Benefits of a Legally Non-Binding Agreement: The Case of the 2013 US-Russian Agreement on the Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons

In: International Community Law Review


The deal struck between the United States and Russia in September 2013, the ‘Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons,’ amounts to a legally non-binding agreement, and not a treaty. The objective of this agreement – namely, that of averting the pending crisis in Syria at that time – highlights what a non-binding agreement, as opposed to a treaty, can do. Somewhat curiously, various actors kept referring to the 2013 agreement even when binding instruments covering the same questions were in place. Thus, this note also explores the distinct benefits of the 2013 agreement even in the presence of the binding instruments. In some cases, the preference for the 2013 agreement can be explained as a search for leverage against Russia. In other cases, the rhetorical preference for the non-binding agreement could indicate a desire to discuss the question of enforcement without addressing institutional requirements of the OPCW or the UN Security Council.