U.S. CTBT Ratification: What Russia Can Do to Help

Published in June, former CTBT deputy chief negotiator for Russia, Victor Slipchenko has written an especially useful VERTIC Occasional Paper on the challenges facing U.S. ratification of the test ban, and considers what the United States' main counterpoint, Russia, could do to help its prospects. If you haven't done so already, it's certainly worth the read.

"The Obama administration will need as much help as it can get from other CTBT supporters - Russia in particular - if entry into force is ever to become reality," he writes.

Slipchenko identifies two criticisms of the treaty that are especially prominent when considered in light of United States-Russian relations: that Russia does not fully understand or intend to abide by the zero-yield limit of nuclear test explosions under the CTBT, and that the United States would not be able to detect Russian hydronuclear tests if Russia decides not to abide by the zero-yield limit.

To these worries, Slipchenko readily presents the overwhelming evidence to the contrary that has existed on the record for a decade, including the former U.S. head CTBT negotiator Ambassador Stephen Ledogar's 1999 testimony that Russia is committed to the comprehensiveness of the treaty, and several Russian comments of similar nature. He suggests however, that, " Given these circumstances, Russia-for whom US ratification of the CTBT is clearly in the national interest-might be well-advised to reaffirm at a higher political level similar statements made during CTBT ratification hearings the Russian Duma in 2000 [on the comprehensiveness of the treaty.]"

He also suggests that Russia offer to install bilateral transparency and confidence building measures at testing sites, thereby reducing ambiguity on either side. Given the national security value it holds for both states and the foundation of transparency and verification established by START, the proposal's feasibility is high. If New START is ratified, it would foment the trust and progress needed to carry out these important clarifying steps to assuage CTBT skeptics' concerns in the US. To read full Slipchenko's piece, click here for the PDF, and for more of VERTIC's exceptional Occasional Papers on the CTBT, click here.