The Denver Post
January 22, 1998


Colorado's U.S. Sens. Wayne Allard and Ben Nighthorse Campbell should support the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, both because it's the right thing to do and because most Colorado voters appear to favor the pact.

Achieving a nuclear weapons test ban has been a bipartisan priority since President Dwight Eisenhower's administration.

While a 1964 international pact already bars nuclear explosions above ground, the new Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would prohibit all atomic explosions, including those conducted underground. The pact also sets up procedures to monitor for violations by allowing international teams to look for non-natural seismic activity and for telltale gases released during atomic explosions.

The test-ban pact has been signed by more than 148 nations, including Russia and China.

What the treaty does not do, however, is end nuclear weapons experiments in laboratories. How much lab testing is needed to maintain the safety of the existing atomic arsenal, and how much money the federal government must spend doing so, are enormous issues that will be debated soon.

For now, though, the most crucial goal is to get the Senate to approve the pact. Unlike an earlier compact outlawing chemical weapons, the nuclear test ban doesn't require ratification by a set deadline - so the Senate may be tempted to delay taking action. But any foot-dragging would be a terrible mistake, because it would undermine U.S. efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons worldwide.

It's thus crucial for moderate Republicans such as Allard and Campbell to back the treaty. Neither senator has taken a stand on this accord; both say they want more information before making a decision. However, in the past Campbell has supported enforceable non-proliferation policies.

That position appears to reflect the view of his constituents. A December survey by a national polling firm found 77 percent of Colorado voters support the treaty, while only 14 percent oppose it and 9 percent don't know. The high approval ratings cut across every demographic group and geographic sector. Even 65 percent of voters who call themselves conservative support the pact.

The Colorado results are consistent with national polls that also show the accord has overwhelming public backing.

Voters should encourage both Colorado senators to support the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. By itself, the pact won't solve the entire riddle of how to cope with atomic arms in the modern world, but it certainly represents an important step toward crafting workable long-term solutions.