Russian De-Ratification of Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Would Be Self-Defeating “Own Goal,” Say Experts

More Than 80 Civil Society Leaders Call on Russia to “Reaffirm Its Full Support for the CTBT”

For Immediate Release: Oct. 6, 2023

Media Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.)—Following remarks by Russian President Putin yesterday indicating he is “not ready to say now whether we really need or don’t need to conduct tests” and suggesting that Russia could revoke its ratification of the 1996 treaty to ban nuclear tests to “mirror” the United States, the Russian Duma will consider “de-ratification” of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The United States has signed the treaty, but unlike Russia, it has not yet ratified the pact.

“Russian ‘de-ratification’ of the CTBT would be a clumsy, self-defeating gimmick that would have no effect on the United States nuclear test ban policy,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, which has campaigned for decades for a global ban on all nuclear weapons tests.

“Instead, it would undermine efforts to bring into full legal force the CTBT, which has the support of the other 186 states that have signed the treaty since 1996, including China and virtually all of the world’s non-nuclear weapon states,” he said.

Other nonproliferation experts and members of civil society agree. In a statement delivered Sept. 22 at a conference on the CTBT at the United Nations, 87 nuclear experts and organizations said:

“De-ratification would further undermine Russia's already shaky nuclear nonproliferation reputation, alienate non-nuclear weapon states, and damage the broader nuclear nonproliferation system.”

“Contrary to perceptions among some in Moscow,” Kimball added, “Russian ‘de-ratification’ of the CTBT would not in any way create leverage for Russia vis-a-vis ‘the collective West,’ nor will it change the United States government’s strong support for the CTBT and the de facto global nuclear test moratorium.”

“Ironically,” Kimball noted, “Russian ‘de-ratification’ of the CTBT would not bring the United States any closer to ratification of the treaty, which requires a supermajority of 67 out of 100 Senators. That legislative body is currently divided on highly partisan lines. Generally speaking, politicians do not change their votes under pressure from foreign governments.”

“To the contrary, it is more likely that de-ratification of the CTBT by the Duma would raise questions about whether Russia plans to resume nuclear explosive testing, which would make some U.S. Senators more hesitant about approving U.S. ratification,” said Kimball, who has lobbied for a ban on testing and the CTBT since 1990.

“De-ratification by the Duma would also contradict recent and past Russian statements and pledges on the CTBT and its nuclear test moratorium,” Kimball said.

In 2016, Russia joined the United States, China, and other members of the UN Security Council in support of Resolution 2310, which reaffirms support for the CTBT, and Russia joined a statement from its permanent five members pledging they would not take any action that would “defeat the object or purpose of the treaty.”

Resolution 2310 also took note of a Sept. 15, 2016, joint statement by the five permanent Security Council members recognizing that “a nuclear-weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion would defeat the object and purpose of the CTBT.” By endorsing this language, the resolution affirmed the view of these five states that even before the treaty enters into force, all CTBT signatories have an existing obligation not to conduct nuclear test explosions.

“We strongly urge states parties to the CTBT and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which also bans nuclear tests, to call upon President Putin to reaffirm full support for the CTBT and the moratorium on nuclear testing, and not to take Russia and the world backward to a dangerous era of tit-for-tat nuclear threats and nuclear arms racing,” Kimball said.