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Utah's Mike Lee Gets CTBT Facts Wrong

Arms Control NOW

Utah Republican candidate for the Senate Mike Lee has reversed his earlier common-sense position against renewed nuclear testing, and is now indicating that if elected, he would not support the CTBT. In May, Lee announced that he would most likely vote for CTBT ratification. At the time, Lee remarked that, "I don't think we need [nuclear testing] and I think, on the whole, we as Americans would be safer if the treaty were in place."

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Lee's deputy campaign manager Dan Hauser said last Thursday, "[The treaty is] basically [stating] you could never use a nuclear weapon...We really went through the actual treaty and came out thinking that there was no way we could sign onto this." Lee told Politico last week that, "No one that I'm aware of is calling for any kind of detonation testing right now, but it doesn't seem like it's a good option to take that off the table."

The exact wording of the treaty, "Each State Party undertakes not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion," does not prohibit the actual use of a nuclear weapon in wartime. Further, under the supreme national interest withdrawal clause, any State Party to the treaty has the option of withdrawing from the CTBT.

There is simply no military requirement for new nuclear weapons capabilities that might require the resumption of U.S. nuclear testing. The United States already has the most sophisticated and deadly nuclear arsenal in the world, and the U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories do not need nuclear explosive testing to maintain the effectiveness of the existing U.S. nuclear arsenal. Considering the United States' technical advantage and the treaty's ability to constrain the development of potential adversaries' arsenals, Lee has yet to explain how not ratifying the CTBT would advance U.S. national security.

Vanessa Pierce, executive director of HEAL Utah, told The Salt Lake Tribune, "When Mike Lee announced support for the CTBT in the primaries, many felt optimistic that he would be a senator who would stand up for our health, safety and security. One trip to D.C. later, he's already compromised himself."

Lee's Democratic competitor, Sam Granato, "absolutely supports" the CTBT, said his campaign manager Marla Kennedy, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.