The se­nate's next task: rat­i­fy­ing nu­clear test ban treaty

In the fi­nal stretch, Pres­i­dent Obama put his cred­i­bil­ity and po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal on the line to achieve rat­i­fi­ca­tion.

The Pak Banker - - Editorial - Mikhail Gor­bachev

JUST a few weeks ago, the fate of the New Start nu­clear arms treaty seemed to hang by a thread. But since last week, when the United States Se­nate rat­i­fied the treaty, which re­duces the size of the Amer­i­can and Rus­sian nu­clear stock­piles, we can speak of a se­ri­ous step for­ward for both coun­tries. I hope this will en­er­gize ef­forts to take the next step to a world free of nu­clear weapons: a ban on all nu­clear test­ing.

In the fi­nal stretch, Pres­i­dent Obama put his cred­i­bil­ity and po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal on the line to achieve rat­i­fi­ca­tion. That a suf­fi­cient num­ber of Repub­li­can sen­a­tors put the in­ter­ests of their nation's se­cu­rity, and the world's, above party pol­i­tics is en­cour­ag­ing. The suc­cess was not with­out cost. In re­turn for the treaty's rat­i­fi­ca­tion, Mr. Obama promised to al­lo­cate tens of bil­lions of dol­lars in the next few years for mod­ern­iz­ing the Amer­i­can nu­clear weapons arse­nal, which is hardly com­pat­i­ble with a nu­clear-free world. Mis­sile de­fense re­mains con­tentious. Dur­ing the rat­i­fi­ca­tion de­bate, many sen­a­tors ob­jected to the treaty's lan­guage about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive arms, which the new agree­ment takes from the first Start treaty, signed in 1991. Oth­ers tried to scut­tle rat­i­fi­ca­tion by com­plain­ing that New Start did not limit tac­ti­cal nu­clear weapons. These attacks were fended off. Nev­er­the­less, these prob­lems clearly need to be dis­cussed. There must be an agree­ment on mis­sile de­fense. Tough ne­go­ti­a­tions are ahead on tac­ti­cal nu­clear weapons, and a re­al­is­tic agree­ment is needed on the de­ploy­ment of con­ven­tional forces in Europe. We shall see very soon whether all these is­sues were raised just for the sake of rhetoric, as a dem­a­gog­i­cal screen to main­tain mil­i­tary su­pe­ri­or­ity, or whether there is a real readi­ness to con­clude agree­ments eas­ing the mil­i­tary bur­den.

The pri­or­ity now is to rat­ify the sep­a­rate treaty ban­ning nu­clear test­ing. The stale­mate on this agree­ment, the Com­pre­hen­sive Nu­clear Test Ban Treaty, has lasted more than a decade. I re­call how hard it was in the sec­ond half of the 1980s to start mov­ing in this di­rec­tion. At the time, the Soviet Union de­clared a uni­lat­eral mora­to­rium on nu­clear test­ing. How­ever, when the United States con­tin­ued to test, we had to re­spond.

Even so, we in­sisted on our po­si­tion of prin­ci­ple, call­ing for a to­tal ban on nu­clear test­ing un­der strict in­ter­na­tional con­trol, in­clud­ing the use of seis­mic mon­i­tor­ing and on-site in­spec­tions.

In 1996 the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly fi­nally opened the test ban treaty for sign­ing and rat­i­fi­ca­tion. But this pact has a par­tic­u­larly strin­gent re­quire­ment for its en­try into force: ev­ery one of the 44 "nu­clear technology holder states" must sign and rat­ify it. As of to­day, 35 have done so, in­clud­ing Rus­sia, France and Bri­tain. Still, the list of coun­tries that have not rat­i­fied re­mains for­mi­da­ble: It in­cludes the United States, China, Egypt, In­done­sia, Iran, Is­rael, In­dia, North Korea and Pak­istan (the fi­nal three have not even signed). Each "re­jec­tion­ist" coun­try has its ar­gu­ments, but all are not equally re­spon­si­ble for the stale­mate. The process of rat­i­fi­ca­tion stalled af­ter the United States Se­nate voted in 1999 to re­ject the treaty, claim­ing that it was not ver­i­fi­able and cit­ing the need for "stock­pile stew­ard­ship" to as­sure the re­li­a­bil­ity of Amer­i­can weapons. The real rea­son was doubt­less the sen­a­tors' de­sire to keep test­ing. Nev­er­the­less, in the 21st cen­tury only one coun­try, North Korea, has ven­tured to con­duct nu­clear ex­plo­sions. There is, in ef­fect, a mul­ti­lat­eral mora­to­rium on test­ing. It is in­creas­ingly ob­vi­ous that for the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity nu­clear ex­plo­sions are un­ac­cept­able. In the mean­time the prepara­tory com­mit­tee for the Com­pre­hen­sive Nu­clear Test Ban Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion has built up a strong ver­i­fi­ca­tion regime.

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