RICHMOND — There was more going on in Richmond this past Tuesday night than the statewide elections.
Dozens of people from central Kentucky were present at Arlington House in Richmond to dine with and hear from the ambassador who represents the United States to the international organization charged with the elimination of chemical weapons.
Ambassador Robert P. Mikulak, who earlier in the day toured the construction site of the chemical weapons disposal facility at the Blue Grass Army Depot, explained how the Kentucky effort to destroy the stockpile of warfare agents here plays an important role in the nation’s obligation to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the treaty that bans chemical weapons.
“Having toured the site and met with elected officials and citizens groups, I can return to The Hague (in The Netherlands) with the utmost confidence regarding the U.S. effort to destroy all the nation’s chemical weapons,” Mikulak said.
“My job is to ensure that the national security of America is protected while working with the 188 other countries that are signatories to the Treaty,” he said.
The Chemical Weapons Working Group (CWWG), which co-hosted the dinner with Madison County Judge Executive Kent Clark and former state Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, arranged the ambassador’s visit.
“It was an honor to have the ambassador visit us, and we appreciate his first-hand interest in our project here in Kentucky,” Clark said. “We have clearly shown how unified we are on the technology being used and the support the project receives from the community and the region.”
Mikulak spoke about the situation in Libya, telling guests that only part of that nation’s chemical weapons were destroyed under auspices of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) before the revolt overthrew the Gaddafi regime. Since then, OPCW inspectors have been able to return, and two additional, previously unknown caches of chemical weapons were discovered.
“This is why the verification element of the treaty is so important,” the ambassador said. “The prevention of terrorists from getting these weapons is a critical part of our mission.”
Craig Williams, CWWG director, said he was delighted with all aspects of the evening.
“Arlington provided a perfect venue to host the ambassador,” he said. “The atmosphere was elegant, the service and food outstanding and the hospitality tremendous.”
The ambassador noted that in 2013, a number of high-level officials from the OPCW will visit central Kentucky. And, after his own visit, he is upbeat about what they will find.
“I think it’s clear to anyone that the disposal project (in Kentucky) is well on its way towards achieving its objective of safely disposing of its stocks of weapons,” Mikulak said.
Williams added, “Having worked closely now for years with the government and contractors responsible for the project, I can say that my confidence is very high that safety is a top priority (of the project). In addition, the transparency and cooperation exhibited in coordination with the Citizen’s Advisory Board is a recipe for success.”