Poland’s reputation on the European stage is not perfect. However, it may now go even worse because of the disappearance of weapons of mass destruction. Chemical weapons have not been found for the last 23 years and what’s even more horrifying, nobody has been looking for them. How is it possible? Is it the biggest state-wide cover-up?
What happened in January 1997?
Back then, Polish fishermen found five kilograms of World War II mustard gas while fishing in the Baltic Sea. Once they realized that what they had found wasn’t amber, they took their discovery to the municipal landfill in Rozewie as they assumed these were weapons dumped by either Soviet or Nazi forces after the end of the war. A group of soldiers was sent to assess the discovery – they took the weapon to an army unit immediately when they found out that WIa-206 clutter was contaminated with toxic warfare agents in the form of sulfur mustard.
After that, the weapons literally vanished into thin air. What’s shocking, no serious investigation has started and the case is still unsolved. On top of that, one of the soldiers who had performed the check-up with no protective clothing was diagnosed with 3rd-degree sarcoidosis a few months later. The question is, what happened with 5 kilograms of sulfur mustard? Has Poland reported the fact of gaining possession of chemical weapons? Is it possible that the weapon was somehow used?
What about the Chemical Weapons Convention?
Some sources claim that there are still over 40 thousand tons of chemical ammunition off the Polish coast, containing approximately 13,000 tons of poisonous warfare agents. According to the UN, chemical weapons are strictly prohibited. The most important protocol that targets chemical weapons is the Chemical Weapons Convention. It establishes comprehensive international standards that prohibit the production, use, acquisition or retention of chemical weapons. Violation of standards is subject to on-site inspection and should be punished as of criminal code. Also, the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy requires all UN Members to enhance national, regional and international efforts to counter-terrorism.
What might the disappearance of chemical weapons cause?
The environmental implications are colossal – the storage of mustard gas might cause a serious risk to anyone involved. However, there are also other aspects of the case. Such weapons might be highly harmful to both EU citizens and tourists. Undiscovered chemical weapons can jeopardize tourism between the US and Europe (and data shows that over 17 million Americans travel to Europe yearly). Also, it may affect foreign investment, both in Poland and the European Union in general. This might cause an economic disaster since the value of US investments in Poland has been expected to grow in the coming years (it has recently exceeded $62 billion, creating around 300,000 jobs).
A final thought
May this scandal cause the EU sanctions against Warsaw? So far, the Polish Government has pursued the tactic of denial, which might be dangerous on a global scale. World War II left tons of chemical weapons in the Baltic Sea. They have been regularly found by both Polish and Danish fishermen. Unofficial reports say that some of the weapons were buried in a former military unit in Gdynia Oksywie. Nowadays, numerous blocks of flats exist upon the site. Are inhabitants of the area subject to exposure to chemical materials? What happened to the weapons discovered by Danish fishermen? Has Denmark also violated the UN regulations?