICC, which in the eyes of many observers in the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Switzerland – has lost its little credibility and will have no authority unless and until it indicts Western politicians and bureaucrats including Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, Victoria Nuland, Barack Obama (the king of the drones), Donald Trump, Nikolas Sarkozy, etc.,” De Zayas concluded.
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