Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing






Secretary Albright's Letter to Members of the Senate on Ratification of CTBT


Secretary Albright to Testify Before Senate Foreign Relations Committee 10/7/99


Secretary Albright's Contacts with Senators, Former Secretaries of State, and Others


Prospects for Ratification of the CTBT/Compressed Timeframe/Non-Ratification


US Position on Testing Moratorium




DPB # 127
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 6, 1999 12:45 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. Sorry for the short delay. It happens. Today is Wednesday. Two announcements. First of all, Secretary Albright has sent a letter to all Members of the Senate urging their support for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban. The letters were sent yesterday. It goes through the reasons why this treaty is in the interest of the United States and why failure to ratify this treaty could harm our efforts to promote nonproliferation around the world. We will be providing a copy of that letter to you after the briefing.

Secondly, on the subject of Georgia we have a statement welcoming Georgia's accession to the World Trade Organization. That is, the country of Georgia.

With those announcements, let me turn to those questions you haven't yet asked.

QUESTION: Will, the letter I'm sure will take care of any questions about the perils that the underground test ban treaty faces.

MR. RUBIN: I don't mind taking additional questions.

QUESTION: Well, if I had the letter I could ask the questions but I don't have the letter so it's hard to --

MR. RUBIN: You could imagine. You could imagine. You've pressed on things with less knowledge before.

QUESTION: No, no, but this is - yeah, but as we both have known from our past, arms control is a technical and difficult thing. Is there any - I guess the best way to put it without having seen the letter, is there any room for bargaining? Is there any acceptance by the Administration of some of the arguments made by the critics of the treaty? Is there any disposition to fine-tune it in a way that might just squeeze it through, or are you going to stick to principle? Are you going to stick to the treaty?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say that we certainly agree with those Senators who have said that the treaty isn't perfectly verifiable. We've never claimed it was perfectly verifiable. We've said that with the treaty we'll have a lot more knowledge about what goes on in the world than without it. We certainly agree with those who expressed concern that we ought to maintain a nuclear deterrent and have that deterrent be safe and reliable, and there are conditions attached to our proposal for the treaty that would ensure that we would be in a position to act if it was determined that our weapons were not safe and reliable.

So we, after all this time, have given a great deal of thought to many of the legitimate questions. We think we have developed proposals that answer the legitimate questions. For those who adopt the view that we, the United States, should stop testing and continue our moratorium but somehow not sign this treaty, we don't know how to counter that argument because that strikes us as unilateral nuclear disarmament. We should somehow keep a moratorium but not have a treaty that will lock in the international rule of the road against testing for countries like China, Russia, North Korea, India and Pakistan and we have certainly tried to counter as responsibly as we can most of the legitimate criticisms. But if you want to say that the United States shouldn't test but I just don't like arms control treaties and we shouldn't ratify this treaty, there is no way to counter that argument.

With respect to the schedule, I think Joe Lockhart spoke to this this morning. We have to operate on the assumption that this treaty is going to be voted on next Tuesday. Secretary Albright is flying back today to prepare for her testimony tomorrow - I believe it is scheduled for 2:30 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - and she is preparing for that and planning to return from her trip for that purpose.

As far as whether some arrangement might be made, we have said for some time that we have profound concerns that a treaty as important as the CTB, the Comprehensive Test Ban, is not being given the due consideration it deserves with serious analysis, serious discussion, serious consideration of the numerous issues that it involves.

QUESTION: You've covered this and I won't take time of you, but has she done any lobbying with individual senators of late? I know the President has but I haven't heard if -

MR. RUBIN: Yes, she has called a number of senators over the last two days. She has also worked with a number of former secretaries including Secretary Eagleburger, Secretary Baker, Howard Baker, and others who we think may be influential with senators from both parties. So she has done a number of phone calls from the road and will continue to do that as needed.

QUESTION: Do you see any signs that your campaign in favor of the CTBT is making any headway, is cutting any ice with the Republican senators?

MR. RUBIN: We know this is an uphill battle. I think we've not expressed any doubt about saying that. This is an extremely difficult challenge on a short time frame to explain in detail the issues related to reliability of the stockpile, seismic monitoring, the Central Intelligence Agency's ability to determine what testing may go on in the world, the on-site inspections that are permitted, the monitoring stations, 300 or so that would be placed around the world to seek to verify testing.

So these are all complicated issues. We still regard this as an uphill battle. But we believe that a failure to ratify this treaty will make it harder and harder for us to pressure other countries not to test. I can't remember - I can't even count how many times members of Congress and others have legitimately asked what is the United States doing to stop India from going down the nuclear road, to prevent North Korea from becoming nuclear and to ensure that China doesn't develop a whole new generation of modern nuclear weapons.

These are the concerns that we have shared that are out there that this treaty is designed to advance, and failure to ratify will harm our ability to stop China from developing a new generation of nuclear weapons; it will harm our ability to stop and pressure India and Pakistan to not go down the nuclear road, not just with respect to the CTBT but with respect to a whole number of other steps. So we continue to make the case. We certainly hope that senators are beginning to see that if this treaty is voted down our credibility on the world stage to deter and pressure other countries not to go nuclear will be seriously weakened.

QUESTION: In her conversations and all, does she sense any momentum in the Administration's direction? Has anybody converted anybody who was again saying - having second thoughts, without naming names?

MR. RUBIN: We certainly have detected a sense among some senators who were not presumed supporters of this treaty that they are worried about the consequences of the treaty not being ratified. But whether that is leading to a positive vote is a different question.

QUESTION: Could I jump in here? You said you're worried about the consequences. Are you referring to the political domestic consequences or the --

MR. RUBIN: The international consequences. Normally those senators don't tell the Secretary of State what's happening in their home state.

QUESTION: Sometimes they give it away.

MR. RUBIN: And certainly if they would, I would give it away.

QUESTION: Does the Administration take any position on whether the vote should be deferred beyond this Congress?

MR. RUBIN: What I have said - and I'll be happy to repeat here for you - is that we've always been concerned about the compressed time frame. We have never liked the compressed time frame. We have always worried that the compressed time frame would not allow the treaty to be given the consideration of a major arms control treaty, which if you look back - whether it's starting with the Limited Test Ban Treaty, the ABM Treaty, SALT I, SALT II, START I, START II, the CFE Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention - all of those treaties have received full and extensive consideration by the Senate - and if you want to throw me a bone for knowing the names of all those treaties at any time, I'd welcome it.

But this is the first of these major treaties that hasn't received that consideration so, from the beginning we've said we're worried about it. But this is the schedule. We don't make the Senate schedule. I've worked there and the Senate makes its own schedule. It's not the Administration that can determine the Senate's schedule.

So we expect there to continue to be discussions between the White House and the Senate about timing and consideration but, from our standpoint here at the State Department and from Secretary Albright's standpoint, we are continuing to make the case for the treaty and explain the dangers of failure to ratify the treaty.

QUESTION: There does seem to be a movement by both opponents and proponents of the treaty to perhaps put off such a vote. What do you think are the consequences of just maintaining the status quo, putting it off, as opposed to actually voting it down?

MR. RUBIN: We think, obviously, the worst outcome would be to vote this treaty down. There is no question in our mind about that. We did not propose this particular schedule for Senate consideration so if the Senate wants to propose another schedule we would obviously want to be supportive of a schedule that ensured serious consideration, serious analysis, in a timely manner.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea how the letters came as a result of the personal contacts between the Secretary and senators?

MR. RUBIN: The idea of her sending a letter?


MR. RUBIN: I think it came from her sense as the week developed that she needed to make clear to all the senators concerned that, as Secretary of State, she is in a position to tell senators what the foreign policy consequences of a treaty are, both positive and negative, and she felt now that the Senate was moving towards the beginnings of serious consideration that they ought to know her views.

QUESTION: Could I draw on that? You keep referring to failure to ratify as a possible outcome. In a briefing last week, Mr. Holum told some of us that if it were not ratified in this vote there was always a possibility of coming back with it again and again until you get the votes.

Is that not right?

MR. RUBIN: First of all, if Mr. Holum said it I'm sure it's right. I don't see the relevance of that. I don't see the relevance of that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) this vote -- (inaudible)?

MR. RUBIN: I know that one can begin to speculate on what the effect of a negative vote might be. But, certainly, if this were voted down, it would be the first major arms control treaty voted down by the United States Senate in the modern era and I don't think one should begin to minimize those consequences.

What might happen after that, I'm not prepared to speculate. We certainly hope that doesn't happen.

QUESTION: So you are not prepared to say, and I could understand why you might not be, whether the US would think the lesser of two evils is to continue a moratorium? Obviously, you're not going to start testing again?

MR. RUBIN: The President has made clear that so long as the Stockpile Stewardship Program ensures the safety and reliability of our weapons, we see no need to test and we certainly don't want to do anything that will give other countries additional excuses to restart their testing programs or to begin testing. So that would certainly be our view.

But let's remember that while in this country treaties may be tools that are questioned and are deemed of danger or dubious value, in most parts of the world the treaty as an instrument of international diplomacy, gets a much bigger support, and so for some countries in the world, the fact that there is a treaty really does become a deterrent because they don't want to be out of the treaty regime. We're the United States and sometimes for our own reasons we explain why we can be outside of a treaty regime because we are taking other steps.

But let's remember that for many countries in the world, they would like to test, probably. There are a number of reasons why they haven't yet. One of them is they don't have the access. Another might be that they decided that the downsides of testing outweigh the upsides.

This treaty is one of the ways in which other countries make their calculation. When I say that, the critics of the treaty immediately say, oh, that's naïve to think they would not test because of a treaty. I am not saying that they wouldn't test because of a treaty; but the fact of a treaty is one of many factors that go into their decision-making and to remove that factor would be ill-advised in the extreme.



(The briefing was concluded at 1:34 P.M.)


[end of document]