On Thursday, Sergei Ivanov, the Head of the Presidential Administration, the “Kremlin chief of staff”, dismissed as “hogwash” accusations that Russia supplied chemical weapons and technologies to the Syrian government. He told journalists, “I heard the Pentagon chief saying that we supply chemical weapons to Syria and, then, correcting himself that, no, not weapons but technologies to develop and produce it… well, this is, pardon me, hogwash”. Ivanov, who previously headed the governmental commission on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), said that he was “surprised, if not to say shocked”, to hear the American accusation. The Russian and American Presidents repeatedly discussed the issue, and “no accusations have ever been voiced against Russia that it contributed to the proliferation of WMDs”.
On Wednesday, in speaking before the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said, “There’s no secret that the Assad régime has chemical weapons, significant stockpiles of chemical weapons”. Pressed by Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) to name the origin of those chemical weapons, Hagel added, “The Russians supply them, others are supplying them with those chemical weapons. They make some themselves”. In a statement released shortly after Hagel made his comments, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little spun the US defence chief’s remarks, saying the secretary “was referring to the well-known conventional arms relationship between Syria and Russia”. Russia has long stated that it sells only conventional weapons to Syria, that these transfers are in strict compliance with international law and regulations, and that such weapons in no way modify the balance of power in the volatile region.
5 September 2013