Syria: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reported today that more than half of Syria's declared stockpile of chemical weapons has now been removed.
OPCW said the two most recent consignments were delivered to Nordic cargo ships docked at Latakia on 14 and 17 March. They included both "Priority 1" chemicals and less hazardous "Priority 2" chemicals.
A total of 10 consignments have been shipped, including all of Syria's sulphur mustard, a blister agent. The OPCW's target is to destroy or remove the country's entire arsenal by 30 June.
Comment: Skepticism is prudent when monitoring a country that is handing over its strategic weapons for destruction. The Syrian transfer is behind the initial schedule, but that seemed crafted to ensure the Syrians could not meet it. Nevertheless, the OPCW, the Syrians and the supporting coalition have persisted. OPCW appears satisfied that the Syrians remain committed to the agreement and will make the 30 June target.
The language of the OPCW statement, however, contains a warning. In specifying "Syria's declared stockpile of chemical weapons", OPCW implies that it suspects or knows that there remain undeclared stockpiles.
Finland: Finland's air force has intensified its surveillance of domestic airspace as a result of the crisis in Crimea. The Karelian Air Command in Rissala, in south central Finland, is on higher alert than usual, according to the unit's commander on 20 March.
Comment: The primary air combat weapon of the Finnish Air Force is the US F-18 Hornet, of which the Finns have more than 60. Finland has about 30,000 Russian citizens and about 70,000 people, or 1.3% of the population, speak Russian. Russia might harass the Finns for having lost to them in hockey at the Olympics, but little else. Nevertheless, the Finns are taking no chances at this time.
Russia-Estonia: On 19 March at the U.N. Human Rights Council a Russian diplomat said Russia is concerned about Estonia's treatment of its ethnic Russian minority. He said, "Language should not be used to segregate and isolate groups." comparing language policy in Estonia to language policy in Ukraine after the ouster of Yanukovych.
Comment: Estonia requires all citizens to learn Estonian. In February the new Ukrainian regime rescinded the law that allows local regions to use Russian as a second language to Ukrainian.