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– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
Russia, China, U.S. Allies Condemn Senate Defeat of Treaty

THE SENATE'S REJECTION of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) on October 13 (see story) drew a barrage of criticism from Russia and China, as well as from U.S. allies in Europe and Asia. Although Moscow and Beijing have indicated that they will continue to adhere to the CTBT, which they both signed in September 1996, pressures to resume nuclear testing may intensify in the absence of U.S. ratification. The nuclear weapons establishments in both countries have long opposed the CTBT, presumably because they are more dependent on nuclear testing than the United States, which has a sophisticated stockpile stewardship program.

Russian and Chinese Reactions

In an October 14 statement, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, "We express our regret and serious concern about the Senate's refusal to ratify this treaty, at all stages of the development of which the U.S. Administration took the most active part and was the first to sign it. This decision delivers a serious blow to the entire system of agreements in the field of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, [e]specially to the future of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."

One week before the Senate vote, Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin had announced that the Russian government was in the process of finalizing its CTBT ratification documents for the Duma, the lower house of parliament. However, the Duma is unlikely to consider the treaty anytime soon, given its concern over the Senate vote and its need to complete action on START II, which was submitted more than four years ago. Parliamentary elections scheduled for December 1999 may also complicate efforts to make serious progress on CTBT ratification.

On October 14, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it "deeply regrets" the Senate's rejection of the CTBT, but ministry spokesperson Zhang Qiyue indicated that Beijing would continue to observe its moratorium on nuclear testing, which has been in effect since 1996, and would intensify its efforts to ratify the treaty.

Allied Reactions

Just days before the vote, French President Jacques Chirac, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder made a highly unusual plea to the Senate not to reject the CTBT. "Failure to ratify the [CTBT] 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," they wrote in an October 8 New York Times op-ed.

Such sentiment was echoed the day after the Senate vote. An aide to Chirac said, "The president expressed his dismay. This decision is a setback to the process of non-proliferation and disarmament." German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said he was "deeply disappointed" by the vote and Defense Minister Rudolph Scharping called it an "absolutely wrong" decision. Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy stated, "A world accustomed to U.S. leadership in the cause of non-proliferation and disarmament can only be deeply disturbed by this turn of events, which will be welcomed by those who remain uncommitted to that cause."

George Robertson, the newly appointed secretary-general of NATO and former British defense minister, called the Senate action "very worrying."

"We've got to persuade the American Congress that this is in the interest, not just of international security, but also of the United States, and I hope that we can do that and this is not a permanent position," he said in an October 14 radio interview.

U.S. allies in Asia were equally disapproving of the Senate rejection, with strong criticism coming from the Japanese, South Korean and Philippine foreign ministries. "The adverse effects are inestimable…We had hoped for the U.S.'s leadership in nuclear disarmament and in preventing nuclear proliferation," said Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono. Philippine Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon called the U.S. vote "an enormous blow to all our efforts to make the world a safer place to live in."

Of particular concern was the potential reaction from South Asia, where the Senate vote weakens the Clinton administration's ability to persuade India and Pakistan to sign the CTBT and refrain from conducting further nuclear tests. But in an encouraging development before the vote, New Delhi hinted that it might be prepared to sign the treaty once its new parliament was in place. Brajesh Mishra, India's national security adviser, stated October 3, "Consensus is building in the country about our stand on the CTBT, and after the parliament meets, we will be in a position to take concrete steps." Moreover, one day after the vote, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh stated, "India will not stand in the way of entry into force of the CTBT." However, because the treaty cannot come into effect without U.S. ratification, much of the pressure on India and Pakistan to ratify has been lifted for the time being.