Margaret Thatcher wanted to re-equip Britain with chemical weapons that would cost around £200m after she came across the evidence that the new poison is being developed by the Soviet Union that had capability to destroy the Nato forces.
The confidential documents released few days back reveal that while Britain had renounced the chemical agents and demolished its arsenal, Margaret Thatcher considered acquiring new armory of the weapons of mass destruction as the tensions between Britain and Soviet Union escalated in 1984.
Charles Powell, former foreign policy adviser to Thatcher, quoted her saying that Thatcher and her cabinet ministers had a fear of being considered “negligent” if they failed to provide United Kingdom the chemical weapons to deter the possible Soviet attack.
The highly confidential meetings occurred after Intelligence reports that Soviet Union not only produced chemical weapons greater in number of those of Nato forces but was also working to produce “penetrating agent” against which Britain and her allies had no security.
The discussions between the Thatcher and ministers set themselves in an awkward position after Britain decided to abandon the chemical weapons capability in 1950s and strictly followed the Geneva Protocol putting ban on the use of such disastrous weapons.
By the end of 1984, the army generals became too cautious that the Warsaw Pact had provided too much leverage over the West with factories in Russia that had capacity and capability to produce 12,000 tons of sarin, a dangerous nerve agent.
According to documents released in the National Archives in Kew, west London, only United States possessed the chemical weapons, those, too, in limited quantity of around 31,000 tons of arsenal.
The information that Soviet was investing considerable amount of resources into developing the chemical weapons having capability to defeat all Nato allies including the Britain prompted the officials of United Kingdom to warn Margaret Thatcher that UK urgently needs to revise its policy of making chemical weapons.
A succinct report provided to Mrs Thatcher, which possessed the “Secret – UK eyes” designation, stated frankly: “We are convinced that a new and serious CW [chemical weapon] threat exists.”
Among the various choices put forward to Margaret Thatcher was the establishment of “an independent UK retaliatory capability” made either by Scientists of Britain or bought from Britain’s close ally US.
The document further stated: “On the assumption that no new and dedicated delivery systems would be required, the cost of setting up UK production facilities for chemical agents would [be] broadly in the order of £100m to £200m.”
The documents revealed do not disclose how likely it was for the proposal to be approved. But a note from Mr. Powell after the long meeting attended by ministers including the Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe and Defence Secretary Michael Hestline shows Prime Minister was very much inclined to accept the proposal.
While Thatcher was warned time and again over the “political difficulties” that would arise out of this decision but regardless of it she was likely to accept the proposal. Mr Powell said: “The Prime Minister said that it might be argued that it was negligent of the government not to acquire a CW capacity.”
The purpose of long debate in the meeting was to decide what tools would be mandatory to defend the Britain and also forcing the Soviet to international treaty for banning the production and use of chemical weapons. Due to her effort Chemical Weapons Convention was accorded in 1993 and was implemented four years later.
The discussion led to the fact that the British company constructed the chemical Plant in Iraq to deter an attack from Soviet Union which eventually became a suspected key factor in chemical warfare production of Saddam Hussein.