USIS Washington File

17 February 2000

U.S. Administration Continues to Back Test Ban Treaty

(Officials trying to build consensus for ratification) (1320)
By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

New York -- The Clinton administration's senior arms control official
said February 16 that the Executive Branch is committed to the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and has embarked on a plan to
build a consensus in the Senate that will lead to its ratification.

John Holum, senior adviser for arms control and international
security, said that the administration does not expect the CTBT to
face a Senate vote in 2000, but hopes "to make real progress on
correcting misperceptions" that arose during the Senate debate in late
1999 and explain "how the CTBT supports our larger national security

His appearance before the Foreign Policy Association in New York City
was part of his year-long mission to "to discuss these issues with as
many senators and other interested Americans as I can," Holum said.

The CTBT has been signed by 155 states, including the United States,
and ratified by 52. But it cannot enter into force until it has been
ratified by 44 states named in the treaty that have nuclear power or
research reactors. While twenty-six of those 44 have now ratified, the
U.S. Senate declined to give its advice and consent to the treaty when
it came up for a vote in 1999. India and Pakistan, both named in the
treaty, have not signed.

The U.S. has observed a voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing since
September, 1992.

Holum said that he believes that the U.S. will eventually ratify the
CTBT "and see it enter into force."

"As President Clinton said, 'the Senate has taken us on a detour, but
America eventually always returns to the main road and we will do so
again,'" he added.

When the CTBT was sent to the Senate it was "largely ignored for two
years," Holum said. "Then we had a few days of hearings, an
abbreviated floor debate, and a vote in barely two weeks time.

"That was not enough for something so complex, so controversial, and
so consequential. Many senators who voted 'no' would have preferred
more time -- indeed, 62 senators sponsored a resolution to that
effect. We want to take them up on that," he said.

Holum said that the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
General John Shalikashvili, will be helping the administration work
with the Senate to answer questions on the CTBT relationship to
national security issues. He added that the administration has also
established an interagency CTBT Task Force with the diplomatic,
military, scientific, and technical experts to answer questions and
help build support for ratification.

"I doubt that you will hear much about this on the evening news. So
much the better," he said. "For if senators are willing to engage with
us on these vital issues in a low-key, non-partisan manner, our hope
is that more and more of them will embrace the treaty -- and our other
arms control efforts -- not as Democrats or Republicans, but as
thoughtful Americans."

Holum, who was the director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament
Agency (ACDA) before it merged into the Department of State, said that
he hopes the national dialogue will help rebuild a bipartisan
consensus, dating back to the 1950s, that arms control is a vital US
national security mission.

"We have demonstrated in one hard-won agreement after another that
when we control arms, we control our fate...buttress our freedom and
prosperity...make ourselves at once more civilized and more secure,"
he said.

In the meantime, Holum said, "President Clinton has made clear that
the United States remains committed to the Comprehensive Test Ban. We
will support the international monitoring system and continue urging
other countries to ratify."

A ban on nuclear testing essentially rules out a renewed nuclear arms
race between the United States and Russia, Holum said. Without testing
nuclear weapons states "will not be able to confidently develop
advanced nuclear weapons. Without testing there is no way to be sure a
new weapon will function as designed, as intended," he added.

The CTBT also "reinforces the U.S. -Russian strategic arms reductions
process" by reaffirming that neither the U.S. nor Russia is making
significant, qualitative improvements in its arsenal and thereby
fosters a stable environment for further reductions, Holum said.

The CTBT can also "help head off a nuclear arms race in South Asia,"
Holum said, observing that it is not easy to ask India and Pakistan to
give up a legal right to test while the U.S. retains it.

The absence of a ratified CTBT affects the ability of the United
States to lead on disarmament issues, the senior adviser said.

"The United States, I venture to say, is more active in the battle
against proliferation than any other country in the world. If we
cannot follow through on a commitment on testing we will be less able
to persuade others to support strong agreements against
proliferation," Holum said.

Saying that the CTBT "is not a panacea" for stopping nuclear
proliferation, Holum stressed that it is, nevertheless, "a valuable
component of our overall strategy against proliferation. "

"Even if some states test with total disregard to global arms control
agreements, the CTBT helps alert the international community and helps
unite it for an effective response," Holum said.

Holum said that Senate opposition to the treaty fell into two broad
categories: the U.S. cannot maintain its nuclear deterrent without
testing its current stockpiles and the treaty cannot be effectively

Going over several of the arguments in favor of the treaty, Holum
pointed out that the CTBT permits "stockpile stewardship" activities
such as visual inspection, non-nuclear tests, subcritical experiments,
and computer simulations. The U.S. stockpile stewardship program also
includes activities to remanufacture or replace and certify aging
weapons components, and train new scientists.

The issue over stockpile stewardship "really boils down to this:
Should we assume failure, despite all evidence to the contrary, and
pay a huge price in terms of our global leadership against the spread
of nuclear weapons? Or should we expect success and reap the benefits
of this treaty now, knowing that if our expectations do not prove out
at some point in the future, we can always withdraw then and do
whatever is necessary to protect our security?" Holum asked.

On the verifiability of the treaty, Holum said that the CTBT
"dramatically improves what we can detect."

The treaty "creates an unprecedented international monitoring system
of some 321 sensors throughout the world -- including 31 in Russia, 11
in China, and 17 in the Middle East," he pointed out. "Some stations
are in places where the United States cannot gain access on its own."

The CTBT also "provides an entirely new capability -- on-site
challenge inspections," he added. "If the international system or our
own capabilities reveal suspicious behavior, the issue can be resolved
by going to the site."

And the burden of the monitoring will be assumed by all signatories to
the treaty, Holum added.

A very small test might escape detection but the standard of foolproof
verification goes far beyond what has been required for any other arms
control accord, he said. Arguments against the CTBT verification
regime "fail to weigh the risk to national security of undetected
cheating against the danger to national security of unconstrained

"That is why we concluded that the CTBT is effectively verifiable,"
Holum said. "Using national technical means and the IMS (International
Monitoring System) we will be able to feel, see, hear or sniff any
nuclear explosions of sufficient size to make a difference to our
security. We will be able to assess whether the treaty is constraining
nuclear proliferation and deterring nuclear explosions."

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