White House to Partially Fund Test Ban Implementing Body

Philipp C. Bleek

The Bush administration has decided to partially fund the organization responsible for implementing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); and officials say that, despite their opposition to the treaty, they have no plans to work toward withdrawing the U.S. signature from the pact, which bans all nuclear test explosions.

The decision comes just weeks before a major international conference, to be held in New York September 25-27, that will review ways to facilitate the CTBT’s entry into force. The treaty opened for signature in 1996 but will not take effect until 44 states designated by the accord as nuclear-capable have ratified it. Thirteen of those countries, including the United States, have yet to do so. The Senate rejected ratification of the treaty in October 1999, and the Bush administration has said it will not ask the Senate to reconsider its action.

In part to prepare for the upcoming meeting, administration officials have been conducting an interagency review of treaty-related issues. According to internal government documents and a State Department official, the administration has decided to continue financing the establishment of a global sensor network, known as the International Monitoring System, intended to detect clandestine nuclear testing. However, the administration does not plan to fund or participate in other treaty activities, notably those related to on-site inspections, which member states will be able to request once the treaty enters into force.

The funding will go to a preparatory commission composed of treaty signatories that are working in Vienna to establish the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which will be responsible for implementing all aspects of the accord once it enters into force.

According to an internal State Department analysis, funding not related to the monitoring system totals almost 4.5 percent of the preparatory commission’s budget, which corresponds to about $900,000 of the $20 million the United States is required to provide in 2002. The decision represents a modest pullback from the administration’s April budget request to Congress, in which it asked for the full $20 million. Because that request was made before the administration had formulated its new policy, it remains unclear whether officials will work with Congress to reduce U.S. funding for 2002 or will hold off until 2003.

The new funding policy appears to be a compromise position between the views of various administration officials. Some officials argue that the administration has no obligation to fund the treaty’s implementing organization if it does not plan to seek ratification, while others contend that the United States can benefit from the implementation of the treaty’s monitoring and inspection provisions, even though it does not support ratification of the agreement.

As a treaty signatory, the United States currently has access to data gathered through the treaty’s monitoring system. However, a diplomat in Vienna indicated that data-access issues, including whether states that have signed but not ratified the treaty will be allowed continued access, are being reviewed at the preparatory commission.

One Senate staffer who follows the CTBT closely said, “The decision to remain actively involved in the International Monitoring System is certainly in our national interest. The decision to pull back from other CTBTO activities merely ensures that the world will focus on our negative actions, rather than our positive ones.”

According to several U.S. officials, the administration has not yet decided whether it will send a representative to the upcoming conference. The meeting is especially sensitive for the Bush administration because the conference’s final document is expected to strongly encourage hold-out states to sign or ratify the treaty, as the final document at a 1999 conference on CTBT entry into force did. Diplomatic sources indicated that, if the United States decides to attend, it is expected to disassociate itself from the conference document.

On August 21, Pierce Corden, the U.S. alternate representative to the preparatory commission for the CTBTO, delivered a formal statement in Vienna on the administration’s new policy, briefly discussing U.S. funding, reiterating the administration’s lack of support for the treaty, and emphasizing that the United States will maintain its moratorium on nuclear testing and that it “urges all states to maintain existing moratoria.”

Diplomatic sources in Vienna said the U.S. statement had been unexpected and had met with widespread concern, adding that some countries had called on the United States to reconsider its position. One foreign official speculated that the cut indicated that the United States “wanted to show that they are not 100 percent on board” while still reaping the advantages of the treaty’s monitoring capabilities.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a formal statement August 27, saying, “In the international community it is believed that such a move does not correspond to the obligations assumed upon signing the Treaty by all states, including the USA.”

Despite its lack of support for the accord, the administration will not attempt to pull out of the treaty. Apparently exploring the possibility of withdrawal, State Department lawyers prepared a legal assessment for Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, dated June 5, outlining the administration’s options. According to a government document, the State Department concluded that “once a treaty has been presented to the Senate…an affirmative vote to return the treaty to the executive is required to remove it from the Senate calendar.” The document further noted that the “administration has no plans to ask the Senate to do anything with the treaty.”