USIS Washington File

06 October 1999

Defense Secretary Cohen Urges Congress to Send Signal on Nonproliferation

(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

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

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 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 express our common
and shared goal here. Nobody is for nuclear proliferation."