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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 39, July - August 1999

US CTBT-Ratification Debate
Statement by the President

'Statement by the President on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty,' The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 20 July 1999

"I have just had the privilege of meeting with the three Apollo 11 astronauts, who, 30 years ago, carried out the first landing on the moon... President Kennedy, who set a goal of putting a man on the moon by the late 1960s, was committed to using technology to unlock the mysteries of the heaven. But President Kennedy was also concerned that technology, if misused, literally could destroy life on Earth. So another goal he vigorously pursued was one first proposed by President Eisenhower, a treaty to ban for all time testing of the most destructive weapons ever devised - nuclear weapons.

As a first step, President Kennedy negotiated a limited test ban treaty to ban nuclear tests except those conducted underground. But for far too long nations failed to heed the call to ban all nuclear tests. More countries sought to acquire nuclear weapons and to develop ever more destructive weapons. This threatened America's security and that of our friends and allies. It made the world a more dangerous place.

Since I have been President, I have made ending nuclear tests one of my top goals. And in 1996, we concluded a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty - 152 countries have now signed it, and 41, including many of our allies, have now ratified it. Today on Capitol Hill, a bipartisan group of Senators is speaking out on the importance of the treaty. They include Senators Jeffords, Specter, Daschle, Biden, Bingaman, Dorgan, Bob Kerrey, Levin, and Murray. I am grateful for their leadership and their support of this critical agreement.

And today I want to express again my strong determination to obtain ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. America already has stopped nuclear testing. We have, today, a robust nuclear force and nuclear experts affirm that we can maintain a safe and reliable deterrent without nuclear tests.

The question now is whether we will adopt or whether we will lose a verifiable treaty that will bar other nations from testing nuclear weapons. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty will strengthen our national security by constraining the development of more advanced and more destructive nuclear weapons, and by limited the possibilities for more countries to acquire nuclear weapons. It will also enhance our ability to detect suspicious activities by other nations.

With or without a test ban treaty, we must monitor such activities. The treaty gives us new means to pursue this important mission - a global network of sensors and the right to request short notice, on-sight inspections in other countries. Four former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - David Jones, William Crowe, Colin Powell and John Shalikashvili - plus the current Chairman, Hugh Shelton, all agree the treaty is in our national interests. Other national leaders, such as former Senators John Glenn and Nancy Kassebaum Baker, agree.

Unfortunately, the Test Ban Treaty is now imperiled by the refusal of some Senators even to consider it. If our Senate fails to act, the treaty cannot enter into force for any country. Think of that. We're not testing now. One hundred and fifty-two countries have signed, 41 have ratified, but if our Senate fails to act, this treaty and all the protections and increased safety it offers the American people cannot enter into force for any country. That would make it harder to prevent further nuclear arms competition, as we have seen, for example, in the nuclear tests in India and Pakistan.

Do we want these countries and other regional rivals to join a test ban treaty, or do we want them to stop nuclear testing? Do we want to scrap a treaty that could constrain them? The major nuclear powers, Britain and France, Russia and China, have signed the treaty. Do we want to walk away from a treaty under which those countries and scores of others have agreed not to conduct nuclear tests? I believe it is strongly in our interest to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The American people consistently have supported it for more than 40 years now. At a minimum, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should hold hearings this fall. Hearings would allow each side to make its case for and against the treaty, and allow the Senate to decide this matter on the merits. We have a chance right now to end nuclear testing forever. It would be a tragedy for our security and for our children's future to let this opportunity slip away.

I thank those Senators from both parties who today are announcing their clear intention not to do that. ..."

Editor's note: on 9 August, President Clinton repeated his appeal for the Senate urgently to move toward ratification, arguing such a move would "strengthen national security, not only of the United States, but of people around the world." (Clinton prods Senate on nuke treaty, Associated Press, 9 August.)

Bipartisan Senators' Press Conference

News Conference by a bipartisan group of Senators calling for US CTBT ratification, Capitol Hill, Washington, 20 July 1999

Editor's note: the following Senators attended the conference - Joseph Biden (Democrat, Delaware - Ranking Democrat, Foreign Relations Committee), Jeff Bingaman (Democrat - New Mexico), Thomas Daschle (Democrat, South Dakota - Senate Minority Leader), Byron Dorgan (Democrat - North Dakota), James Jeffords (Republican - Virginia), Robert Kerrey (Democrat - New Hampshire), Carl Levin (Democrat - Michigan), Patty Murray (Democrat - Washington), Arlen Specter (Republican - Pennsylvania). A full transcript of the conference, including details of the opinion poll referred to by a number of the Senators, can be obtained from the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers (CRND), http://www.clw.org/coalition/transcript072099.htm

Thomas Daschle: "We're here to announce that we are stepping up our efforts to end the Senate stalemate over the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty this year. Senator Dorgan will be releasing a letter soon to the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, asking him to begin hearings on this treaty immediately. That letter's been signed by all 45 Democrats [Editor's note: see below]. And as you can see from the presence here of our Republican colleagues, this is not a partisan issue. There is strong support on both sides of the aisle for the Senate to move forward on this critical issue."

Joseph Biden: "A year ago, I went to the majority leader and suggested that we poll again. And there's a reason for this poll... It's so that we understand - and our Republican colleagues understand - that there will be a price to pay, and we plan on making them pay that price if they continue this irresponsible action. I've been in the Senate a long time. I seldom suggest that what the other party is doing out of principle is irresponsible. The majority leader and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, the committee before which this treaty comes, are opposed but acting irresponsibly. I respect their rationale. I do not respect the fact that they've refused to allow the United States Senate to act on this treaty. Let's get a couple of things straight. Why they're not only irresponsible, but why hopefully they will pay a price for their irresponsibility.

Number one, we don't test anyway. You got that? We don't test anyway. We don't test. So the treaty we're asking ourselves and we're asking our colleagues to sign, is to only do something we haven't done since '92 anyway. We don't test. Secondly, we're the only country in the world that, with a high degree of certainty, does not need to test in order to be certain that our nuclear arsenal, already, now, is in fact reliable. So, this is overwhelmingly in the interests of the United States of America. As a matter of fact, you might ask, if you're another country, why you might want to sign the treaty. But no one in this country should be asking themselves why should we sign this treaty. It's kind of become a religious crusade on the part of a couple of folks here, that somehow, all treaties are bad. This makes no sense to not allow us to debate this treaty.

Secondly, the fact of the matter is that we will be making, in my view, the single biggest mistake in American foreign policy and defense policy that this generation could make at the closing hours of this century by not acting now. ..."

Jeff Bingaman: "In 1992, when President Bush committed this country to a moratorium on testing, I think he adopted the right policy. Of course, this president has carried on that same policy. This is not a partisan issue, it is a bipartisan issue. It is in our national security interest that we go ahead and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. I hope very much we do. And I hope we can bring it up in this Congress."

Byron Dorgan: "[The official Republican position] is that they will not allow this treaty to come to the floor of the Senate until certain changes are sent to the Senate that have been negotiated with Russia with respect to the ABM treaty. So this treaty is leverage.... But in my judgement this injures our country's interests. Our country's interest is to lead. China is waiting for us; Russia is waiting for us...and holding this hostage...in my judgement hurts our ability to provide the leadership on the world stage that we ought to be required to provide at this point."

Written Statement from Senator Tom Harkin (Democrat - Indiana): "It is especially important that the Senate act before the September 1999 deadline for ratification by 44 countries... If the United States fails to ratify the CTBT, then we will not have a voice in the special international conference which will negotiate how to accelerate the treaty into force. Yet, as a signatory, we will still be bound by its provisions..."

James Jeffords: "A recent Mellman Group poll indicates that 80 percent of Republicans, as well as 86 percent of Democrats, favor ratification of the CTBT. They favor ratification because they believe it will be improving our security. Unlike some of them out there, I am not surprised that Republicans overwhelmingly support the CTB. I've been hearing that from constituents for a long time. After all, President Eisenhower initiated the dialogue, suggesting to Soviet leader Khrushchev that they begin to work on a testing ban. President Eisenhower said that 'Failure to achieve a test ban would have to be classed as the greatest disappointment of any administration, of any decade, of any time, and of any party.' ... One of the greatest Republican leaders in the US, Senator Mark Hatfield, was for many years the primary driving force behind this congressional pressure for the CTB. The success of his efforts laid the groundwork and provided the pressure on the Clinton administration to move forward with the CTB negotiations. I urge all my colleagues to take note of this polling data, and to give careful, open-minded consideration to the CTB. I am confident that they will come away assured of an important contribution to national security can be made by adopting the CTBT."

Robert Kerrey: "...I appreciate the polling data, but before I saw the poll, I believed that we should ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It's in the nation's interest to do so. Americans will be safer. Americans will less likely face the situation in the future that could easily occur, where a conventional conflict escalates quickly into a nuclear conflict. ...The chances of a relatively minor conventional conflict escalating into nuclear conflict, the chances of the United States of America being blackmailed with a nuclear weapon, increase every single day that the Senate does not ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty."

Carl Levin: "I come at this from the perspective of the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, and at those hearings of that committee, over and over again, we've asked Secretary Cohen and General Shelton whether or not they support ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and they do. And they do so very strongly. ... Why do they support ratification? Why do they believe it's in our national security interest? For a number of reasons. One, one of the greatest threats that we face is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is important in the fight against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In order to create new weapons of mass destruction on the nuclear side, it is essential that they be tested. If you can't test new weapons, they are not going to be reliable, and you are not going to be able to deploy them. And so, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is an anti-proliferation weapon at its core. Secondly, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty makes it possible for us to have on-sight inspection capabilities that we simply do not have today, and would not have, but for the treaty. And finally, I want to relate the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to a more recent event, which is Chinese espionage. The Chinese have stolen some of our design secrets, we believe. But in order to utilize them, they need to test. They have signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. But if we do not ratify that treaty, it seems to me we give them a chance to get off the hook, which would be the worst thing we could do, relative to a country such as China."

Patty Murray: "I am a longtime supporter of the CTBT, and I want to join my colleagues in calling on prompt Senate consideration and passage of the CTBT. It is time to free the CTBT. A determined few are holding hostage our nation's broader non-proliferation interests. Already, dozens of countries have ratified the CTBT, yet the United States, thanks to a few determined people, is forced to sit on the sidelines as the world moves away from nuclear experimentation and expansion. ... Across this country, American people support the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. In State after State, polls have shown strong support for ending nuclear weapons testing for all time. Washington State, my home State, overwhelmingly favors the CTBT. A recent statewide poll in my State found that 82 percent of the people support Senate approval of the CTBT. The test ban clearly enjoys support among Democrats and Republicans and in every region in my State. Now, it's important to note that my State is home to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Washington State has a nuclear history that continues to this day, with the hosting of nuclear aircraft carriers and submarines. My State is very pro-defense. Washington State is a defense State. That's why it's especially noteworthy that 82 percent of the voters in my State support the CTBT. So I'm very proud to stand here today to join my colleagues in calling for immediate consideration of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It's time to give voice to the American people and an opportunity to have this issue debated in public, both on the Foreign Relations Committee and on the floor of the United States Senate."

Arlen Specter: "The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was submitted to the Senate months ago, and it is high time that the Senate acted on it. The issue was brought into very sharp focus in the spring of last year, when we had a nuclear test by both India and Pakistan. And since the spring of 1998, there has been a very tenuous situation with war about to break out, fighting on the India-Pakistan borders. And with the capability of those two warring nations to use nuclear weapons, it is a threat to world stability. It's very hard for the United States to step in and advocate a peaceful resolution or to arbitrate or to negotiate those differences, when the United States has not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. This is really basically a matter of survival. Senator Jeffords has quoted the public opinion statistics. My view is that not enough Americans really understand what is going on, because if more people understood what was going on, there would be a demand on the Senate to act and to act favorably. And I'm delighted to be here today with Senator Dorgan and my colleagues, to try to stir up some public understanding of the issue, and some public pressure to move toward ratification."

Sources: Senators urge immediate CTBT ratification, United States Information Service, 20 July; Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers (CRND), http://www.clw.org/coalition/transcript072099.htm.

Letter from Democratic Senators, 20 July

Letter from all 45 Democratic Senators to Senator Jesse Helms, Chair, Foreign Relations Committee, Calling for Hearings on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, 20 July 1999

"Dear Mr. Chairman:

We urge you to hold hearings on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and to report it to the full Senate for debate. Most importantly, we ask that this be done with sufficient time to allow the United States to actively participate in the Treaty's inaugural Conference of Ratifying States, which may be held as early as this September, should the Senate ratify the Treaty.

President Clinton signed the CTBT on 22 September, 1996 and sent the Treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent on 24 September, 1997. We are now midway through the first session of the 106th Congress and the Foreign Relations Committee has held no hearings on this Treaty. As early as September of this year, the 37 countries that have ratified the CTBT will hold a conference to discuss how to facilitate the Treaty s early entry into force. If the United States is to maintain its leadership role and convince other countries to forego nuclear weapons tests, the full Senate must be given the opportunity to consider ratification of the CTBT before that Conference begins.

Many nations are waiting for the United States to lead on this important issue before completing ratification in their countries. Failure to act on the Treaty will deny the US an active voice at the conference and could severely weaken US non-proliferation efforts, including the effort to bring India and Pakistan into this treaty. The recent hostilities in Kashmir are a sober reminder of the need to do all we can to prevent a nuclear holocaust in that region.

The United States must not relinquish its leadership in the nuclear non-proliferation arena. We respectively urge you to hold all necessary hearings and to report the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty to the Senate for timely consideration before the CTBT inaugural conference."

Source: Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers website, http://www.clw.org/coalition/dem-sen-ltr-ctb072099.htm

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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