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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 53, December 2000 - January 2001

Shalikashvili CTBT Report

'Findings and Recommendations Concerning the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty' http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/ctbtpage/ctbt_report.html, Report by General John Shalikashvili (USA, Ret.), Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State, submitted January 5, 2001.

I. Introduction

"A decade after the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons are still important to US and allied security, a silent giant guarding against a catastrophic miscalculation by a potential adversary. The United States has the safest, most reliable, most capable arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world. It will need a credible deterrent as long as nuclear weapons exist.

Equally important to our security are global non-proliferation efforts. For the past half century, the United States has led the campaign to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to additional countries or terrorist groups, and to reduce the chances that such weapons would ever be used.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty places obstacles in the path of nuclear weapon development by states that could some day threaten the United States or its allies. The question associated with Treaty ratification is whether the security benefits from the Treaty outweigh any risks that a ban on all nuclear explosions could pose to the US deterrent.

Four types of concerns have been most prominent in the debate on advice and consent to ratification in October 1999 and in my subsequent investigations:

1. Whether the Test Ban Treaty has genuine non-proliferation value;

2. Whether cheating could threaten US security;

3. Whether we can maintain the safety and reliability of the US nuclear deterrent without nuclear explosive testing; and

4. Whether it is wise to endorse a Test Ban Treaty of indefinite duration.

After examining these issues, I remain convinced that the advantages of the Test Ban Treaty outweigh any disadvantages, and thus that ratification would increase national security. In each area, though, I am recommending additional actions to address concerns and further strengthen the US position under the Treaty. I believe that we can go a long way toward bridging differences on these issues if they receive a level of sustained bipartisan attention equal to their high importance for national security.

The broad objectives of my specific recommendations are to:

1. Increase bipartisan and allied support for a carefully coordinated comprehensive non-proliferation program;

2. Enhance US capabilities to detect and deter nuclear testing and other aspects of nuclear proliferation;

3. Improve the management of potential risks associated with the long-term reliability and safety of the US nuclear deterrent; and

4. Address concerns about the Test Ban Treaty's indefinite duration through a joint Executive-Legislative review of the Treaty's net value for national security to be held ten years after ratification and at regular intervals thereafter.

Test Ban Treaty supporters, skeptics, and opponents all agree that the United States needs to revitalize support for an integrated non-proliferation strategy, enhance its monitoring capabilities, and develop a bipartisan consensus on stewardship of the US nuclear deterrent. I urge early implementation of my recommendations on these issues because they would strengthen US security regardless of the immediate fate of the Test Ban Treaty. Action on these steps would also go a long way toward addressing concerns that have been voiced about the Treaty. Together with my recommendation on the ten-year joint review procedure, these steps offer a way to build bipartisan support for Test Ban Treaty ratification as an integral component of an overarching strategy to stop nuclear proliferation and strengthen the nuclear restraint regime."

III. Nuclear Weapons, Non-Proliferation, and the Test Ban Treaty

"Preventing proliferation is an enduring American interest. Soon after the end of World War II, the Congress voted for a strict prohibition against sharing nuclear information with any other country, even with Britain, which had helped us develop the atomic bomb. Since then, every president and many congressional leaders have worked to reduce other countries' possibilities and reasons for developing nuclear weapons.

Over the decades, the United States has utilized a wide range of non-proliferation tools. We have entered into mutual security alliances and helped friendly states satisfy defense needs without having their own nuclear weapons. We have cooperated closely with like-minded states in threat reduction efforts, including export controls. We have negotiated and joined numerous international treaties, including the sequence of test ban treaties; the Non-Proliferation Treaty; and the SALT/START series of strategic arms accords. These and other less formal arms control arrangements convey the same message: nuclear weapons are different; they must be constrained by special rules.

The United States has more reason than ever to lead global efforts to stop proliferation and strengthen the nuclear restraint regime. During the Cold War, the United States and NATO needed to keep nuclear weapons in the foreground of their struggle with the Soviet Union to offset the military advantages and political leverage that otherwise could have resulted from their adversary's conventional superiority and wide range of nuclear capabilities. Now the shoe is on the other foot.

It would not be in our security interest to assign a high profile role to nuclear weapons in the US military posture. Better that they remain in the background, for if the world's strongest conventional power needed new types of nuclear weapons, other nations would have even more incentive to acquire them. Any activities that erode the firebreak between nuclear and conventional weapons or that encourage the use of nuclear weapons for purposes that are not strategic and deterrent in nature would undermine the advantage that we derive from overwhelming conventional superiority.

The Test Ban Treaty in an Integrated Non-Proliferation Strategy

The Test Ban Treaty allows the United States to keep a strong nuclear deterrent and pursue its non-proliferation objectives at the same time. As Ambassador Sir Michael Weston, head of the British delegation, said during the negotiations, the Test Ban Treaty 'bans the bang, not the bomb.' By outlawing all nuclear explosions, the United States and other parties to the Treaty accept a constraint on their ability to develop new types of nuclear weapons. We remain free, though, to keep our nuclear stockpile safe and reliable through other means, including testing all elements of the nuclear warhead up to the point where the core nuclear explosive package would go critical. The Test Ban Treaty, in conjunction with other measures, slows the acquisition and advancement of nuclear weapon capabilities while the United States and other nuclear weapon states decide how fast and how far to go with nuclear reductions.

The Test Ban Treaty is not an isolated measure operating in a vacuum. Rather, it is an integral and inseparable part of our national non-proliferation strategy. An effective strategy must include the skillful use of a variety of political, diplomatic, economic, and military responses tailored for particular proliferation problems. This requires meticulous coordination among the relevant Executive Branch agencies, steady bipartisan support from Congress, and close cooperation with other countries. Only the United States has both a compelling reason and the necessary resources to lead global non-proliferation efforts. I believe that US leadership is absolutely essential to success.

Persistent efforts to stem nuclear proliferation have been remarkably successful. The setback represented by the Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapon tests in 1998 does not outweigh the fact that a number of countries that had nuclear weapon programs have reversed or abandoned them, and some countries that inherited nuclear weapons have relinquished them. There is no valid reason for future congresses or administrations to give up defending this enduring American interest. For the sake of future generations, it would be unforgivable to neglect any reasonable action that can help prevent nuclear proliferation, as the Test Ban Treaty clearly would.

The Test Ban Treaty's Value for National Security

Banning nuclear explosions places direct constraints on other states' ability to acquire and improve nuclear weapons. From a technical standpoint, it is true that a state could have some degree of confidence that an unsophisticated fission device would work without testing it, as the United States did with the bomb used against Hiroshima. A proliferator could acquire an ambiguous nuclear deterrent, but it could not use a nuclear test to demonstrate its capability, as India and Pakistan did in 1998 with a resulting rise in regional tensions.

The main technical constraints that the Test Ban Treaty places on nuclear weapon development involve the vertical progression from first-generation fission designs and more advanced fission weapons; to second-generation thermonuclear designs with increasingly sophisticated yield-to-weight ratios; to exotic 'third-generation' technologies, such as nuclear explosion-pumped x-ray lasers and enhanced radiation weapons. Experts disagree about how far up this developmental ladder a proliferator could go without testing, but the difficulty would increase dramatically after the first steps. It would be extremely hard, if not impossible, for additional countries to develop a thermonuclear weapon, especially a sophisticated one that could be delivered easily over intercontinental distances.

A ban on nuclear explosions would also place technical constraints on countries that already have nuclear weapon capabilities. Test Ban Treaty signature by India or Pakistan would not close off their nuclear options, but it would rule out certain developments and help prevent a destabilizing nuclear arms race in South Asia. China would not be free to test explosively a post-production sample of a more advanced warhead than is in its current arsenal. This would, for example, impede China from placing multiple warheads on a mobile missile. And while Russia and the United States already have a wide range of nuclear capabilities and knowledge, the Test Ban Treaty provides insurance against a renewal of the nuclear arms race though 'third generation' nuclear designs.

The Test Ban Treaty is critical to sustained political support for the Non-Proliferation Treaty and other elements of a comprehensive non-proliferation strategy. Proliferation is held in check by an intricate web of bilateral, regional, and global arrangements. Weakening or removing one element can damage other components and erode the overall system of constraints. For example, our failure to ratify the Test Ban Treaty was one of several factors that put the United States on the defensive at the April 2000 NPT Review Conference and decreased our ability to focus attention on challenges to the non-proliferation regime posed by countries such as Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Non-ratification has also complicated US efforts to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards that non-nuclear weapon state parties to the NPT must have on their civilian nuclear programs. Many countries are reluctant to accept new obligations while the United States is unwilling to approve the Test Ban Treaty.

Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons demands coordinated actions based on common principles by many nations over many years. Our closest allies see the Test Ban Treaty as something that they have fought for alongside the United States since the days of President Eisenhower. All other NATO members, Japan, South Korea, and most of our other security partners have ratified it. Once we ratify the Test Ban Treaty, which the rest of the world views as vital for non-proliferation, we will be better able to enlist cooperation on export controls, economic sanctions, and other coordinated responses to specific problems. International support for military action will also be greater if the United States is clearly making full use of cooperative threat reduction measures, too.

While widespread repudiation of the NPT is unlikely in the near term, the non-proliferation regime is not invulnerable. Until we ratify the Test Ban Treaty, we offer a convenient excuse for a country that wants to renounce its NPT obligations and openly acquire nuclear weapons to threaten its neighbors or intimidate us. Most law-abiding countries would much prefer a strong NPT regime to a world in which they and their neighbors felt compelled to acquire their own nuclear arsenals. But countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Germany, which have the knowledge, materials, and infrastructure needed to develop quickly a sophisticated nuclear weapon capability, could come under intense pressure should they ever lose confidence in the nuclear restraint regime. ..."

VII. Net Assessment

"My assessment of the net impact of the Test Ban Treaty is that, on balance, the Treaty will enhance US national security in numerous ways.

There are risks, but they exist with or without the Treaty and they can be managed through the steps recommended...

  • A proliferator with the necessary knowledge, materials, and technology could assemble an unsophisticated nuclear device and be relatively confident that it would work without testing it. The Test Ban Treaty is not a proliferation cure-all, but by supporting other elements of an integrated non-proliferation strategy, it will make this scenario less likely.
  • There always will be some gap between zero-yield and the lower limit of remote sensing capabilities to detect, identify, and locate an explosion. With on-site inspections and other sources of information, though, it is more likely that very low-yield testing would be detected or deterred with the Test Ban Treaty than without it.
  • Experienced nuclear-weapon states such as Russia, and to a lesser extent China, could engage in some evasive testing. However, tests that are small and infrequent enough to avoid detection would not permit them to develop new weapon systems that would undermine the US nuclear deterrent, and eventually even such violations are likely to be caught.
  • The Stockpile Stewardship Program is designed to discover and resolve potential problems that might affect weapon safety or reliability, but no one can guarantee that a nuclear test will never again be needed. The Treaty's ratification makes this less of a concern by strengthening bipartisan support for effective stockpile stewardship and by formalizing domestic safeguards to ensure that we would be ready to test again if necessary for national security.
The Test Ban Treaty's advantages, in my judgment, clearly outweigh the foregoing risks.
  • The Test Ban Treaty will complicate and slow down the efforts of aspiring nuclear states, especially regarding more advanced types of nuclear weapons.
  • It will hamper the development by Russia and China of nuclear weapons based on new designs and will essentially rule out certain advances.
  • It will add to the legal and political constraints that nations must consider when they form their judgments about national defense policies.
  • The Test Ban Treaty is vital to the long-term health of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and will increase support for other elements of a comprehensive non-proliferation strategy.
  • The United States is well positioned to sustain its nuclear deterrent under the Test Ban Treaty.
  • The verification regime established under the Treaty will enhance the United States' own very capable nuclear test monitoring system and foster new techniques to improve verification.
  • The Treaty will make it easier to mobilize domestic and international support for clarifying ambiguous situations and for responding vigorously if any nation conducts a nuclear test.
I believe that it is very much in our national interest to secure these benefits through entry into force of the Test Ban Treaty. If this opportunity is lost, the United States' ability to lead an effective global campaign against nuclear proliferation will be severely damaged."

VIII. Compilation of Recommendations

"Nuclear Weapons, Non-Proliferation, and the Test Ban Treaty

A. Working closely with the Congress and with US friends and allies, the next administration should implement on an urgent basis an integrated non-proliferation policy targeted on, but not limited to, countries and groups believed to have an active interest in acquiring nuclear weapons.

B. To increase high-level attention and policy coherence, the next administration should appoint a Deputy National Security Advisor for Non-Proliferation, with the authority and resources needed to coordinate and oversee implementation of US non-proliferation policy.

C. As part of its effort to build bipartisan and allied support for an integrated non-proliferation policy, the next administration should review at the highest level issues related to the Test Ban Treaty. There should be a sustained interagency effort to address senators' questions and concerns on these issues of great importance to national security.

D. The United States should continue its testing moratorium and take other concrete actions to demonstrate its commitment to a world without nuclear explosions, such as continuing leadership in building up the International Monitoring System (IMS) being established for the Treaty.

Monitoring, Verification, and Foreign Nuclear Programs

A. Higher funding and intelligence collection priorities should be assigned to monitoring nuclear test activities and other aspects of nuclear weapon acquisition or development by other states.

B. Collaboration should be increased among US government officials and other experts to ensure that national intelligence, the Treaty's international verification regime, and other scientific stations are used as complementary components of an all-source approach to verification.

C. The transition from research to operational use should be accelerated for new verification technologies and analytical techniques.

D. The United States should continue working with other Test Ban Treaty signatories to prepare for inspections and develop confidence-building measures.

E. Additional steps should be taken unilaterally or bilaterally to increase transparency regarding the nature and purpose of activities at known nuclear test sites.

Stewardship of the US Nuclear Stockpile

A. Working with the Department of Defense, other Executive Branch agencies, and the Congress, the Administrator of the NNSA [National Nuclear Security Administration] should complete as soon as possible his comprehensive review of the Stockpile Stewardship Program. The review will clarify objectives and requirements, set priorities, assess progress, identify needs, and develop an overarching program plan with broad-based support.

  • Highest priority should be given to aspects of stockpile stewardship that are most urgently needed to assure the near-term reliability of the US nuclear deterrent, i.e. surveillance, refurbishment, and infrastructure revitalization.
  • Enhanced surveillance and monitoring activities should receive full support and not be squeezed by higher profile aspects of the SSP.
  • The NNSA should make a decision about the need for a large-scale plutonium pit remanufacturing facility as soon as possible after the next administration has determined the appropriate size and composition of the enduring stockpile, including reserves.
  • A dedicated infrastructure revitalization fund should be established after the NNSA has completed a revitalization plan for its production facilities and laboratories.
B. The NNSA, working with Congress and the Office of Management and Budget, should place the SSP on a multi-year budget cycle like the Department of Defense's Future Years Defense Program. Some increase in funds for the SSP is likely to be necessary.

C. Steps to improve interagency management of stockpile stewardship matters, such as the revitalization of the Nuclear Weapons Council, are essential and should be continued.

D. Appropriate steps should be taken to ensure that the performance margins of various weapon types are adequate when conservatively evaluated.

E. Strict discipline should be exercised over changes to existing nuclear weapon designs to ensure that neither an individual change nor the cumulative effect of small modifications would make it difficult to certify weapon reliability or safety without a nuclear explosion.

F. The Administrator of the NNSA should establish an on-going high level external advisory mechanism, such as a panel of outstanding and independent scientists.

Minimizing Uncertainty with a Treaty of Indefinite Duration

A. The administration and the Senate should commit to conducting an intensive joint review of the Test Ban Treaty's net value for national security ten years after US ratification, and at ten-year intervals thereafter. This review should consider the Stockpile Stewardship Program's priorities, accomplishments, and challenges; current and planned verification capabilities; and the Treaty's adherence, implementation, compliance, and enforcement record. Recommendations to address concerns should be formulated for domestic use and to inform the US position at the Treaty's ten-year review conference. If, after these steps, grave doubts remain about the Treaty's net value for US national security, the President, in consultation with Congress, would be prepared to withdraw from the Test Ban Treaty under the 'supreme national interests' clause."

Statement by President Clinton

"Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John M. Shalikashvili and I met this morning to discuss his report concerning the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The report argues persuasively that ratifying the CTBT would increase our national security, and that the security benefits of the Treaty outweigh any perceived disadvantages. The report's recommendations address concerns raised during the October 1999 Senate debate over CTBT. I urge Congress and the incoming Bush administration to act on them. I also hope the Senate will take up the Treaty at an early date as a critical component of a bipartisan non-proliferation policy. CTBT is supported by our friends and allies overseas, and designed to reduce existing nuclear dangers as well as those that might emerge in the future. I commend General Shalikashvili for his thorough and rigorous report and his continued service to the nation."

Source: Statement by the President: General Shalikashvili's Report Concerning the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, January 5.

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.