New York Times
October 8, 1999

A Treaty We All Need

By Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair, and Gerhard Schroeder

During the 1990's, the United States has made a vital contribution to arms control and nonproliferation. Thanks to the common resolve of the world's powers, we have achieved a substantial reduction in nuclear arsenals, the banning of chemical weapons, the indefinite and unconditional extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and, in 1996, the conclusion of negotiations on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. South Africa, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus have renounced nuclear weapons in the same spirit.

The decisions we take now will help determine, for generations to come, the safety of the world we bequeath to our children. As we look to the next century, our greatest concern is proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and chiefly nuclear proliferation. We have to face the stark truth that nuclear proliferation remains the major threat to world safety.

Failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty will be a failure in our struggle against proliferation. The stabilizing effect of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, extended in 1995, would be undermined. Disarmament negotiations would suffer.

Over half the countries that must ratify the new treaty to bring it into force have now done so. Britain, France and Germany ratified last year. All the political parties in our countries recognize that the treaty is strongly in our interests, whether we are nuclear powers or not. It enhances our security and is verifiable.

The treaty is an additional barrier against proliferation of nuclear weapons. Unless proliferators are able to test their devices, they can never be sure that any new weapon they design or build is safe and will work.

Congress realized this in 1992 when it compelled the United States Presidential Administration to seek the conclusion of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by 1996. It was a welcome move for the world's strongest power to show the way.

The treaty is effectively verifiable. We need have no fear of the risk of cheating. We will not be relying on the good will of a rogue state to allow inspectors onto its territory. Under the treaty, a global network of stations is being set up, using four different technologies to identify nuclear tests. The system is already being put in place. We know it will work.

Opponents of the treaty claim that, without testing, it will not be possible to guarantee the continuing safety and reliability of nuclear weapons. All nuclear powers, including the United States, Britain and France, examined this issue carefully. All reached the same conclusion. With the right investment and modern technology, the necessary assurance of safety and reliability can be maintained without further nuclear tests.

Rejection of the treaty in the Senate would remove the pressure from other states still hesitating about whether to ratify it. Rejection would give great encouragement to proliferators. Rejection would also expose a fundamental divergence within NATO.

The United States and its allies have worked side by side for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty since the days of President Eisenhower. This goal is now within our grasp. Our security is involved, as well as America's. For the security of the world we will leave to our children, we urge the United States Senate to ratify the treaty.

Jacques Chirac is the President of France. Tony Blair is the Prime Minister of Britain. Gerhard Schroder is the Chancellor of Germany.