USIS Washington File

06 October 1999

Transcript: Clinton Remarks on Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty October 6

(He says the fight to save it "is a tough fight without much time")

President Clinton told an audience in the East Room of the White House
late October 6 that the fight to gain Senate ratification of the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty "is a tough fight without much time."

He pointed out that the CTBT cannot go into effect until the United
States and other nations ratify it. Both India and Pakistan have said
they will sign it, Clinton said, but if the Senate defeats it, will
these two South Asian nations sign?

"The best way to constrain the danger of nuclear proliferation is to
stop other countries from testing nuclear weapons," Clinton said,
adding, "That is what this treaty will do."

Following is the White House transcript:

(begin transcript)

Office of the Press Secretary

October 6, 1999


East Room 3:43 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Let me begin by saying a profound
word of thanks to Senator Glenn, to General Shalikashvili, to Dr.
Townes and to Secretary Cohen, for what they have said. I thank
General Jones and Admiral Crowe for being here. I thank all the other
Nobel laureates who are here, Secretary Richardson and General Shelton
and the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Mr. Berger and Mr.
Podesta, the other people from the White House. And I thank Senators
Biden and Dorgan for their presence here and their enormous leadership
on this issue; and other committed American citizens who are in this

Let me say that I was sitting here thinking two things when the
previous speakers were speaking. One is, it made me very proud to be
an American, to know that our country had been served by people like
these four, without regard to party. The second is that each in their
own way represent a different piece of the American experience over
the last 50 years and bring a remarkable combination of intellect,
knowledge, experience and humanity to the remarks that they made.

There's a reason that President Eisenhower said we ought to do this,
and a reason that President Kennedy agreed. They saw World War II from
slightly different angles and different ranks, but they experienced
the horror of the atomic era's onset in much the same way. I think you
could make a compelling argument that this treaty is more needed now
than it was when they advocated it; when there were only two nuclear
powers. I think you could make a compelling argument that, given the
events of the last couple of years, this treaty is more needed than it
was when I signed it at the United Nations three years ago. Nuclear
technology and know-how continue to spread. The risk that more and
more countries will obtain weapons that are nuclear is more serious
than ever.

I said yesterday -- I'd like to just stop here and go off the script.
I am very worried that the 21st century will see the proliferation of
nuclear and chemical and biological weapons; that those systems will
undergo a process of miniaturization, just as almost all other
technological events have led us to, in good ways and bad; and that we
will continue to see the mixing and blending of misconduct in the new
century by rogue states, angry countries and terrorist groups. It is,
therefore, essential that the United States stay in the
nonproliferation lead in a comprehensive way.

Now, if you look at what we're trying to do with the Biological
Weapons Convention, for example, in putting teeth in that while
increasing our own ability to protect our own people and protect our
friends who want to work with us from biological weaponry, you see a
good direction. If you look at what we did with the Chemical Weapons
Convention, working in good faith for months with the Congress to ask
the same question we're asking here -- are we better off with this, or
without it -- and how we added safeguard after safeguard after
safeguard, both generated out of the administration and generated from
leaders of both parties in the Congress, that's how we ought to look
at this.

But we have to ask ourselves just the same question they all
presented, because the nuclear threat is still the largest one, and
are we better off or not if we adopt this treaty?

I think we start with the fact that the best way to constrain the
danger of nuclear proliferation and, God forbid, the use of a nuclear
weapon, is to stop other countries from testing nuclear weapons.
That's what this test ban treaty will do. A vote, therefore, to ratify
is a vote to increase the protections of our people and the world from
nuclear war. By contrast, a vote against it risks a much more
dangerous future.

One of the interesting things -- I'll bet you that people in other
parts of the world, particularly those that have nuclear technology,
are watching the current debate with some measure of bewilderment. I
mean, today we enjoy unmatched influence, with peace and freedom
ascendant in the world, with enormous prosperity, enormous technical
advances. And by and large, on a bipartisan basis, we've done a pretty
good job of dealing with this unique moment in history.

We've seen the end of the Cold War making possible agreements to cut
U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals by more than 60 percent. We have
offered the Russians the opportunity of further cuts if they will
ratify START II. But we know the nuclear peril persists, and that
there's growing danger that these weapons could spread in the Middle
East, in the Persian Gulf, in Asia, to areas where our troops are

We know that they can be present in areas where there are intense
rivalries and, unlike at least the latter years of the Cold War, still
very much the possibility of misunderstanding between countries with
this capacity.

Now, let me say the reason I say that I think other countries will be
looking at this, one of the concerns that I have had all along is that
the countries we need to get involved in this -- India, Pakistan, all
the other countries will say, well, gosh, when we all get in this
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Americans have a big advantage
because they're spending $4.5 billion maintaining the integrity of
their nuclear stockpile. And I always thought that, too. And I think
that's a good thing because people around the world know we're not
going to abuse this responsibility we have.

But it is strange to me -- and I'm sure strange for people in foreign
capitals analyzing the debate going on in Washington -- there are
people against this treaty who somehow think we will be disadvantaged
by it. So instead, they propose to say, well, we -- they don't, any of
them, say we should start testing again. So the message of not
ratifying this treaty is, okay, we're not going to test, but you guys
have a green light.

Now, forgive my less than elevated language, but I think we've got to
put this down where everybody can get it. And I don't think we ought
to give a green light to our friends in India and Pakistan, to the
Chinese or the Russians or to people who would be nuclear powers. I
think that would be a mistake.

I think we ought to give them an outstretched hand and say, let us
show common restraint. And see this in the framework of our continuing
work with the Russians to secure their own nuclear materials, to
destroy nuclear weapons that are scheduled for destruction, and to
continue our effort to reduce the nuclear threat.

The argument, it seems to me, doesn't hold water, this argument that
somehow we would be better off, even though we're not going to start
testing again, to walk away from this treaty and give a green light to
all these other countries in the world.

Now, I sent this test ban treaty up to the Senate over two years ago.
For two years, the opponents of the treaty refused to hold any
hearings. Suddenly, they say, okay, you've got to vote up or down in a
week. Now, this is a tough fight without much time, and there are --
lots of technical arguments can be made to confuse the issue. But I
would like to just reiterate what has already been said by previous
speakers and make one other point.

There are basically three categories of arguments against the treaty.
Two have been dealt with. One is, well, this won't detect every test
that anybody could do at every level. And General Shalikashvili
addressed that. We will have censors all over the world that will
detect far more tests than will be detected if this treaty is not
ratified and does not enter into force. And our military have
repeatedly said that any test of a size that would present any kind of
credible threat to what we have to do to protect the American people
we would know about and we could respond in an appropriate and timely

The second argument is no matter what all these guys say, they can
find three scientists somewhere who will say -- or maybe 300, I don't
know -- that they just don't agree and maybe there is some scenario
under which the security and reliability of the nuclear deterrent in
America can be eroded. Well, I think that at some point, with all
these Nobel laureates and our laboratory heads and the others that
have endorsed this -- say what they say, you have to say, what is the
likelihood that America can maintain the security and reliability of
its nuclear deterrent, as compared with every other country, if they
come under the umbrella of this and the treaty enters into force?

The same people say that we ought to build a national missile defense,
notwithstanding the technological uncertainties, because our skill is
so much greater, we can always find a technological answer to
everything. And I would argue that our relative advantage in security
-- even if you have some smidgen of a doubt about the security and
reliability issue -- will be far greater if we get everybody under
this tent and we're all living under the same rules, than it will be
if we're all outside the tent.

Now, there's a third sort of grab-bag set of arguments against it --
and I don't mean to deprecate them. Some of them are actually quite
serious and substantial questions that have been raised about various
countries' activities in particular places, and other things. The
point I want to make about them is, go back and look at the process we
adopted in the Chemical Weapons Convention. Every single other
objection that has been raised, or question that has been raised, can
be dealt with by adding an appropriately-worded safeguard to this
treaty. It either falls within the six we've already offered and asked
for, or could be crafted in a careful negotiation as a result of a
serious process. So I do not believe that any of these things are
serious stumbling blocks to the profound argument that this is in our

Look, 154 countries have signed this treaty. Russia, China, Japan,
South Korea, Israel, Iran, all our NATO allies -- 51 have already
ratified, 11 of our NATO allies, including nuclear powers Britain and
France. But it can't go into effect unless the U.S. and the other
designated nations ratify it. And, once again, we need American
leadership to protect American interests and to advance the peace of
the world.

I say again, we're spending $4.5 billion a year to protect the
security and reliability of the nuclear stockpile. There is a reason
that Secretary Cohen and Secretary Richardson and our laboratory heads
believe that we can do this. Once again I say the U.S. stopped testing
in 1992. What in the world would prevent us from trying to have a
regime where we want other people to join us in stopping testing?

Let me just give one example. Last year, the nuclear tests by India
and Pakistan shook the world. After those tests occurred, they had a
serious confrontation along the line of control in Kashmir. I spent
our Independence Day, the 4th of July, meeting with the Pakistani
Prime Minister and his senior government officials in an intense
effort to try to help defuse the situation.

Now, both of these countries have indicated they will sign this
treaty. If our Senate defeats it, do you think they'll sign it? Do you
think they'll ratify it? Do you think for a minute that they will
forgo further tests if they believe that the leading force in the
world for nuclear nonproliferation has taken a u-turn? If our Senate
defeats the treaty, will it encourage the Russians, the Chinese and
others to refrain from trying to find and test new, more
sophisticated, more destructive nuclear weapons? Or will it give them
a green light?

Now, I said earlier we've been working with Congress on missile
defense to protect us from a nuclear attack should one ever come. I
support that work. And if we can develop a system we think will work,
we owe it to the American people to work with the Russians and others
to figure out a way to give our people the maximum protection. But our
first line of defense should be preventing countries from having those
weapons in the first place.

It would be the height of irresponsibility to rely on the last line of
defense; to say, we're not going to test, you guys test, and we're in
a race to get up a missile defense, and we sure hope it will work if
the wheels run off 30 or 40 years from now. This argument doesn't hold

People say, well, but somebody might cheat. Well, that's true,
somebody might cheat. Happens all the time, in all regimes. Question
is, are we more likely to catch them with the treaty, or without?

You all know -- and I am confident that people on the Hill have to
know -- that this test ban treaty will strengthen our ability to
determine whether or not nations are involved in weapons activities.
You've heard the 300 sensors mentioned. Let me tell you what that
means in practical terms. If this treaty goes into effect, there will
be 31 sensors in Russia, 11 in China, 17 in the Middle East alone, and
the remainder of the 300-plus in other critical places around the
world. If we can find cheating, because it's there, then we'll do
what's necessary to stop or counter it.

Let me again say I want to thank the former chairs of the Joint Chiefs
who have endorsed this. I want to thank the current Chair, and all the
Joint Chiefs, and the previous service chiefs who have been with us in
this: Lawrence Eagleburger, the Secretary of State under President
Bush; Paul Nitze, a top presidential advisor from Presidents Truman to
Reagan; former Senator Nancy Kassebaum-Baker, many Republicans and
Democrats who have dealt with this issue for years have stayed with
us. John Glenn, from Mercury to Discovery -- are you going up again,
John? -- has always been at the cutting edge of technology's promise.
But he's also flown fighter planes and seen war.

The Nobel laureates who are here -- Dr. Ramsey, Dr. Fitch, both part
of the Manhattan Project; Dr. Ramsey a young scientist, Dr. Fitch a
teenage soldier, witnessed the very first nuclear test 54 years ago in
the New Mexico desert. Their letter says, it is imperative --
underline "imperative" -- that the test ban treaty be ratified.

Let me just say one other thing. There may be a suggestion here that
our heart is overcoming our head and all that. I'd like to give you
one example that I think refutes that on another topic. One of the
biggest disappointments I've had as President, a bitter disappointment
for me, is that I could not sign in good conscience the treaty banning
land mines, because we have done more since I've been President to get
rid of land mines than any country in the world by far. We spend half
the money the world spends on de-mining. We have destroyed over a
million of our own mines.

I couldn't do it because the way the treaty was worded was unfair to
the United States and to our Korean allies in meeting our
responsibilities along the DMZ in South Korea, and because it outlawed
our anti-tank mines while leaving every other country intact. And I
thought it was unfair.

But it just killed me. But all of us who are in charge of the nation's
security engage our heads, as well as our hearts. Thinking and feeling
lead you to the conclusion that this treaty should be ratified.

Every single serious question that can be raised about this kind of
bomb, that kind of bomb, what this country has, what's going on here
and yonder -- every single one of them can be dealt with in the
safeguard structure that is normally a product of every serious treaty
deliberation in the United States Senate. And I say again, from the
time of President Eisenhower, the United States has led the world in
the cause of nonproliferation. We have new, serious proliferation
threats that our predecessors have not faced. And it is all the more
imperative that we do everything we possibly can to minimize the risks
our children will face.

That is what you were trying to do. I thank the senators who are here
with us today and pray that they can swell their ranks by next week.

Thank you very much.

(end transcript)