History Timeline 1990's

President Bush with Gulf War troops. Courtesy National Archives. Right: New York Stock Exchange in 1921 by Irving Underhill, Courtesy Library of Congress.

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U.S. Timeline - The 1990s

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  • Timeline

  • 1990 - Detail

    June 1, 1990 - U.S. President George H.W. Bush and his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev sign a treaty to eliminate chemical weapon production and begin the destruction of each nation's current inventory.

    Signing of the 1990 Chemical Weapons Accord

    It was commonly known as the Chemical Weapons Accord, or more accurately, the Agreement on Destruction and Non-production of Chemical Weapons and on Measures to Facilitate the Multilateral Convention on Banning Chemical Weapons. Proposed in 1989 by President Bush for the U.S. and Soviet Union to take the lead in limiting such weapons, chemical weapons had been developed during World War I. Bush wanted both sides to destroy 80% of their weapons and even canceled a Pentagon request to develop $169 million more as he worked on the deal with his counterpart Gorbachev. It was estimated at the time that the United States had 25-30,000 metric tons of chemical weapons with the Soviet Union housing 50-75,000 metric tons. By the end of 1989, both sides had exchanged data about their stockpiles.

    On February 5-7, 1990, negotiators for the U.S. and Soviet Union met in Moscow. A statement was released stating that an agreement would be ready to sign by the late spring summit planned between the two leaders. With negotations continuing through May, the parties eventually agreed to its terms. Signed on June 1, 1990 by the President of the United States and the Soviet Premier at a summit in Washington, D.C., the accord would reduce chemical weapons to five thousand agent tons by 2002. The five thousand ton limit would represent 20% of the current U.S. stockpile. The work for destruction of the weapons would begin before the end of 1992.

    What was agreed to beyond the five thousand ton limit? Once the accord was reached, the two nations agreed not to produce any additional chemical weapons; on-site inspections to verify the destruction of both stockpiles; annual data exchanges; and an agreement to work on the ban of chemical weapons across the entire world. That later effort would culminate in the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 that would go into effect in 1997. The convention was eventually ratified by sixty-five states, signed by one hundred and sixty-five nations, and as of 2015, was agreed to by one hundred and ninety-three countries. The Senate of the United States would ratify it in 1997. Only Egypt, South Sudan, North Korea, and Israel are not parties to that agreement.

    Chemical Weapons Accord, Ratification or Not, Agreement or Treaty

    By the end of 1989, the Accord had not been submitted to Congress. There were problems with final language about how to verify and troubling concerns in Congress about the crack down of the Soviet Union on the breaking away Baltic states. President Bush also wanted to treat the Chemical Weapons Accord as an Executive Agreement and not a Treaty, to avoid needing a 2/3 vote of approval in the Senate. In the end, the President prevailed, with the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention eventually taking precedence anyway. President Clinton submitted that treaty to the Senate for its approval on November 24, 1993. Ratification of that Treaty occurred on April 24, 1997 by the Senate in a vote of 74 to 26.

    Photo above: President Herbert Walker Bush and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev signing the Accord in the East Room of the White House, June 1, 1990, George H.W. Bush Library. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Source: FAS.org; "Summit in Washington Summary of U.S.-Soviet Agreement on Chemical Arms," June 1, 1990, New York Times; "Chemical Weapons Curbed, June 1, 1990," June 1, 2009, Andrew Glass, Politico.com; "U.S. Soviets to Cut Chemical Weapons," 1990, Library CQPress.com; Wikipedia Commons.

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