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CHEMICAL WARFARE AND HOW NOT TO FIGHT IT

12:00 AM, Sep 9, 1996 • By MATTHEW REES
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Lott placated both sides by agreeing to consider the treaty by September 14, with the understanding that he and other Senate GOP leaders would work to defeat it. They would also press the White House to provide documentation on Russia's compliance with a 1990 chemical-weapons- destruction agreement. Helms believed the documents would show Russia's failure to honor the agreement, thus bolstering the case against trusting Russia -- the country with the largest chemical weapons arsenal -- to comply with the pending treaty.


The problem is, the White House hasn't provided the documents Senate Republicans are seeking. Kyl, who says he's "totally fed up with the administration's stonewalling," wants to delay the vote, though it's unlikely Lott will agree to this. And even if the documents were provided, there wouldn't be time to rally opposition to the treaty.


This hasn't stopped Helms from mounting a public relations blitz, highlighting the states and businesses most adversely affected by the burdensome compliance provisions. One Senate Republican aide says they're "within striking distance" of rounding up 34 votes against the treaty, but that's probably wishful thinking.


The political reality is that it's infinitely easier to vote for multilateral arms control than against it, particularly when the president is making shameless demagogic use of tragedies like the Olympic bombing and the Tokyo subway attack. Even Kyl concedes that members will be "inclined to take the easy way out." A vote against this treaty opens any senator to the charge of being soft on terrorism. And that's a charge you don't want to be responding to on election eve.



By Matthew Rees