06 October 1999
(Says failure to ratify CTBT would boost arms race) (1080) By Susan Ellis Department of State Washington File Writer Washington -- If the U.S. Congress rejects ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Defense Secretary Cohen told the Senate Armed Services Committee October 6, "it will send a signal to other countries that we are no longer committed with the same enthusiasm we've had for (nuclear) nonproliferation. It will give them an excuse to find ways to either test or acquire weapons." He was replying to Senator Max Cleland (Democrat of Georgia), who commented that while "rogue nations of the world will go their own way...there are other nations that are sitting on the fence watching the action of the United States Senate in this regard." Cohen responded that although some nations may try to acquire nuclear weapons regardless of the U.S. action on CTBT, U.S. ratification of the treaty "certainly would have an inhibiting effect upon those who would seek to acquire the weapons by developing them and testing them....I think that if we reject it, that certainly will be seized upon by those who are watching and waiting." Cleland referred to the bipartisan nature of the debate by citing the 1992 action of Republican President George Bush in ending nuclear testing and the development of advanced nuclear weapons. He said, "That is the mode under which we're proceeding at this point. We're following the guidelines set down by President Bush, having sensed that our role as a world leader in the nonproliferation field was equally or more important than the conducting of some tests." Cohen, a Republican and former Senator from Maine, recalled that the Senate had passed legislation that imposed a one-year moratorium, adding that he was "opposed to having a unilateral moratorium unless it was connected to a test ban treaty and was linked to negotiating that Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty." The Clinton administration has carried through the Bush administration's restraint not to test, Cohen said, and its actions have been consistent with the spirit and intention of its signing of the CTBT. By that signing, he said, "We are, in fact, committed not to test or undermine the goal of stopping nuclear testing." President Clinton signed the test ban treaty in 1996. It would ban all weapons tests that produce a nuclear chain reaction and establish an international monitoring system to measure seismic activity and other indications of testing. Although 154 nations have signed the treaty, only 47 have ratified it. Some of the nations that the Clinton administration is most concerned about have indicated they are waiting for the United States to act. "India has indicated it would like to sign the treaty," Cohen said, although the decision is connected to its relationship with Pakistan. "I believe that, should the United States go forward and ratify this, it would certainly put pressure upon both the Indians and the Pakistanis to not only sign it but to ratify it." One major objection to the treaty by Republicans has been that the U.S. inventory of nuclear weapons will deteriorate without adequate testing. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Henry Shelton, said the CTBT "with the safeguards package, has the full support of the joint chiefs and that is based on the current intelligence estimates and the Department of Energy's projection for the Stockpile Stewardship Program. This combination provides for our national security interests by helping to reduce the spread of nuclear weapons while ensuring that we retain a strong nuclear deterrent." (The SSP is a program that, according to the administration, uses superior technology to ensure the reliability of U.S. weapons without testing.) Shelton said the treaty will help limit the development of more advanced and destructive weapons and inhibit the ability of countries to acquire nuclear weapons. "It's true that the treaty cannot prevent proliferation or reduce the current inventories," Shelton said, "but it can restrict nuclear weapons progress and reduce the risk of proliferation." The Stockpile Stewardship Program is a critical component of the total package, he said, adding, "It must deliver and it must be given the money, management, and support necessary for it to do so." Committee Chairman Senator John Warner (Republican of Virginia) said that while the treaty leaves the United States the option of pulling out if something goes wrong, "Where would that leave the rest of the world that followed the great leader and abstained from any participating...in protecting their own self interest as a nation?" He argued for a "deep pause" before approving the treaty. Cohen countered that "we should make the choice that we can reliably count on our scientific community. If it turns out we can't, we have that option to pull out. Given the fact that there would be negative consequences to it, but no more negative, I think, than would flow from a rejection of the treaty." To another criticism of the treaty, that it is impossible to verify, Shelton said the treaty "augments our ability to effectively monitor nuclear testing and allows an intrusive on-site inspection to resolve suspicious activity. In short, the world will be a safer place with the treaty than without it." Cohen agreed that the United States must seek effective verification. Senator Joseph Lieberman (Democrat of Connecticut) said that while there are some risks involved, "there are greater risks in not going ahead with the treaty. The benefits greatly outweigh the risks, and whatever risks there are we can afford to take because we're strong. You can take risks for peace when you're strong." He said that in his opinion the votes are not sufficient at present to ratify the treaty that is due to be voted on next week. "There is a majority in the Senate that favors ratification, but not the necessary two-thirds," he said. Lieberman added that he believes it is in the national interest "not to go forward and call the roll and freeze people into a position that is central not only to our national security but to our relations with our allies and countries around the world." He said he hoped the vote would be put off in order to "create a process in which we can work together to see whether we can find a method...to express our common and shared goal here. Nobody is for nuclear proliferation."