Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
October 6, 1997

Let Senate finally ratify Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty


It was just about a year ago that President Clinton signed a treaty that will help prevent other countries from devising the kind of nuclear weapons that could imperil the safety not only of the United States, but of the whole world. Now it's up to the Senate to do its part.

At issue is the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a document that builds and improves on two major predecessor agreements: the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty that prohibits nuclear tests in the atmosphere, and the 1974 Threshold Test Ban Treaty, which outlaws large nuclear tests conducted underground.

The CTB bans all nuclear test explosions, no matter where or how small. Clinton signed the treaty Sept. 24, 1996. A few days ago, he urged the Senate to ratify the agreement. Congressional hearings are scheduled to begin in a few weeks.

To verify compliance with this ambitious treaty, an elaborate network of monitoring stations would be established, and inspections of suspected test sites would be authorized. Nations such as the U.S. would also be able to use their own technical means to detect cheating.

In spite of this monitoring network, a rogue nation might be able to make a few small tests in secret. But such explosions would not be enough to permit a country to build a nuclear arsenal. For that, a series of experimental tests would almost certainly be necessary.

That's why a test ban would curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons to countries that do not possess them now, thus making the world, including the U.S., a little safer. Countries that cannot test weapons cannot develop them.

But our own country's existing weapons stockpiles would not be affected. The administration's support of the treaty reflects the Defense Department's confidence that the reliability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent can be assured by such things as computer modeling.

Every president since Dwight Eisenhower has tried to achieve a comprehensive ban on nuclear tests. Now, that goal is within our grasp. The Senate should move promptly to see that the job is finished.