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Chemical weapons turn political and psychological

Almost a century ago, on April 22, 1915, Germany conducted the first massive chemical attack on the Western Front at Ypres River, in Belgium, releasing chlorine from nearly six thousand bottles. The attack killed about five thousand Frenchmen and Englishmen; the number of those who suffered from chlorine exposure was three times as large. Although chemical weapons had been used in the world before, this date is considered the starting point for the era of combat chemistry. Not that long ago, chemical weapons has evolved from a tool of war to a political reason for starting wars.

The above-mentioned “officially first” gas attack lasted only for a few minutes. Two years later, the Germans used a more terrible weapon in battle conditions – mustard gas. The gas was used in the same area and was called yperite, after the river located on the site of the battles,” candidate of historical sciences, senior lecturer at St. Petersburg State University, co-author of the acclaimed book “War Without Shots,” Victor Boyko told Pravda.Ru. – The Germans doubted the quality of the weapon, for some reason, and did not want to develop a broad offensive. The first echelon of the German infantry, slowly moving behind a cloud of chlorine, allowed the British to close the breach with reserved troops. The gas attack came a complete surprise for the allied forces, but on September 25, 1915, British troops conducted their own chlorine attack against the Germans.

The first chemical attack against the Russian troops took place in May 31, 1915, in Poland. Ironically, gas masks were delivered on May 31 in the evening, after the attack. The Russian troops lost 9,146 people. In total, during the First World War, chemical weapons killed from 390 to 425 thousand soldiers on both sides of the fronts; several millions of people suffered from chemical exposure.

In WWI, chemical weapons were used by 12 countries, not just Germany and the Allies. In 1918, the Red Army used poison gas during the so-called Yaroslavl Uprising of 1918. During the Tambov uprising in 1920-1921, the Red Army also used chemical weapons against rebels. On 15-18 September 1924, the Romanian army applied chemical weapons in suppressing Tatarbunar uprising. Toxic chemicals were used in the Spanish-Franco-Moroccan war in 1925-1926, as well as in the Second Italian-Ethiopian war in 1935-1936, and during the Second Sino-Japanese war in 1937-1945.

Noteworthy, Hitler did not use gas during the war against the USSR, as he thought that the Russians had a much larger amount of chemical weapons that they could use in retaliation. Nazi Germany used toxic substances in gas chambers of death camps.

During the U.S. war in Vietnam, chemical weapons were used by both sides. Chemicals were used during a civil war in North Yemen in 1962-1970.

There is no doubt about the fact that chemical weapons were actively used by both sides of the Iranian-Iraqi War in 1980-1988. Incidentally, it was the chemical weapons of Iraq that became the reason for the United States to invade the country. Ironically, it was the U.S. that was supplying “chemical bombs” to Saddam for his war against Iran. Strangely enough, the Americans failed to find their own chemicals in Iraq.

Chemical weapons remain a popular “horror story” for politicians. In general, the fate of such a “prospective” means of mass murder has developed very paradoxically. Chemical weapons, as well as nuclear ones, were destined to turn from combat to psychological.

For example, accusations against Syrian authorities of the use of chemical weapons against opposition militants could lead to a military operation against the regime of Bashar al-Assad on the part from the U.S., France and Britain. With the help of Russia’s active mediation, the Syrian government agreed to hand over all of its chemical weapons to the international community, which made it possible to avoid the Western intervention in Syria. The country undertook to destroy chemical weapons plants and hand over toxic substances under international control.

UN experts concluded that chemical weapons were used during the civil war in Syria at least five times, although it was impossible to clearly conclude which of the warring parties used it.

Alas, the threat to use chemical weapons is an effective psychological and political weapon in the hands of any terrorists. Presently, the declared stock of chemical weapons in the world makes up 8.67 million units, including munitions and containers containing a total of 71,195 metric tons of highly toxic substances. According to various estimates, only 35 to 42 percent of chemical weapons have been destroyed on the planet so far. Russia, according to official data, had destroyed more than 76 percent of its chemical weapons by 2013.

Andrey Mikhailov


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