THE HARTFORD COURANT|
October 5, 1997
BAN ALL NUCLEAR TESTS
Banning all nuclear tests should not be controversial. After all, polls show
overwhelming public support for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty, which President Clinton signed last year and sent to the Senate last
But the Republican-dominated Senate is marching to a different drummer. When
Senate debate on the treaty begins later this month, count on Jesse Helms of
North Carolina, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and many of his
colleagues to fight vigorously against ratification. These senators rarely see
an international treaty they like. They would rather have America connected
with the world mostly through its military prowess.
All presidents since Dwight D. Eisenhower, with the exception of Ronald
Reagan and George W. Bush, have supported a comprehensive test ban teaty. Even
Mr. Bush signed legislation approving a moratorium on U.S. nuclear testing.
The treaty before the Senate has been signed by the leaders of 146 nations.
Mr. Clinton was the first head of government to do so. But it will go into
effect only after ratification by 44 "nuclear-capable" nations.
One thing is certain: The world will not be a safer place if the Senate
rejects the treaty.
Opponents of ratification claim that the treaty would not stop the nuclear
proliferation. It would be impossible to verify a total ban of testing, they
also contend. And, they assert, the reliability of nuclear stockpiles could not
be assured without testing. Their concerns are legitimate, but also refutable.
* Proliferation may be impossible to stop, but the treaty would make it much
more difficult for governments aspiring to develop nuclear capability to do so.
They would be faced with a formidable task of building, undetected,
sophisticated weapons that can be delivered by ballistic missiles.
* Verification of small, "low-yield" nuclear explosions would be difficult
but not impossible. Experts estimate that those tests are verifiable 95 percent
of the time, meaning that violators would run a great risk of being caught and
punished. As for the 5 percent or so of tests that might escape detection, they
would contribute little to technical knowledge. Mr. Clinton is convinced that
America has the means to make the comprehensive nuclear test ban effectively
* Reliability and safety of existing nuclear stockpiles can be maintained
under the treaty, according to a wide spectrum of scientists. Tests on warheads
and missiles are already being conducted successfully -- without nuclear
Scarcely anyone would argue that discouraging the development of new nuclear
weapons and curbing nuclear proliferation would be harmful to peace and
stability. Underground tests have cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars and
have vented radiocative gases into the atmosphere.
The proposed comprehensive test ban would complement existing treaties
banning testing in the air, on the ground and over water. All that remains is to
ban the tests underground. A de facto international ban on underground testing
has been in force for several years without harm to U.S. security. The treaty
would make the ban permanent.
There is little to lose and much to gain from ratifying the treaty.