By Shelley A. Stahl, Geoffrey Kemp (eds.)
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By one reading of the history of East-West relations, the military competition was transformed once both parties accepted that direct war between the two sides had been rendered unthinkable by the achievement of military assets capable of destroying both. The perceptions of each changed about the issues at stake, and stalemate afforded an opportunity in the 1960s and 1970s to pursue confidence-building and minimal arms control measures and, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, to refashion East-West relations at a lower level of confrontation with significant force cuts and more far-reaching negotiated measures.
The entire discussion of chemical weapons proliferation is hindered by an absence of solid information. Only three countries in the world have acknowledged their possession of chemical weapons: the United States, the 28 Arms Control and Weapons Proliferation Soviet Union (with a belated admission in 1987), and Iraq (although its possession already had been certified by the United Nations during the Iran-Iraq war). No publicly available evidence exists to determine the identity of the other 20 or so states that are suspected to possess an arsenal of chemical weapons or to be actively seeking one.
The war between Iraq and Iran demonstrated the possible utility of chemical weapons in wars along a South-South axis. The war between Iraq and the United Nations coalition offered some different lessons. Although Iraq proved either unwilling or unable to use chemical weapons (arguably, it was both), the experience shed new light on the chemical proliferation subject. First, it established clearly that there are criteria of military significance. Having a chemical capability is different from using it effectively, and Iraq's sizable arsenal proved lacking, both qualitatively and quantitatively, for the tactical purposes for which it was designed, especially against a well-protected and highly mobile adversary.
Arms Control and Weapons Proliferation in the Middle East and South Asia by Shelley A. Stahl, Geoffrey Kemp (eds.)