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07 October 1999

 
  

Byliner: Senate Shouldn't Delay Passing Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty

By Madeleine K. Albright (750)

(Madeleine K. Albright is the Secretary of State. This column first
appeared in The Chicago Tribune October 7 and is in the public domain,
no copyright restrictions.)

Three years ago last month, President Clinton became the first world
leader to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Since then, 153
other world leaders have followed suit. Fifty-one nations, including
most of our allies, have ratified the treaty.

Almost two years after the treaty was submitted to Congress for
ratification, the Senate began hearings Wednesday. Senators will focus
on the concrete benefits this treaty brings the United States. And
when they do so, they should conclude that the treaty is an unalloyed
benefit for America's national security and an important tool in
blocking the threat of nuclear proliferation.

The simple truth is that because the U.S. has the world's most
advanced nuclear capabilities, we have much to gain from freezing the
picture by ending explosive testing forever. We already have the
expertise gained from more than a thousand tests of our own. We have
the ability to maintain a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent without
further explosive tests. Indeed, we have not tested since 1992 -- when
Republicans and Democrats in Congress together enacted a national
moratorium.

We don't need explosive testing. Only would-be proliferators, rogue
states and terrorist groups do. And there is no good reason to let
them have it.

There are those who say the treaty is too risky because some countries
might cheat. But what exactly would we be risking? With no treaty
other countries can test without cheating, and without limits. The
treaty will improve our ability to deter and detect clandestine
nuclear-weapons activity. It will provide a global network of more
than 300 sensors, and it commits every signatory to accept intrusive
monitoring. The more countries that support and participate in the
treaty, the harder it will be for others to cheat and the higher price
they will pay if they do.

Of course, signatures on a piece of paper cannot by themselves end the
threat of nuclear attack. We cannot rely on a treaty as our sole means
of defense. But we know that strong global rules against proliferation
make a difference. Those norms helped persuade countries from
Argentina to Ukraine not to go nuclear. They rallied a global response
when India and Pakistan defied international public opinion by
testing.

The treaty is the capstone of that legal framework. And as long as the
United States fails to ratify the treaty, we cannot insist that India
and Pakistan -- or Russia and China -- play by its rules. What is
more, we are excluded from discussions about the treaty's future.

Around the world we face dangerous possibilities for proliferation
that make it more important than ever to put explosive testing out of
bounds for good. Imagine a nuclear standoff in the Persian Gulf or one
involving a terrorist group with nuclear materials. If we reject this
treaty we are telling the world -- terrorists, rogue states, regional
rivals -- that nuclear weapons testing and technology are not just
acceptable but essential. And that can only harm America's security.

We have the technical capability we need to monitor other nations'
nuclear programs. The treaty would give us means for new intrusive
monitoring around the world. And it will ensure a strong global
response if tests ever do take place.

We have everything we ought to need to make this a simple,
non-partisan, non- controversial vote. The treaty has the support of
the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his distinguished
predecessors John Shalikashvili, Colin Powell, William Crowe and David
Jones. The heads of America's nuclear weapons laboratories support it,
as do many of the physicists who developed our nuclear deterrent.

And almost as long as there have been nuclear explosions, a test-ban
treaty has been popular with Americans and sought by ordinary people
everywhere.

People around the world do not want to live in a world in which
nuclear testing is business as usual. They do not care for the threat
of radiation in their air and water or in their children's bones. They
do not want to make it easy or acceptable for nuclear weapons to
spread further.

I urge the Senate to recognize that this universal wish is a sensible
safeguard for our security

(Madeleine K. Albright is the U.S. Secretary of State.)