Clinton Sends CTB Treaty to Senate: Hearing Set to Begin in October

NEARLY ONE YEAR after signing the Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) Treaty, the Clinton administration on September 22 formally transmitted the accord to the Senate, setting the stage for a likely battle with conservative Republicans who appear to be in no rush to consider the treaty. Although the Senate is expected to hold hearings in October on the treaty as well as the administration's Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program (SSMP), which is designed to ensure the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile in the absence of nuclear testing, a floor vote on advice and consent to ratification is not anticipated until spring 1998 at the earliest.

President Clinton announced the U.S. move toward ratification during a September 22 address to the 52nd session of the UN General Assembly in New York. Citing over 40 years of test ban negotiating history, he called the CTB Treaty "the longest sought, hardest fought prize in the history of arms control," and said it "will help to prevent the nuclear powers from developing more advanced and more dangerous weapons" as well as "limit the possibilities for other states to acquire such devices." In his transmittal letter to the Senate, Clinton said the CTB "will significantly further our nuclear non proliferation and arms control objectives and strengthen international security."

In a White House briefing that same day, Robert Bell, senior director for defense policy and arms control at the National Security Council, addressed some concerns related to the treaty's rigid entry into force provisions. Under Article XIV, the treaty cannot enter into force until 180 days after it has been signed and ratified by 44 specific countries, including the five declared nuclear weapon states and the three "threshold" states (India, Israel and Pakistan).

As of September 30, only seven of the 147 states that have signed the test ban have ratified the treaty, including only one of the 44 named states. (See p. 34.) If Indian opposition to the CTB continues to prevent the treaty's entry into force, Bell said a special conference may be called in 1999 (three years after the test ban was opened for signature) by a majority of states parties to explore alternative ways of bringing the treaty into force. Bell stressed that Senate approval of the CTB will be important so that the United States may actively participate in this conference, should it become necessary.


View From the Hill

In the weeks preceding Clinton's transmittal of the treaty, several key senators expressed strong support for the CTB. Senator Joseph Biden (D DE), ranking minority member on the Foreign Relations Committee, said September 10: "With U.S. leadership in ratifying this treaty, the CTBT will gain near unanimous international support and keep pressure on India and many like minded countries to ratify it—or at least to refrain from testing." Two days later, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D NM) said, "It serves the peaceful interests of the United States and the peaceful interests of countries throughout the world to take this important step to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and eliminate nuclear testing."

Without stating his position on the CTB, Senator Pete Domenici (R NM), chairman of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations subcommittee and an influential voice in the nuclear testing debate, said September 12 that he intends to conduct a series of hearings on the treaty in October. Senator Thad Cochran (R MS), chairman of the Governmental Affairs subcommittee on international security, proliferation and federal services and a likely critic of the CTB, has scheduled a hearing on the SSMP for late October.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee must approve the CTB before a floor vote can occur. A spokesman for committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R NC) said the CTB is not a "front burner issue," especially because "it's come into force in the next year." The committee will consider NATO enlargement in hearings beginning in October before taking up the CTB Treaty.