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CBW Events is a project to create a record of events to enable and encourage understanding of how policies on the issues relating to chemical and biological warfare (CBW) are developed.

CBW Events -- recent/notable additions/updates include: (these links will each open in a new window)


CBW Events -- February 2015 selections

Each month, entries for a few anniversaries of notable CBW Events are posted. All will appear in the relevant final versions of the chronologies.

40 years ago | 45 years ago | 55 years ago | 65 years ago

40 years ago:

11 February 1975     The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR adopts a decree ratifying the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. This makes it the second of the three BWC Depository States to complete its internal processes for ratification [see 22 January].


45 years ago:

2 February 1970     In the United Kingdom, Parliament is told the British Government's policy on riot control agents and the Geneva Protocol. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Michael Stewart, after answering a general question on disarmament in the House of Commons continues: "I should like to take this opportunity to explain the Government's view on the scope of the 1925 Geneva Protocol as regards the use of tear gases in war. In 1930, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dalton, in reply to a Parliamentary Question on the scope of the Protocol said: "smoke screens are not considered as poisonous and do not, therefore, come within the terms of the Geneva Gas Protocol. Tear gases and shells producing poisonous fumes are, however, prohibited under the Protocol". This is still the Government's position. However, modern technology has developed CS smoke which, unlike the tear gases available in 1930, is considered to be not significantly harmful to man in other than wholly exceptional circumstances; and we regard CS and other such gases accordingly as being outside the scope of the Geneva Protocol. CS is in fact less toxic than the screening smokes which the 1930 statement specifically excluded."[1]
     Some days later, clarification of certain details is given in the answers to further questions. "We regard the use in war of CN as being prohibited by the Geneva Protocol. We would regard as outside the scope of the Protocol any gases which, like CS, were considered to be not significantly harmful to man in other than wholly exceptional circumstances."[2] In response to a question whether CS or any other gas is permitted for use for controlling civil disturbances, the answer is given: "the use in war of the substances with which it is concerned."[3] Finally, the question whether the government had "received the final report of the Himsworth Committee before announcing its policy on CS gas", receives the answer "No."[4]
     [Note: compare this with the legal advice to government contained in the memorandum to Cabinet of 9 December 1969, with the letter by Philip Noel-Baker published 3 December 1969 and with comments in the letter of 6 August 1969 from the Chief Scientific Adviser "Oughn't we to restate our 1930 position about so-called non-lethal agents during the course of the debate in which you are now engaged?"]
     [1] Rt Hon Michael Stewart MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Written Answer, 2 February 1970, Hansard (Commons), vol 795, c17-18, in response to a question from Alexander Lyon MP. The reference for the 1930 answer is Mr Dalton, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Written Answer, 18 February 1930, Hansard (Commons), vol 235, c1169-70.
     [2] Evan Luard MP, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Written Answer, 12 February 1970, Hansard (Commons), vol 795, c444, in response to a question from Alexander Lyon MP.
     [3] Evan Luard MP, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Written Answer, 12 February 1970, Hansard (Commons), vol 795, c445, in response to a question from Alexander Lyon MP.
     [4] Evan Luard MP, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Written Answer, 12 February 1970, Hansard (Commons), vol 795, c446, in response to a question from Alexander Lyon MP.


55 years ago:

17 February 1960     In London, the Private Secretary to Minister of Defence Harold Watkinson, G Wheeler, sends a "Confidential" minute to his Minister entitled "V-Agents: Publicity Policy":
     "A new class of chemical agents with an extremely strong toxic effect was discovered in the course of commercial work on insecticides in this country. These agents are known as V-agents: they are related to the nerve gases (G-agents) but differ from them in that they are mainly effective on contact with the skin, as well as when inhaled. They have a high military potential. The details of the British discovery were passed, under standing arrangements, to the Americans and Canadians, and the agents have been jointly developed by the three countries. The Americans are now adapting a factory at Newport, Indiana, for their manufacture.
     "2. In June, 1958, the Americans wanted to issue a statement to the press about the discovery and development of these agents. This proposal was considered by UK officials who decided that it should be resisted on the grounds that a statement would: (a) provide an excellent reason for the Russians to question the real intentions of the West in the context of disarmament and Summit talks; (b) give rise to Communist propaganda against the West with detrimental effect upon our world-wide relations, especially with the uncommitted nations; and (c) result in considerable domestic embarrassment to HM Ministers.
     "3. The Americans recently returned to the charge with us and the Canadians because they were finding it increasingly difficult to conceal the purpose of their new factory; because a number of leakages to the press had already occurred; and because in the view of the United States Army Chemical Corps, which is responsible for the development of V-agents, a progressive publicity campaign would be useful in educating public opinion on both the offensive power of this new weapon and on the defensive measures to be taken against it. The United States is not a party (as we are) to the Geneva Protocol of 1925 on the use of chemical and biological weapons in war. Our agreement has been asked to a draft text of an American press release, which is attached at Annex A. The Canadians have replied to a parallel enquiry by saying that they would wish the proposed release to associate them only with research on the defensive problems raised by the new agents.
     "4. UK officials have decided that, in view of its political implications, this question should be submitted to Ministers. They consider that Ministers should: (i) recognise that it is likely that the United States authorities will insist on making an announcement in some form; (ii) agree that it would be desirable for the attention of the State Department to be drawn to the political dangers inherent in certain parts of the American draft release at the highest level (a draft letter from the Foreign Secretary to the United States Secretary of State is attached at Annex B; (iii) recognise that it has not so far been possible, because of risk of leakage, to include instruction in protection against V-agents in UK Service courses; (iv) agree that such an announcement, if made at all, ought for political reasons to be made well in advance of the Summit meeting; (v) approve the attached form of guidance (Annex C) to be used by official spokesmen in Whitehall after publication of the American release; (vi) agree that official spokesmen be authorised to say additionally, and in answer to questions, that it is not in the public interest to state whether or not we have the means or plans to retaliate should an enemy use chemical weapons in war.
     "5. A submission on the above lines is being made to the Foreign Secretary who will no doubt wish to have the Minister's views on the recommendations in paragraph 4 above. I recommend that the Minister should concur in the proposed approach to the US Secretary of State."
     The minute is annotated by the Minister "I do not think this announcement should be made at all. Can we stop it? H.W. 22.2.60".
     [1] Released into PRO file DEFE13/440.


65 years ago:

17 February 1950     In the United States, President Truman approves NSC 62 setting out an interim CW policy: "a. In the event of war, the United States will undertake gas warfare only in retaliation against its use by an enemy and on the decision of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States; and b. This policy is to be considered as an interim measure and will be subject to review after detailed operational evaluations of chemical warfare, biological warfare, and radiological warfare have been made."[1]
     [1] USA, Secretary of Defense, A Report to the National Security Council on Chemical Warfare Policy, NSC 62, 16 February 1950.