January 22, 1998


Remarks to the Business Executives
for National Security, and the
New York Academy of Sciences
New York City

After working so closely with BENS, and seeing your membership as one of America's great common sense constituencies, I regard every BENS invitation as a command performance. I am delighted to be here. I am also deeply grateful to the New York Academy of Sciences for cosponsoring this event, and for your leadership on so many issues.

I'll be perfectly candid: I will be looking to all of you for guidance and support again before the year is out. For there are more challenges on the horizon.

* * * *

1997 was a full year for arms control. With the help of a powerful push from BENS, the Senate ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention so the United States could be an original party. In November, Russia also ratified, joining China, India, Pakistan, Cuba, and many others, a total of 106 members.

In strategic arms, in Helsinki, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin sketched a vision for further deep reductions on nuclear weapons and for new kinds of controls, once START II is in force. In September, we formally agreed on extension of the START II timetable and on early deactivation of covered weapons. And after nearly four years of negotiation, we finally agreed with Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus on succession under the ABM Treaty, and on the demarcation between prohibited strategic defenses and permitted theater ones.

It was both a productive and a painful year on antipersonnel landmines. Though the U.S. has led international efforts to control long-lived, nondetectable mines, we could not find a way consistent with our security responsibilities to sign the Ottawa Convention. At the same time the United States leads the world in removing the immediate humanitarian threat -- more than 100 million mines already in the ground in some 60 countries. The President recently ordered that our demining funds be tripled over 3 years.

In the midst of this, we also negotiated and then worked out most of the details for a new governmental structure for arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament. That has required enormous extra effort from, and inflicted a great deal of uncertainty on, our staff in both ACDA and State. If you like the "walk and chew gum at the same time" metaphor, we have been trying our best to show how simultaneously to pole vault and prepare a seven-course gourmet meal. To make matters worse, because Congress still has to authorize our merger, we're trying to accomplish all that while suspended in mid-air.

* * * *

1998 will be every bit as challenging. I hope we will be allowed to implement our integration into the Department of State.

We are deeply engaged in the hard work of implementing START I, encouraging Russia to ratify START II, and setting the stage for START III. Russia's decision on START II ratification is profoundly important -- whether you consider the consequences in stalled disarmament and the risk to our wider relationship if it fails, or the new opportunities for deeper cuts, dramatic savings, greater security and broader cooperation if it succeeds. When START II is operational we'll be right back at the table to negotiate deeper cuts -- down to 80 percent below Cold War peaks -- and, for the first time, direct constraints not only on delivery systems but on nuclear bombs and warheads themselves.

We will also intensify our efforts against the mounting danger that weapons of mass destruction will fall into the wrong hands. Memories of poison gas in Tokyo' s subways ... the specter of Iran's missile ambitions ... Iraq's perpetual efforts to conceal nuclear, chemical and biological programs -- all these are warning enough. These are immediate dangers to our troops abroad and civilians at home. The American people have a right to expect unflagging efforts against them. So we need to strictly enforce the international standards we have -- and build stronger ones where they are needed.

That will include, in particular, intensified efforts on a significant gap in coverage. Humanity has labored for centuries to banish such diseases as plague, anthrax and botulism. Saddam Hussein and a number of others are engaged in perverse efforts to preserve and multiply those same deadly organisms for use as weapons of terror and war. The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention is a thin reed, depending heavily on voluntary reporting and compliance. It needs teeth, and this year we'll be working very hard to supply them.

* * * *

One reason why all this endeavor is fulfilling is that it works. It adds tangibly to our security. Today missiles and bombers are being sliced apart. Chemical weapon stockpiles are being declared and destroyed. And in Iraq, UNSCOM has wiped out more weapons of mass destruction than all the bombs, artillery and other explosive force that landed on that country in the Gulf War. This truly is, as former Defense Secretary Bill Perry used to say, "defense by other means."

* * * *

But there is one item on this broad 1998 agenda that I want to concentrate on today, because it is a top priority of President Clinton and an historic opportunity for the United States. That is the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty now pending in the U.S. Senate.

Fifty-two years ago, near Alamogordo, New Mexico, the first nuclear explosion turned desert sand to glass. Since then, nearly 2,000 more such nuclear test explosions have been detonated -- more than 1,000 by the United States, some 700 by the Soviet Union and Russia, China's reported 41, others by the U.K. and France, and one by India. Three-quarters of those tests were underground.

All these tests led to the development of dozens of different types of nuclear weapons with varying explosive yields, with different combinations of blast, radiation, and thermal effects. They were designed for delivery by aircraft, missiles, and artillery; to explode in the atmosphere, underground, or underwater. They can destroy missile silos, fleets of ships at sea, tank formations, command and control capabilities, and, of course, cities, and millions of people.

A regular goal of testing was to make weapons more efficient -- a bigger bang and taller mushroom cloud in a smaller, lighter package. Success in that opened new technical avenues, including multiple independently-targetable re-entry vehicles, or MIRVs, allowing a single missile to strike multiple targets many miles apart. This, coupled with improvements in accuracy and maneuverability, led to the geometric growth of stockpiles, and warfighting plans employing literally thousands of warheads and bombs.

Still, American leaders, beginning with President Eisenhower, understood the peril inherent in nuclear weapons and sought ways to rein them in.

Some thirty-five years ago, President Kennedy warned of a "[n]uclear sword of Damocles," hanging by the slenderest of threads. He argued that such weapons must be abolished ... the logical place to begin is a treaty assuring the end of nuclear tests of all kinds. ..."

He did not succeed in that. Over four decades of arms control work, though, important progress was made:

  • The 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty ended testing in the atmosphere, underwater, and in space.

  • The 1974 Threshold Test Ban Treaty limited U.S. and Soviet underground nuclear weapons tests to 150 kilotons.

  • And, in 1976 the Threshold Ban limit was extended to what we now recognize as an oxymoronic term, "peaceful nuclear explosions," which were also confined to the 150 kiloton limit.

But nuclear explosive testing and further refinement of nuclear arsenals still proceeded.

Now, at last, the original goal is at hand. In 1993, President Clinton directed resumption of the U.S. effort to achieve a comprehensive test ban treaty. Our negotiators in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva went to work, backed up by a mighty effort in Washington to sort through technical details and make hard policy choices. And by September 1996, President Clinton -- wielding the pen John Kennedy used to sign the 1963 partial test ban -- became the first world leader to sign the result -- a comprehensive ban on nuclear explosions of any size, by anyone, anywhere, forever.

In September 1996, the CTBT was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, 158 to 3, and now has almost 150 signatories.

* * * *

What will it accomplish?

With a ban on nuclear testing in place, we pour cement on any possibility of a renewed arms competition. Make no mistake, there are more possibilities -- to focus the energy from nuclear weapons, or enhance radiation, or otherwise advance the art or lower the threshold to use. But without testing, nuclear weapon states will not be able confidently to develop advanced new nuclear weapons types. For without testing, there is no way of being certain that a new weapon will function as designed, as intended, or function at all.

The CTBT and the strategic arms reduction process will be mutually reinforcing. The test ban provides confidence that neither side is making significant qualitative improvements in its arsenal, thus fostering a stable environment for further reductions. The CTBT will not eliminate nuclear weapons in one stroke, but it will enhance the START process and move nuclear disarmament closer.

The CTBT is also a nonproliferation treaty, throwing another tough obstacle in the way of anyone who aspires to nuclear arms. Of course a fission bomb can be made without testing. But remember, they had to dig a hole under a B-29 bomber to load our first one aboard. It is a much harder task to get nuclear weapons down to the sizes, shapes, and weights most dangerous to us -- deliverable in light airplanes, rudimentary missiles, even a terrorist's luggage.

That is where the test ban comes into play. It backs up the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and safeguards in drawing the noose ever tighter around the nuclear ambitions of rogue regimes.

The simple fact is that our security is enhanced to the extent we can lock all nations in place on the nuclear weapon learning curve -- especially given that the United States has already left the testing business. Congress in 1992 put sharp legal restrictions on further testing, which remain in effect. We have no plans and we have no military requirements to test. Why, then, not hold others to the same standard we already observe?

What awaits, quite simply, is U.S. leadership to ratify the CTBT and put real muscle behind it.

The effort begins with strong popular support. A recent nationwide poll showed 70 percent of the people, Republicans and Democrats alike, favor a treaty to prohibit underground nuclear explosions worldwide. Rarely does any proposition command such overwhelming support.

Still, ratification will not be easy. At least three main strands of argument against it have already emerged. Let's review them.

* * * *

Some will argue that the Treaty cannot be verified. They are wrong.

When it is brought into force, the CTBT will rely on a broad network of more than 300 sensors capable of detecting, at considerable distances, the different kinds of signals nuclear explosions emit depending on where they occur -- seismic vibrations; underwater noise; very low frequency sounds in the atmosphere; and radioactive gases or particles. These sensors will blanket the globe.

In addition, the United States will bring to the table its own considerable national technical means of verification. At U.S. insistence, the right to use these is specifically recognized in the Treaty.

And if any of these suggest there may have been a nuclear explosion, Treaty parties can call for on-site challenge inspections to root out the facts.

Remember that with or without the CTBT, the United States will continue to monitor nuclear testing worldwide. The CTBT simplifies that task.

We had a practical demonstration of some of these capabilities last summer. In the Kara Sea, near a former Soviet nuclear testing facility where there had been ongoing activity, sensors detected a seismic event. This raised red flags about a potential test in the area and we began collecting and analyzing data. The event, with a seismic signal equivalent to about one-tenth of one kiloton, was detected and confidently located even though a major seismic station in the region was out of commission.

After analysis, we were satisfied that there was no nuclear explosion, based solely on remote sensing and study. If the Treaty were in force we could, of course, choose to use its on-site inspection regime or consultation and clarification procedures if there are similar incidents.

It is possible to conduct an underground nuclear explosion too small to be seen, heard, sniffed, or felt by these remote sensors. But this does not negate the value of a "zero yield" Treaty. Remember that the objective of the Treaty is not to ensure morality, but to enhance security. We assume some countries will want to cheat; we want to limit their options and protect our security:

  • For nearly all countries, the likelihood is that an explosion too small to be detected would also be too small to provide any real value to a nuclear design program, such as for boosting yields and making weapons smaller, lighter, and easier to deliver.

  • The aspiring cheater would also have to worry about unintended consequences of complicated evasion schemes, such as the so-called "oops factor" -- the problem of a very small explosion turning out bigger than intended, and so drawing unexpected attention.

  • And the cheater can never be confident of the exact placement of the dividing line between escape and detection -- and so must always consider that the over-lapping international sensors, or our national technical means, or perhaps a whistle-blower, would reveal the test and prompt international action.

U.S. monitoring thresholds reflect our interest in detecting and identifying a test with very high confidence. This calculation is only a part of what goes into a judgment about verifiability. The bottom line is deterrence. If, for example, a would-be cheater assesses that there is even a 50 percent chance of getting caught, isolated, and sanctioned, or perhaps even less, testing would be an unappealing choice.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty can and will be effectively verified. It will effectively deter tests that would have an impact on our security.

* * * *

A second issue will likely be the long-term safety and reliability of the enduring nuclear stockpile. For we will rely upon nuclear deterrence for the foreseeable future.

It is important, however, that with the end of the Cold War and progress in disarmament, we are not designing new nuclear weapons, which was our main reason for tests, and we have no plans to do so.

We are also maintaining much smaller arsenals with fewer different designs -- dropping from scores of different weapons to fewer than ten. All of those designs are well-tested and have been certified safe and reliable.

Indeed, when Congress adopted a testing moratorium in 1992, it authorized 15 tests for adding specific safety or reliability features to existing weapons. Those tests were never conducted, because the military saw no improvements requiring tests that met the cost effectiveness standard.

The question is whether we can sustain the necessary level of confidence without testing. Here I have to rely on technical experts. The answer, according to the directors of our nuclear weapons labs -- Los Alamos, Livermore and Sandia -- and the leading weapon designers, including a unanimous report of the Jasons, is "yes, if."

The condition is a rigorous, fully funded Stockpile Stewardship Program, including careful surveillance, computer modeling, non-nuclear experiments, and maintenance of remanufacturing capacity to identify, address, and repair any problems that may arise in the enduring arsenal. And such a program has been in place for the past three years.

Moreover, we have a safety valve. Like most arms control treaties, the CTBT has a provision allowing members to withdraw on grounds of "supreme national interest." The President has determined that the safety and reliability of our nuclear weapons is a supreme national interest.

In addition, he has created an annual certification program for stockpile weapons. If the senior officials in charge of our nuclear weapons are unable to certify with high confidence that they will continue to work as planned, and if tests are needed to remedy the problem, they can happen. There is no reason to believe that situation will arise. But if it does, we are fully protected.

* * * *

Finally, some will counsel delay. The condition for the Treaty's entry into force is ratification by 44 specifically identified countries -- members of the Conference on Disarmament possessing nuclear power or nuclear research reactors. India, Pakistan and North Korea are on the list, but have not signed. So why hurry?

Because it is the right practical course. The CTBT is in our security interests, and our own ratification is the best way to get it up and running. Forty-one of the 44 necessary parties have signed, and when all of those ratify entry into force will become a more realistic prospect. The way to move reluctant signatories is to make them feel the sting of isolation on this issue and not give them the present of U.S. hesitation to excuse their own inaction.

The example of the Chemical Weapons Convention should be instructive. Promptly after we ratified, Russia and other key countries joined as well.

The earliest the CTBT can enter into force is two years after it was opened for signature. That date arrives this September, when the Treaty will have been pending in the Senate for a year. It poses a reasonable timetable for Senate action.

Consider, too, that if the CTBT is not in force three years after the first signatures, it provides for a conference to consider how to proceed. Only states that have ratified can take part. The U.S. will want to be there, to have a voice in the decisions.

The question of timing depends to some extent on how we see our country. Should we lead the world on such issues, or trail behind? President Clinton thinks we should lead. The U.S. needs to be in the business of promoting ratification, not complicating it. We should set the right example for other nations we want to bring into the fold.

* * * *

At its very core, here is what the CTBT issue comes down to, what the Senate must decide: the nuclear arms race is over; arsenals are shrinking; our dramatically fewer remaining weapons can be kept safe and reliable by other means; we don't need tests; proliferators do; the American people overwhelmingly want testing banned.

Under these circumstances, who wants to argue that what the world needs now is more nuclear explosions? Who would champion the cause of making the Nevada desert shake again with nuclear blasts, and ensuring more such events at China's Lop Nur test site, or Novaya Zemlya in Russia, or other places around the world?

* * * *

Nearly forty years ago, Dwight Eisenhower reflected upon his White House years and said not achieving a nuclear test ban, "would have to be classed as the greatest disappointment of any administration -- of any decade -- of any time and of any party..."

The ebb and flow of history have brought us the chance to remedy his frustration.

The negotiators have done their part. Now it falls to the United States Senate, to help close this nuclear chapter in human experience, to help approach a new millenium with yet another strong tool to ward off dangers to our people, to build a safer planet, and to advance the human condition.

Let us hope they act well, wisely -- and soon.