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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 44, March 2000

General Shalikashvili Remarks at Carnegie Conference

Prepared statement of retired General John Shalikashvili, Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to the Carnegie Non-Proliferation Conference, March 16, 2000.

"Some 41 years ago I was drafted into the Army and for reasons too complex to explain I remained in the Army for 39 years before I finally retired and went home. A few weeks ago, I was drafted once more into the service of the United States Government to advise the President and the Secretary of State on issues pertaining to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. I heeded the call because I had supported the Treaty as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and because I remain convinced that the United States will be safer with this important treaty than without it. …

My task, as I see it, is to help lay the groundwork for eventual ratification by engaging in a low-key, nonpartisan dialogue with every Senator interested in understanding better the different views on the issues and in exploring ways to bridge these difference.

Before I get more specific, let me start by saying that the context in which I am operating is one where the prospects for slowing or stopping the spread of nuclear weapons are mixed, at best. In these circumstances, I am absolutely certain that now, more than ever, the United States needs to exercise clear and consistent leadership. Our partners in the effort - much of the world - need credible evidence that we remain determined to be at the forefront of a unified international response to the dangers of proliferation.

It is obvious that the United States has a huge stake in preventing proliferation. Our allies and our military personnel stationed in places like East Asia and the Persian Gulf are directly threatened by weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons programs heighten existing tensions between regional rivals, and multiply the devastation that could occur should war break out. They pose risks to American economic interests, including access to oil and the free flow of commerce and trade, as they do to the interests of most other nations. Most ominously, our own population and territory could be put at risk, as could that of our friends.

The United States has played a vital role in the international effort to build a nuclear restraint regime. As you well know, this regime seeks both to prevent proliferation and to reduce the dangerous legacy of the Cold War. It utilizes both formal accords, such as the START agreements and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and less formal approaches, such as the Nunn-Lugar program, the US-Russian Nuclear Risk Reduction Center, and various suppliers' control groups. It is closely connected to multilateral arrangements for banning other weapons of mass destruction, including the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention, as well as the Missile Technology Control Regime, which addresses delivery vehicles.

Building this complex arms control and nonproliferation regime has been a painstaking process which required concessions on all sides. It could not have been done without the United States' full involvement. In addition to our bilateral work with Russia on strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, the US led the push for an indefinite extension of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1995. It was equally instrumental in negotiating the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

This overarching regime, it is clear, cannot long survive without continued US diplomatic, as well as military, leadership. We have led the international response to challenges that have occurred recently, such as the nuclear tests in South Asia, North Korea's nuclear program, Iraq's repudiation of its inspection obligations, and Iran's efforts to obtain nuclear and missile technology.

The components of this international arms control and non-proliferation regime are tightly interwoven. To be worthy of support, each individual piece must serve our national security interests, just as it must pass this stringent test for all other participants. But in weighing the worth of each component, we should recognize the ways it strengthens and reinforces the rest of the regime.

Because the United States has been so energetic and so important to global non-proliferation efforts, our failure to ratify the CTBT has raised serious concerns about whether we remain committed to arms control as part of our security strategy. To be sure, other countries make vital contributions. But our friends and allies have clearly indicated that they cannot do it without us.

Of course, these arms control and non-proliferation efforts have not eliminated the need for military preparedness. Rather, they have complemented and strengthened our deterrence and defense.

Contrary to popular perceptions, military men like myself are perhaps the strongest supporters of verifiable arms control and non-proliferation measures, for four simple reasons.

First, we have experienced the horrors of war first hand - lost dear friends, seen towns and villages laid to waste. There is nothing theoretical about war to us. We are personally and professionally committed to every practical measure that can prevent such pain and destruction from happening again.

Second, it is soldiers who will fight our nation's wars and do what must be done to keep peace-loving countries safe when war can no longer be avoided. Efforts to control weapons of mass destruction and their associated delivery systems are quite literally a matter of life and death for us, so we approach them with utmost seriousness.

Let me preface my third and fourth points by saying something that should be obvious: there is no such thing as perfect security. When we do military planning, we recognize that changes in our force structure and strategy will almost certainly cause others to alter their behavior in response. Some reactions are potentially threatening, others probably are not. Therefore, a third function of arms control is to create a stable planning environment and avoid misperceptions about intentions that might trigger an avoidable counter-response.

Moreover, US military and political leaders must often weigh the military benefit of one system against another, or the value of a particular option against its security, economic, and political costs. A strong national commitment to defense spending can ensure that these tradeoffs are made in ways that do not endanger national security.

When we decide not to pursue a particular military option, we would obviously prefer that others do not either. Thus, the fourth practical function of arms control from a military perspective is to provide legally binding, verifiable assurances whenever possible that if we exercise restraint, others will, also.

So, let me say a few words about how the Test Ban Treaty serves these functions and thus strengthens US security. Even before CTBT negotiations started, the United States voluntarily stopped nuclear testing in 1992.

This policy shift reflected changes in the security environment that have become even more pronounced over time. Nuclear weapons play a smaller role in our national security now than at any time since their inception. We have no plans to build new types of warheads. Indeed, we're going the other way: where we once had dozens of different types of warheads in the arsenal, we now have fewer than ten, all fully tested and certified safe and reliable. Technological change has also worked in our favor. We have refined tried-and-true techniques and developed new approaches to maintaining stockpile safety and reliability without nuclear explosive testing.

A global ban on nuclear testing essentially rules out a renewed nuclear arms race. And make no mistake - more possibilities exist: to focus the energy from nuclear weapons, or enhance radiation, or otherwise advance the art or lower the threshold to use. But without testing, no one will be able confidently to develop advanced new nuclear weapons types. Without testing, there is no way to be sure that a new design will function, as intended, or perhaps at all.

The Test Ban Treaty will greatly impede China's ability to modernize its nuclear arsenal, for example, by developing smaller warheads that could ride on a MIRV-ed ICBM. It will also make it much harder for Russia to develop new types of tactical nuclear weapons, should they choose to do so.

The CTBT reinforces the strategic arms reduction process. It confirms that neither the US nor Russia is making significant qualitative improvements in its arsenal, which fosters a stable environment for further reductions in nuclear arms.

The CTBT can help head off a nuclear arms race in South Asia, the place where the risk of nuclear war is perhaps highest now. India and Pakistan are bitter rivals who have fought three wars since independence in 1947 and who both conducted nuclear tests in 1998. Persuading them to formalize their testing moratoria through the CTBT is a major goal of the international community. But it is not easy asking them to give up a legal right to test if we retain it.

Banning tests slows the spread of nuclear weapons to more countries by throwing another tough obstacle in the way of anyone who wants nuclear arms. Potential proliferators can make simple fission bombs without testing. But a test ban makes it much harder to get nuclear weapons down to the sizes, shapes, and weights most dangerous to us - deliverable in light airplanes, rudimentary missiles, even terrorists' luggage.

The CTBT also strengthens the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the larger non-proliferation regime. A global test ban is explicitly mentioned in the NPT's preamble, and was prominent in the 1995 decision for a permanent NPT. All of us will be in a much better position to keep the NPT regime strong when we have all followed through on our commitment to the CTBT.

Every US ally strongly supports our ratification of the CTBT. All of them have signed the CTBT, most have ratified it already - with Turkey being the most recent, and the rest intend to do so.

Neither they, nor anyone else outside our borders, has any doubts about the US nuclear deterrent. Instead, what our allies fear is that if we walk away from the Test Ban Treaty, US leadership on arms control and nonproliferation will be seriously weakened.

If some state were to test in total disregard for global arms control norms and agreements, the CTBT helps alert the international community and unite it for an effective response. I know better than to believe that a piece of paper or a so-called international norm can, in and of itself, guarantee our security. But formal agreements do make a difference. We rely on them in our personal life, in America's domestic affairs, and in all aspects of our international relations. They have a role to play here, too.

Moreover, the CTBT is not just a piece of paper. It establishes an unprecedented international monitoring system, with some 321 sensors around the world - including 31 in Russia, 11 in China, and 17 in the Middle East. Some stations are in places where the US could not gain access on its own. And other CTBT signatories will pay 75% of the cost, to improve monitoring of events we want to know about.

The Treaty also explicitly allows us to rely as heavily as we wish on our own impressive intelligence capabilities, which can be concentrated on sites of particular concern to us.

And it provides an entirely new capability -challenge on-site inspections. If the international system or our own capabilities reveal suspicious behavior, the issue can be resolved by going to the site - something there's no chance of doing without the Treaty.

The CTBT is not a panacea. But then, nothing in our military arsenal today, and nothing that we could dream up for tomorrow, can solve all of our security problems, either. We must apply to this Treaty the same standard that we use for everything else - on balance, are we better off with or without it?

Simply put, this Treaty is too important to national security, international stability, and American leadership to leave it on the shelf.

Although the Administration does not intend to ask for Senate action on the CTBT this year, we must use this time to engage in that low-key, reasoned dialogue that I mentioned earlier to help bridge the differences so that at the appropriate time, the US can ratify the Treaty in complete confidence that it makes America safer.

I plan to meet with a broad range of Senators, scientific experts, and others to hear their concerns and their suggestions about the way ahead. Much of the discussion so far has focussed on two important issues - the Treaty's impact on the US nuclear deterrent and its verifiability. Let me say a few words about these issues.

Nuclear deterrence will remain an essential part of the US security strategy, at least for the foreseeable future. We hope that we can make further reductions in our strategic arsenals, but as long as we have nuclear weapons, we must be sure that they are safe and reliable. In thinking about the relationship between the Test Ban Treaty and the START process, it would be a serious mistake to equate a reduction in numbers with a weakening of our safety and reliability standards.

I have no reason to believe that this has occurred. As Chairman of the JCS, I simply could not have supported the Test Ban Treaty if I had had any reservations on this point.

I am pleased that the Secretaries of Energy and Defense will soon give the President their fourth annual certification that the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile remains safe, secure, and reliable, with no need for nuclear explosive testing at this time.

However, it is only right that Senators get full answers to their questions about how the Stockpile Stewardship Program is accomplishing this objective now and how it will keep pace with new challenges that might develop over time.

As for verification, to pass muster, a verification system must be able to deter cheating by leaving a potential violator with little confidence that they could escape detection. And it must be able to reassure us and the rest of the world that any militarily significant violations would be caught.

By that standard, I believe that the CTBT verification system, together with our own national monitoring capabilities, does indeed pass muster. Nevertheless, I intend to investigate carefully the concerns that have been raised, and see how they might best be addressed.

In examining these and other important issues, such as the Treaty's duration and the adequacy of the six safeguards that President Clinton has proposed to accompany the Treaty, I want to understand what each Senator's concerns are now, and to see how they can be answered and addressed, systematically and seriously.

This will take some time. We should take sufficient time. America's national security is at stake. This should be a matter for patient, informed deliberation.

But time is not on our side. The threat of proliferation is not diminishing.

By working with Congress on the Test Ban Treaty, I hope we can renew a national consensus... on how America and our allies can respond with an effective long-term strategy... in which arms control plays an integral role."

Source: Text - John Shalikashvili's Remarks to Carnegie Non-Proliferation Conference, US State Department, Office of International Information Programs, March 16.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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