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Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

Senate Rejects Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; Clinton Vows to Continue Moratorium

IN A MAJOR setback to the nuclear non-proliferation regime and U.S. credibility, the Senate decisively rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) on October 13 by a vote of 51-48, marking the first time that it has defeated a security-related treaty since the Treaty of Versailles nearly 80 years ago. Immediately following the largely party-line vote, President Bill Clinton pledged that he would keep fighting for the CTBT and that the United States would continue its moratorium on nuclear testing, which has been in effect since 1992. Despite his assurances, the vote sent shock waves throughout the world, drawing strong condemnation from Russia and China as well as American allies in Europe and Asia. (See story.)

Just 12 Days

In September 1996, President Clinton became the first world leader to sign the CTBT, which prohibits "any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion." One year later he submitted the treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent. However, Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), whose Foreign Relations Committee has jurisdiction over treaties, repeatedly stated that the CTBT was a low-priority item and that it would only receive consideration after the committee had voted on two unrelated sets of agreements not yet submitted by the administration: the 1997 amendments to the ABM Treaty and the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

This logjam persisted for almost two years until July 1999, when all 45 Democratic senators signed a letter urging Helms to conduct hearings on the CTBT and report it to the full Senate for debate. (See ACT, July/August 1999.) When Helms snubbed the request, Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) threatened to hold up Senate business unless the treaty received floor consideration. "This is going to be a tough place to run if you do not decide to bring this issue to the floor of the Senate and give us the opportunity to debate [the CTBT]," he warned on September 8.

Confident that the Republicans already had the votes to defeat the treaty, Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) called for a quick vote—a move that surprised the Democrats and most observers. Forced to choose between a vote after limited debate or no vote at all until the next Congress, the Democratic leadership, in consultation with the White House, reluctantly agreed to Lott's proposal. On October 1, a unanimous consent agreement was reached under which the Senate would bypass the Foreign Relations Committee and vote on the CTBT on October 12 after just 18 hours of floor debate. Under the terms of the agreement, the Republican and Democratic leaderships were each permitted to introduce only one amendment to the resolution of ratification, thereby curtailing the administration's ability to craft a resolution that could have addressed the stated concerns of some senators.

The White House was highly critical of the truncated process. "This is not what the Founding Fathers meant by advise and consent. This is hit and run," National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said October 2. Two days later, White House press spokesman Joe Lockhart argued that the lack of attention given to the CTBT was unprecedented. By way of comparison, he noted that the ABM Treaty had received eight days of hearings in the Foreign Relations Committee and 18 days of consideration on the Senate floor; the INF Treaty had received 23 days of committee hearings and nine days of floor consideration; and START I had received 19 days of committee hearings and five days of floor consideration.

White House Launches Full-Court Press

Faced with the unanimous consent agreement, the White House immediately launched a highly visible campaign to achieve ratification. In an October 4 photo opportunity with his national security team, Clinton made the case for the treaty and responded to charges that the Central Intelligence Agency is unable to determine whether Russia is secretly conducting low-yield nuclear tests at its Novaya Zemlya facility. He argued that while such tests are difficult to detect, the treaty gives the United States "new tools" to ensure compliance, such as the creation of an International Monitoring System (IMS) consisting of 321 monitoring stations located throughout the world and the ability to request an on-site inspection if suspicious activity cannot be adequately clarified.

Clinton repeated his call for ratification during an October 5 signing ceremony for the defense authorization bill and a pep rally the next day at the White House, which included participation from the present and past chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as a number of the 32 Nobel laureates in physics who had publicly endorsed the CTBT. "The best way to constrain the danger of nuclear proliferation and, God forbid, the use of a nuclear weapon, is to stop other countries from testing nuclear weapons. That's what this test ban treaty will do. A vote, therefore, to ratify is a vote to increase the protections of our people and the world from nuclear war. By contrast, a vote against it risks a much more dangerous future," Clinton said.

Congressional Hearings Begin

Other key Clinton administration officials argued for ratification during three days of congressional hearings held October 5-7, only one of which took place in the Foreign Relations Committee. The hearings focused on two issues: whether the United States could effectively verify if countries were adhering to the CTBT and whether the United States could maintain a safe and reliable nuclear arsenal solely through its stockpile stewardship program.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on October 6, Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Henry Shelton, as well as former chairman General John Shalikashvili, argued that the United States should ratify the CTBT with the six safeguards that President Clinton established in August 1995 as conditions for U.S. entry into the test ban. (See sidebar.) In particular, they pointed out that Safeguard F would allow the United States to withdraw from the CTBT under the standard "supreme national interests" clause in the event that the secretaries of defense and energy (as advised by the Nuclear Weapons Council, the commander-in-chief of U.S. Strategic Command and the heads of the three nuclear weapons laboratories) could no longer certify that a weapon critical to the U.S. nuclear deterrent was safe and reliable. With respect to verification, the witnesses argued that even though some low-yield nuclear tests might go undetected, such tests are not militarily significant.

Challenging these views, former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger testified that in the absence of underground nuclear testing, confidence in the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal would inevitably decline. Schlesinger was particularly critical of the fact that the treaty bans all tests in perpetuity. In addition, he said that the stockpile stewardship program will not be fully operational for another 10 years.

Sparring over these issues continued October 7, when the Armed Services Committee received testimony from Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson and the directors of the three nuclear weapons laboratories (John Browne of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Bruce Tarter of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Paul Robinson of Sandia National Laboratories). Although Richardson was confident about the abilities of the $4.5 billion-per-year stockpile stewardship program, the three lab directors were much more cautious, stating that the United States was heading into "uncharted waters" and that there were no guarantees that the program would be successful. However, when pressed on this point by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), the lab directors said they supported the CTBT provided that there is full funding for the stewardship program and that the six safeguards are adopted by the Senate. Clarifying their views in a joint statement issued the next day, the lab directors wrote, "While there can never be a guarantee that the stockpile will remain safe and reliable indefinitely without nuclear testing, we have stated that we are confident that a fully supported and sustained stockpile stewardship program will enable us to continue to maintain America's nuclear deterrent without nuclear testing."

Let's Make a Deal

Meanwhile, recognizing that the 67 votes needed for ratification were not there, Senators Daschle and Lott began a behind-the-scenes dialogue as early as October 5 on ways to postpone the vote and prevent a humiliating blow to U.S. credibility abroad. Lott said he was willing to put off the vote as long as Clinton requested the delay and agreed not to bring up the CTBT during the remainder of his presidency.

In the days that followed, as it became even clearer that the treaty would be soundly defeated, Clinton met Lott's first demand and requested that the vote be postponed, but he was not willing to rule out the option of resubmitting the treaty before leaving office. Efforts to reach a deal were further complicated by the fact that Senate rules required all 100 senators to agree to change the original unanimous consent agreement in order to postpone the vote. A small but powerful group of conservative senators—including Helms, James Inhofe (R-OK), Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Robert Smith (I-NH)—indicated that they would block any attempt to delay the vote because they believed the treaty should be defeated.

As the floor debate opened on October 8, the Clinton administration and Senate Democrats increased their efforts to postpone the vote. That same day, in an unprecedented appeal, French President Jacques Chirac, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder published an op-ed piece in The New York Times imploring the Senate to ratify the treaty. Also on October 8, the states participating in the Vienna conference on bringing the CTBT into force issued a declaration calling upon those states that had not yet ratified the treaty to do so. (See document.)

The Endgame

Efforts to delay the vote went down to the wire. On October 11, Clinton put his request for a postponement in writing, but still would not agree to put off the vote until 2001. In his letter to Lott and Daschle, Clinton said, "I firmly believe the Treaty is in the national interest. However, I recognize that there are a number of Senators who have honest disagreements. I believe that proceeding to a vote under these circumstances would severely harm the national security of the United States, damage our relationship with our allies, and undermine our historic leadership over forty years, through administrations Republican and Democratic, in reducing the nuclear threat."

On October 12, the day before the vote, the sides came close to reaching a deal. In return for a delay, Daschle pledged that he would not bring up the CTBT for a vote before 2001 barring "extraordinary circumstances," an implicit reference to the resumption of nuclear testing in South Asia. Although Daschle and Lott tentatively agreed on this language, the deal fell through when the same small group of conservative senators objected.

The Democrats also tried to remove the CTBT from the so-called "executive calendar," an unusual parliamentary maneuver that would have required only a simple majority (51 votes). Although 62 senators, including influential Republicans such as Pete Domenici (R-NM), Richard Lugar (R-IN) and John Warner (R-VA), indicated in an October 12 letter to Lott and Daschle that their preference was to delay the vote, the majority leader did not give Republicans his blessing to support the procedural move, thereby making the vote a test of party loyalty that was later defeated by a 55-45 vote.

When the roll was finally called on October 13, the resolution to ratify the CTBT (including the six safeguards that Daschle had submitted as an amendment) was defeated by a 51-48 vote with one abstention. (See the voting record.) Forty-four Democrats voted for ratification as did four Republicans: John Chafee (R-RI), James Jeffords (R-VT), Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Arlen Specter (R-PA). Fifty Republican senators and one independent (Robert Smith of New Hampshire) voted against ratification, and Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) voted "present." The treaty fell 19 votes short of achieving the necessary two-thirds majority necessary for ratification.

Clinton Goes on the Offensive

Just hours after the vote, Clinton reassured the world that the fight for the CTBT was "far from over" and announced that the United States would continue its moratorium on nuclear testing, which has been in effect for the past seven years. He also called upon Russia and China (which have signed the treaty but not ratified) as well as Britain and France (which have signed and ratified) to continue their moratoria on nuclear testing.

In his October 13 statement outside the Oval Office, Clinton strongly condemned the Senate's action. "For two years, the opponents of this treaty in the Senate refused to hold a single hearing. Then they offered a take-or-leave-it deal: to decide this crucial security issue in a week.… They rejected my request to delay the vote and permit a serious process so that all questions could be evaluated. Even worse, many Republican senators apparently committed to oppose this treaty before there was an agreement to bring it up, before they ever heard a single witness or understood the issues. Never before has a serious treaty involving nuclear weapons been handled in such a reckless and ultimately partisan way," he said.

Clinton continued his assault on the Republican Party in a press conference the next day. He characterized the Senate vote as "partisan politics of the worst kind" and charged treaty opponents with showing "signs of a new isolationism." Clinton argued that the Senate majority "has turned its back on 50 years of American leadership against the spread of weapons of mass destruction" and that they "are betting our children's future on the reckless proposition that we can go it alone; that at the height of our power and prosperity, we should bury our heads in the sand, behind a wall."

Lott quickly denied that partisan politics played any role in the CTBT's defeat. "We have some of the most thoughtful senators that have ever served in this body that said that this treaty was not verifiable, that it was fundamentally flawed, and it should not be ratified," he said in an October 14 press conference. Furthermore, Lott accused the administration of not effectively lobbying for the treaty. "I was demanded and forced into having a debate and a vote. And so when we agreed, then they said, 'Well, wait a minute; there may not be the votes to ratify this treaty.' Well, I wonder why. Because we had been doing our work. We'd been checking into it," Lott said.

Given the Senate's action along party lines, there is the real possibility that the CTBT will become an issue in the 2000 presidential and congressional elections. Following the vote, Vice President Al Gore condemned the "partisan" way in which the Senate handled the CTBT and pledged to resubmit the treaty for ratification if he is elected president next year. Earlier, on October 5, leading Republican contender George W. Bush announced that he is opposed to the CTBT as are other Republican candidates, such as Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who voted against the treaty. Bush did say, however, that he supports the current moratorium on nuclear testing.

Nuclear Safeguards Necessary for U.S. Ratification of the CTBT

A: The conduct of a Science Based Stockpile Stewardship program to ensure a high level of confidence in the safety and reliability of nuclear weapons in the active stockpile, including the conduct of a broad range of effective and continuing experimental programs.

B: The maintenance of modern nuclear laboratory facilities and programs in theoretical and exploratory nuclear technology which will attract, retain, and ensure the continued application of our human scientific resources to those programs on which continued progress in nuclear technology depends.

C: The maintenance of the basic capability to resume nuclear test activities prohibited by the CTBT should the United States cease to be bound to adhere to this treaty.

D: Continuation of a comprehensive research and development program to improve our treaty monitoring capabilities and operations.

E: The continuing development of a broad range of intelligence gathering and analytical capabilities and operations to ensure accurate and comprehensive information on worldwide nuclear arsenals, nuclear weapons development programs, and related nuclear programs.

F: The understanding that if the President of the United States is informed by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Energy (DOE)—advised by the Nuclear Weapons Council, the Directors of DOE's nuclear weapons laboratories and the Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command—that a high level of confidence in the safety or reliability of a nuclear weapon type which the two Secretaries consider to be critical to our nuclear deterrent could no longer be certified, the President, in consultation with Congress, would be prepared to withdraw from the CTBT under the standard "supreme national interests" clause in order to conduct whatever testing might be required.

[Back to text]

The Voting Record Voted Against Ratifying the CTBT

Spencer Abraham (R-MI), Wayne Allard (R-CO), John Ashcroft (R-MO), Robert Bennett (R-UT), Christopher Bond (R-MO), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Jim Bunning (R-KY), Conrad Burns (R-MT), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), Thad Cochran (R-MS) Susan Collins (R-ME), Paul Coverdell (R-GA), Larry Craig (R-ID), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mike DeWine (R-OH), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL), William Frist (R-TN), Slade Gorton (R-WA), Phil Gramm (R-TX), Rod Grams (R-MN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Charles Hagel (R-NE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jesse Helms (R-NC), Tim Hutchinson (R-AR), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), James Inhofe (R-OK), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Trent Lott (R-MS), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Connie Mack (R-FL), John McCain (R-AZ), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Frank Murkowski (R-AK), Don Nickles (R-OK), Pat Roberts (R-KS), William Roth Jr. (R-DE), Rick Santorum (R-PA), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Bob Smith (I-NH), Olympia1 Snowe (R-ME), Ted Stevens (R-AK), Craig Thomas (R-WY), Fred Thompson (R-TN), Strom Thurmond (R-SC), George Voinovich (R-OH), John Warner (R-VA)

Voted for Ratifying the CTBT

Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Max Baucus (D-MT), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Joseph Biden Jr. (D-DE), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), John Breaux (D-LA), Richard Bryan (D-NV), John Chafee (R-RI), Max Cleland (D-GA), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Thomas Daschle (D-SD), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Richard Durbin (D-IL), John Edwards (D-NC), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bob Graham (D-FL), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ernest Hollings (D-SC), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), James Jeffords (R-VT), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Robert Kerrey (D-NE), John Kerry (D-MA), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Daniel Moynihan (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Harry Reid (D-NV), Charles Robb (D-VA), John Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Gordon Smith (R-OR), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Robert Torricelli (D-NJ), Paul Wellstone (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Voted Present

Robert Byrd (D-WV)

Source: U.S. Congressional Record

Senator Helms' Floccinaucinihilipilification

Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

As self-appointed arbiter of U.S. foreign policy, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC) recently disdainfully dismissed an appeal by all 45 Democratic senators that he allow the Senate to consider the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which has languished before his committee for two years without hearings. In his supercilious reply, Helms proclaimed his "floccinaucinihilipilification" of the CTBT, or in plain English, his belief that the treaty is absolutely worthless. With Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's (R-MS) support, Helms reasserted his intention to hold the treaty hostage to advance his campaign to destroy the unrelated ABM Treaty, thereby blocking Senate action on the CTBT. Failure to ratify the CTBT will endanger U.S. security by undercutting U.S. efforts to build international support for the nuclear non-proliferation regime and by allowing further nuclear weapon developments by countries that could threaten the United States.

The 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which now bars testing by the 181 non-nuclear-weapon states-parties through their agreement not to acquire nuclear weapons, allows the five recognized nuclear-weapon states to continue testing, underscoring the inherently discriminatory nature of the treaty. By applying equally to all nations, the CTBT would end the privileged status of the nuclear-weapon states to continue testing to further develop their nuclear capabilities. The treaty is widely seen as the litmus test of whether the nuclear-weapon states recognize their own NPT treaty obligation to move toward nuclear disarmament.

The CTBT would ban nuclear testing by Russia, the only country that can now possibly threaten the survival of the United States, and by China, the only other country that might in the future achieve that capability. But neither Russia nor China will ratify before the United States does. The treaty also provides a practical means to limit the development of more advanced weapons by India, Israel and Pakistan, three nuclear-capable countries that are unlikely to join the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states because it would require the elimination of all their nuclear weapons. Finally, by establishing an international norm against testing, the CTBT would put additional pressure not to test on North Korea and Iraq, which are in violation of their NPT obligations, and Iran, which the United States believes is positioning itself to violate the NPT.

Despite these compelling considerations, test ban opponents assert in a campaign of false and misleading statements that without testing the U.S. deterrent will be threatened by the loss of stockpile reliability and that the treaty is "unverifiable." These alarming assertions could not be sustained in a serious Senate debate. The leaders of the three U.S. nuclear weapon laboratories agree that the reliability and safety of the stockpile can be maintained without further nuclear testing. This will be accomplished by the generously funded stockpile stewardship program, which will monitor the reliability of the stockpile with non-destructive and non-nuclear testing, as well as computer simulations. This will give ample warning if weapons or components must be refabricated. The current chairman of the JCS, General Henry Shelton, as well as four former JCS chairmen have endorsed the treaty as serving U.S. security interests. They are confident of the reliability and safety of the U.S. stockpile and see no need to develop new types of weapons to meet U.S. military requirements in an era of declining relevance of nuclear weapons.

The U.S. record of successfully identifying some 1,000 foreign nuclear tests (about 700 underground) refutes the charge that the treaty is unverifiable. With the added capabilities of the treaty's international monitoring system, any tests large enough to affect U.S. security will be detected. And the treaty provision to permit on-site inspections will provide a mechanism for taking violations to the United Nations with the support of the international community if clear evidence is discovered or if the inspection is denied.

Helms' obstruction has already lost the United States voting participation in the special Vienna conference October 6-8 to facilitate entry into force of the CTBT. If he is allowed to continue to block ratification, the U.S. leadership role will be seriously undercut at the important five-year NPT review conference scheduled for April-May 2000. Rather than being looked to as the leading force against nuclear proliferation, the United States will be widely held as responsible for the failure of the nuclear-weapon states to honor their pledge on the CTBT in obtaining the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995.

The Republican leadership should not permit Helms to co-opt them as co-conspirators in his effort to block CTBT ratification. If Helms succeeds in denying the Senate the right to exercise its constitutional responsibility to consider this important treaty, the issue must be taken to the American people. Polls indicate that an overwhelming bipartisan majority does not share the senator's cavalier "floccinaucinihilipilification" of the CTBT.

White House, Key Senators Intensify Push for CTBT

Craig Cerniell

IN LATE JULY, the White House and a bipartisan group of nine influential senators stepped up their efforts to secure U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) before early October, when a special conference on ways to facilitate the accord's entry into force will be held in Vienna. In addition to arguing that the treaty would slow nuclear proliferation and bolster international security, the senators, led by Byron Dorgan (D-ND), released new polling data illustrating the American public's overwhelming support for a worldwide ban on nuclear testing.

Despite this renewed push for ratification, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC) continued to block action on the CTBT. In a July 26 letter he reiterated that the Foreign Relations Committee would not schedule hearings on the treaty until the Clinton administration has submitted—and the full Senate has voted on—the 1997 amendments to the ABM Treaty and the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Unless the administration can strike a deal with Helms or Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), there is little chance that the test ban will be ratified. Such an outcome would put the United States, which took the lead in negotiating the CTBT, in the embarrassing position of having to attend the special conference as only an "observer."

Appearing in the Rose Garden on July 20, President Clinton once again expressed his support for the CTBT and urged the Foreign Relations Committee to hold hearings on the treaty this fall. In making the case for U.S. ratification, he said, "America already has stopped nuclear testing. We have, today, a robust nuclear force and nuclear experts affirm that we can maintain a safe and reliable deterrent without nuclear tests. The question now is whether we will adopt or whether we will lose a verifiable treaty that will bar other nations from testing nuclear weapons."

Just hours later in a press conference on Capitol Hill, seven Senate Democrats and two Republicans echoed the president's call for U.S. ratification. Referencing the Cox Report, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) argued that a ban on nuclear testing would make it more difficult for China to utilize any nuclear design information that it may have acquired through espionage. Moreover, argued Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), the Senate must give its advice and consent to the CTBT if the United States is serious about reducing the nuclear danger in South Asia. Senator Joe Biden (D-DE)—who accused Helms and Lott of "acting irresponsibly"—claimed that the United States would be making "the single biggest mistake in American foreign policy and defense policy that this generation could make at the closing hours of this century" if the Senate did not approve the treaty.

Also on July 20, Dorgan released a letter, signed by all 45 Democratic senators, urging Helms to promptly conduct hearings on the CTBT. "If the United States is to maintain its leadership role and convince other countries to forego nuclear weapons tests, the full Senate must be given the opportunity to consider ratification of the CTBT before [the special conference] begins," they wrote.

To support their rhetoric, the nine senators released new polling data demonstrating the American public's unambiguous support for the test ban. The polls, which were commissioned by the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers and conducted June 18-21 by The Mellman Group (a Democratic polling firm) and Wirthlin Worldwide (a Republican polling firm), revealed that 82 percent of the public believes the United States should ratify the CTBT. The support is bipartisan and regionally consistent across the United States. According to the data, 86 percent of those identifying themselves as Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans favor U.S. ratification, as do 84 percent of those living in the Northeast, 80 percent of those in the Midwest, 84 percent of those in the South and 77 percent of those in the West.

Support for the CTBT is solid even when recent allegations of Chinese espionage at U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories are taken into account. Only 17 percent of those polled agree that "it is irrelevant for the U.S. to ratify and encourage global implementation of the CTBT because this treaty will not stop China from improving their nuclear technology and developing new weapons." The vast majority (84 percent) believe that the United States could better protect itself against nuclear threats from other countries if it had an international treaty banning nuclear weapons test explosions rather than if it resumed such testing itself.

Helms Responds

As expected, Helms continued to show little enthusiasm for the CTBT. "I note your distress at my floccinaucinihilipilification of the CTBT," he replied in a July 26 letter, using an 18th-century word for dismissiveness. In the letter the chairman reiterated his demand that the Clinton administration submit two unrelated sets of agreements to the Senate, stating, "[I]t has been 801 days since President Clinton agreed to legally-binding language requiring that he submit to the Senate amendments to the ABM Treaty for its advice and consent. The continued adherence by the U.S. to the legally-defunct ABM Treaty is a perilous obstacle to the United States' building and deploying a missile defense to protect the American people from a nuclear holocaust." The administration has pledged to submit the ABM amendments to the Senate after the Russian Duma has ratified START II, and to submit the Kyoto Protocol once there is greater participation from developing countries.

Despite Helms' intransigence, momentum for CTBT ratification continued to build. Taking advantage of the recent furor associated with the Cox Report, nine prominent nuclear weapons experts, including Hans Bethe and Richard Garwin, argued in a July 30 letter to Lott that Senate approval of the CTBT "would greatly help to protect the United States against the weaponization of stolen nuclear secrets."

"Whatever information on thermonuclear weapons China may have obtained, it is implausible that Beijing would deploy weapons that incorporate this information without first conducting nuclear explosive tests outlawed by the CTBT," they wrote.

In a report released August 4, the Tokyo Forum, a group of independent experts brought together by Japan to discuss ways to thwart nuclear proliferation and promote disarmament, also urged the United States and other key holdouts to ratify the CTBT. (See document.)

Five days later, Clinton repeated his call for Senate advice and consent and pointed out that the treaty enjoys the support of General Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as four former chairmen: Generals John Shalikashvili, Colin Powell and David Jones, and Admiral William Crowe. It remains to be seen whether the administration will be able to force a Senate floor vote on the test ban in time to permit U.S. participation in the special conference, scheduled for October 6-8.

Senators Call on Helms to Allow Vote on CTB Treaty

Craig Cerniello

WITH TIME RUNNING out for the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) before a special conference is convened to examine ways to bring the accord into force, a bipartisan group of senators in late June urged Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC) to finally act on the treaty. Only states that have ratified the treaty can serve as full participants at the conference, likely to be held October 6-8 in Vienna.

In a June 28 letter to Helms, Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND), James Jeffords (R-VT), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) pressed the committee chairman to promptly hold hearings and allow the treaty to come up for a floor vote. "Many nations are waiting for the United States to lead on this important issue before completing ratification in their countries. Failure to act on the [CTB] Treaty will deny the U.S. an active voice at the conference and could severely weaken U.S. non-proliferation efforts, including the effort to bring India and Pakistan into this treaty," the letter said.

Under Article XIV, the CTBT cannot enter into force until it has been signed and ratified by the five major nuclear-weapon states, India, Pakistan, Israel and 36 other states that have nuclear power and/or research reactors. If the CTBT has not come into effect three years after it opened for signature, Article XIV allows a majority of states that have already ratified the treaty to call a special conference to "decide by consensus what measures consistent with international law may be undertaken to accelerate the ratification process in order to facilitate the early entry into force of this Treaty."

This spring, a majority of the ratifying states wrote UN Secretary General Kofi Annan requesting that such a conference be held shortly after the treaty's third anniversary on September 24, 1999. Unless the United States ratifies the CTBT before then, it will only be able to attend the conference as a non-voting "observer."

Although President Clinton signed the CTBT in September 1996 and submitted it for ratification a year later, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has not conducted a single hearing on the treaty. Senator Helms has repeatedly stated that his committee will not consider the test ban until it has first voted on the 1997 amendments to the ABM Treaty as well as the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, neither of which have yet been submitted by the Clinton administration.

Thus far, the CTBT has been signed by 152 states and ratified by 38 states, and of the 44 states whose ratification is required for the treaty's entry into force, only 19 have ratified. Britain and France are the only two nuclear-weapon-states that have ratified, but Chinese President Jiang Zemin promised June 16 that his government "will soon submit the treaty to the National People's Congress for ratification."

Arms Control in 1999


Annual Arms Control Association
Membership Meeting and Luncheon

Friday March 26, 1999

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

The Arms Control Association's annual membership meeting and luncheon was held Friday, March 26, 1999 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC. The day included a panel discussion on arms control issues in 1999 (panelists listed below) and an address by John D. Holum, acting under secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs. Below are links to rush transcripts of the proceedings. Final, edited versions of both the panel discussion and the lunch address appear in the March 1999 issue of Arms Control Today.

The Panelists:

(Click on the underlined names of the participants to jump directly to their portions of the transcript in the March 1999 issue of Arms Control Today.)

  • Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., President and Executive Director of the Arms Control Association
  • John Rhinelander, former legal advisor to the U.S. SALT I delegation that negotiated the ABM Treaty
  • Matthew Bunn, Assistant Director of the Science, Technology and Public Policy Program, Harvard University
  • David Albright, Director of the Institute for Science and International Security
  • Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers
The presentations were followed by a brief period of questions and answers which is included at the end of the transcript.


The Luncheon Address by John D. Holum:

John D. Holum served as Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) from 1993 until it's integration into State Department on April 1, 1999. In December of 1997 he simultaneously took on the role of Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, the position he currently holds. As director of ACDA, Holum served as the principal adviser to the Presient and the Secretary of State on the full range of arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament matters.

Previously, Mr. Holum served on the policy planning staff in the State Department from 1979 to 1981, working on arms control and legal issues. From 1965 to 1979, he was a member of Senator George McGovern's staff, serving as legislative director and managing the Senator's work on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Jump to the transcript of Holum's presentation and question and answer period. (From the March 1999 issue of Arms Control Today.)

ACA Annual Membership Meeting

Helms Sets June Deadline for ABM Agreements

On January 22, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC) announced that the Clinton administration has until June 1 to submit the September 1997 ABM agreements to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification. The agreements establish a "demarcation line" between permitted theater missile defense (TMD) systems and restricted ABM systems, and recognize Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine as the successor states to the former Soviet Union under the ABM Treaty.

The administration has consistently stated that it will not submit the ABM agreements (along with the START II extension protocol) to the Senate until after Russia has ratified START II.

Helms, a long-standing critic of the ABM Treaty, stated that "For the first time in 27 years, the Senate will have a chance to re-examine the wisdom of that dangerous treaty. And, if I succeed, we will defeat the ABM Treaty, toss it into the dustbin of history, and thereby clear the way to build a national missile defense for the United States." The Clinton administration, however, believes that the treaty will remain in force even if the Senate rejects the 1997 agreements.

Helms also restated his position that the Foreign Relations Committee will not take action on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) until after its consideration of the ABM agreements and the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which the administration likewise has yet to submit to the Senate. National Security Adviser Samuel Berger told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on January 12 that achieving Senate approval of the CTBT is one of the administration's top priorities for 1999.

Dereliction of Duty

Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

Ignoring its constitutional treaty-making responsibilities, the Republican Senate leadership has allowed Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, to single-handedly block Senate action on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which President Clinton signed two-and-a-half years ago. If the Senate's advice and consent on this critical treaty is delayed another six months, the future of the treaty will be in doubt and the United States will have seriously endangered its leadership role in the efforts to contain further nuclear proliferation.

First advocated by President Eisenhower in 1958, the CTBT has been a long-sought objective to constrain the nuclear arms race. With the almost universal acceptance of the critical nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the CTBT has become the litmus test of the willingness of the nuclear-weapon states to move away from the inherently discriminatory nature of the NPT. The CTBT would prohibit the nuclear-weapon states from testing—a much criticized right they alone retain under the NPT.

At the 25th-anniversary NPT review conference in 1995, which extended the treaty indefinitely, the five nuclear-weapon states agreed to complete negotiation of the CTBT no later than 1996. With strong U.S. leadership, an agreed text of this complex agreement, which had so long eluded the nuclear-weapon states, was completed on schedule. To date, the five nuclear-weapon states and 147 non-nuclear-weapon states, including Israel, have signed the treaty, and 29 states, including Britain, France, Germany and Japan, have ratified the accord. However, as a consequence of the U.S. failure to ratify, many countries, including China and Russia, are holding back on their ratification. Unless the United States and 43 other designated states ratify the treaty, it cannot formally enter into force.

Senator Helms has advised the president that he does not think the CTBT is important and that he will not consider it until his committee first deals with unrelated amendments to the ABM Treaty and the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, both of which he strongly opposes. Helms' conditions will not be met soon because the Clinton administration does not plan to submit the Kyoto Protocol in the foreseeable future and will not submit the amendments to the ABM Treaty until the Russian Duma ratifies START II.

Unless the Republican leadership resolves this impasse promptly, Helms will have succeeded in placing in jeopardy not only the CTBT but U.S. nuclear non-proliferation policy. If the United States fails to ratify the CTBT, it will not have a vote at the special conference called for in the treaty in the fall of 1999 to "facilitate the early entry into force of the treaty," nor will other key countries, including Russia and China, whose ratification is contingent on U.S. action. This will set the stage for an at-best unproductive, and possibly disastrous, NPT review conference in 2000. Instead of providing a platform for the United States to marshall support against threats to the nuclear non-proliferation regime, the United States will bear the brunt of attacks on the nuclear-weapon states for blocking progress on the CTBT and for failing to meet the other commitments made in connection with the indefinite extension of the NPT.

After 40 years of debate, it is indeed tragic that the United States is prevented from conducting foreign policy at a time when there should be strong bipartisan support for the CTBT. The treaty is endorsed by the overwhelming majority of the American people, with only a small group of extremists in opposition. The military, which in earlier years opposed such a treaty, now supports it as serving U.S. security interests. This endorsement includes the current and four former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The weapons laboratories, which historically called for continued testing, now agree that by relying on a generously funded stewardship program they can certify the reliability and safety of the nuclear stockpile without nuclear testing.

Even the long-standing dispute over the verifiability of the CTBT has largely dissipated with the general recognition that such an agreement can be adequately verified to preclude emergence of any significant new military threat to U.S. security. In fact, the international monitoring system established by the treaty will improve current verification capabilities and provide for on-site inspection of suspicious events.

The administration must translate its supportive rhetoric on the CTBT into a focused public campaign, challenging the Republican leadership to allow the Senate to exercise its constitutional responsibilities in the treaty-making process. If Republican leaders continue to hide behind Helms' dictatorial whims in denying the Senate the right to vote on this important international treaty, they will not only be derelict in their constitutional duties, but will earn an unenviable place in the nation's profiles in cowardice.

India, Pakistan Commit to Sign CTB Treaty by September 1999

SPEAKING AT the United Nations on September 23 and 24, respectively, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said their nations were prepared to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) Treaty prior to September 1999. While both states declared unilateral moratoriums on nuclear testing following their nuclear tests in May, the international community, and especially the United States, have pressured Islamabad and New Delhi to sign the CTB without conditions or delay. The speeches at the opening of the UN General Assembly are the most explicit commitments to signing the treaty that either leader has made to date.

Sharif, referring to the Conference of States Parties that may be convened in September 1999 if the treaty's entry into force provisions have not been met, stated that "Pakistan is…prepared to adhere to the CTBT before this Conference."

Sharif insisted, however, that "Pakistan's adherence to the Treaty will take place only in conditions free from coercion or pressure." He cited "restrictions imposed on Pakistan by multilateral [financial] institutions" and the "discriminatory sanctions" of the 1985 Pressler amendment, which precludes U.S. military assistance or sales to Pakistan as long as the president cannot certify that it does not have a "nuclear explosive device."

Vajpayee, noting that India is engaged "with key interlocutors on a range of issues, including the CTB," said that India was "prepared to bring those discussions to a successful conclusion, so that the entry into force of the CTBT is not delayed…." Of the 44 nations whose ratification is necessary for the treaty to enter into force, only India, Pakistan and North Korea have failed to sign the treaty.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave a modest endorsement to the two UN speeches, stating on September 24 that the commitments to the CTB were "important steps," but noting that "there are many steps that still need to be taken." On September 30, White House spokesman Mike McCurry confirmed that President Clinton had decided to postpone his planned trip to South Asia indefinitely. Clinton is "still eager to make the visit when we have had further significant progress with our respective security concerns," said McCurry.

The administration, which imposed sanctions mandated by U.S. law on the two South Asian states, has been holding bilateral meetings with both countries since July. The United States is pushing India and Pakistan to adopt an international agenda that includes regional arms control proposals and measures to support the global non-proliferation regime, such as signing the CTB and participating in negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty.

In return, New Delhi and Islamabad have insisted that U.S. and international sanctions be dropped. India is also reported to be pressing Washington to remove restrictions on exports of dual-use technology. Specifically, New Delhi would like access to nuclear power and space technologies currently controlled by the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime.

Eager to develop its space and civil nuclear power sectors for economic reasons, New Delhi also wishes to be recognized as a nuclear-weapon state, entitled to commerce in sensitive technologies with the other nuclear powers. Pakistan, meanwhile, is said to be inquiring about future military sales and assistance to help redress its conventional military imbalance with India.

Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott is expected to hold a new round of meetings with Pakistani Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmed on November 4 and with the Indian prime minister's special envoy, Jaswant Singh, on November 19. Chances for progress in the talks may have improved following adoption into law on October 21 of a one-year waiver authority for the test-related sanctions. The waiver, which would allow the president to suspend all of the non-military-related sanctions, could give the Clinton administration the bargaining flexibility needed to produce a deal.

The CTB Treaty: Signatories and Ratifiers

The Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) Treaty was opened for signature at the United Nations on September 24, 1996. On that day, 71 countries, including all five of the declared nuclear-weapon states, signed the treaty. As of October 31, 1998, 151 states have signed and 21 have ratified the treaty.

The CTB Treaty will formally enter into force 180 days after 44 designated states have deposited their instruments of ratification with the secretary-general of the United Nations. These 44 states include the five declared nuclear-weapon states, India, Israel, Pakistan and 36 other states that are participating members of the Conference on Disarmament and recognized by the International Atomic Energy Agency as possessing nuclear power and/or research reactors.

Of the 44 states that must deposit instruments of ratification for formal entry into force, 41 (identified in bold in the roster below) have signed the treaty. The other three states are India, Pakistan (both of which have indicated they will sign by September 1999) and North Korea. The list below identifies the states that have signed and ratified (ratifiers are identified in italics) the CTB Treaty as of October 31, 1998.

Country Signature
Albania 9/27/96
Algeria 10/15/96
Andorra 9/24/96
Angola 9/27/96
Antigua and Barbuda 4/16/97
Argentina 9/24/96
Armenia 10/1/96
Australia 9/24/96

(Ratified 7/9/98)

Austria 9/24/96

(Ratified 3/13/98)

Azerbaijan 7/28/97
Bahrain 9/24/96
Bangladesh 10/24/96
Belarus 9/24/96
Belgium 9/24/96
Benin 9/27/96
Bolivia 9/24/96
Country Signature
Bosnia and Herzegovina 9/24/96
Brazil 9/24/96

(Ratified 7/24/98)

Brunei Darussalem 1/22/97
Bulgaria 9/24/96
Burkina Faso 9/27/96
Burundi 9/24/96
Cambodia 9/26/96
Canada 9/24/96
Cape Verde 10/1/96
Chad 10/8/96
Chile 9/24/96
China 9/24/96
Colombia 9/24/96
Comoros 12/12/96
Congo 2/11/97
Congo Republic1 10/4/96
Cook Islands 12/5/97
Costa Rica 9/24/96
Cote d'Ivoire 9/25/96
Croatia 9/24/96
Cyprus 9/24/96
Czech Republic 11/12/96

(Ratified 9/11/97)

Denmark 9/24/96
Djibouti 10/21/96
Dominican Republic 10/3/96
Ecuador 9/24/96
Egypt 10/14/96
El Salvador 9/24/96

(Ratified 9/11/98)

Equatorial Guinea 10/9/96
Estonia 11/20/96
Ethiopia 9/25/96
Country Signature
Fiji 9/24/96

(Ratified 10/10/96)

Finland 9/24/96
France 9/24/96

(Ratified 4/6/98)

Gabon 10/7/96
Georgia 9/24/96
Germany 9/24/96

(Ratified 8/20/98)

Ghana 10/3/96
Greece 9/24/96
Grenada 10/10/96

(Ratified 8/19/98)

Guinea 10/3/96
Guinea-Bissau 4/11/97
Haiti 9/24/96
Holy See 9/24/96
Honduras 9/25/96
Hungary 9/25/96
Iceland 9/24/96
Indonesia 9/24/96
Iran 9/24/96
Ireland 9/24/96
Israel 9/25/96
Italy 9/24/96
Jamaica 11/11/96
Japan 9/24/96

(Ratified 7/8/97)

Jordan 9/26/96

(Ratified 8/25/98)

Kazakhstan 9/30/96
Kenya 11/14/96
Kuwait 9/24/96
Kyrgyzstan 10/8/96
Laos 7/30/97
Country Signature
Latvia 9/24/96
Lesotho 9/30/96
Liberia 10/1/96
Liechtenstein 9/27/96
Lithuania 10/7/96
Luxembourg 9/24/96
Macedonia 10/29/98
Madagascar 10/9/96
Malawi 10/9/96
Malaysia 7/23/98
Maldives 10/1/97
Mali 2/18/97
Malta 9/24/96
Marshall Islands 9/24/96
Mauritania 9/24/96
Mexico 9/24/96
Micronesia 9/24/96

(Ratified 7/25/97)

Moldova 9/24/97
Monaco 10/1/96
Mongolia 10/1/96

(Ratified 8/8/97)

Morocco 9/24/96
Mozambique 9/26/96
Myanmar (Burma) 11/25/96
Namibia 9/24/96
Nepal 10/8/96
Netherlands 9/24/96
New Zealand 9/27/96
Nicaragua 9/24/96
Niger 10/3/96
Norway 9/24/96
Panama 9/24/96
Country Signature
Papua New Guinea 9/25/96
Paraguay 9/25/96
Peru 9/25/96

(Ratified 11/12/97)

Philippines 9/24/96
Poland 9/24/96
Portugal 9/24/96
Qatar 9/24/96

(Ratified 3/3/97)

Romania 9/24/96
Russia 9/24/96
Saint Lucia 10/4/96
Samoa 10/9/96
San Marino 10/7/96
Sao Tome and Principe 9/26/96
Senegal 9/26/96
Seychelles 9/24/96
Slovakia 9/30/96

(Ratified 3/3/98)

Slovenia 9/24/96
Solomon Islands 10/3/96
South Africa 9/24/96
South Korea 9/24/96
Spain 9/24/96

(Ratified 7/31/98)

Sri Lanka 10/24/96
Suriname 1/14/97
Swaziland 9/24/96
Sweden 9/24/96
Switzerland 9/24/96
Tajikistan 10/7/96

(Ratified 6/10/98)

Thailand 11/12/96
Togo 10/2/96
Country Signature
Tunisia 10/16/96
Turkey 9/24/96
Turkmenistan 9/24/96

(Ratified 2/20/98)

Uganda 11/7/96
Ukraine 9/27/96
United Arab Emirates 9/25/96
United Kingdom 9/24/96

(Ratified 4/6/98)

United States 9/24/96
Uruguay 9/24/96
Uzbekistan 10/3/96

(Ratified 5/29/97)

Vanuatu 9/24/96
Venezuela 10/3/96
Vietnam 9/24/96
Yemen 9/30/96
Zambia 12/3/96

1. The Democratic Republic of The Congo, formerly Zaire. [Back to table]

Sources: UN, ACDA, and ACA.


Senate Restores CTBT PrepCom Funding

On September 1, the Senate approved an amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that restored the Clinton administration's request of $28.9 million in fiscal year 1999 funding for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) Preparatory Commission, which is establishing the treaty's verification regime. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations had cut the funding in July. (See ACT, June/July 1998.) Although the amendment, co-sponsored by Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), passed by a vote of 49-44, some opponents of the CTBT have pointed to the close margin as an indication that the treaty would not receive the 67 votes necessary if a vote on ratification were held promptly. CTBT supporters, however, have noted that the September 1 vote dealt only with a narrow funding issue that was easy to oppose and argue that the treaty itself would have received much stronger support.

Additional countries have ratified the CTBT in recent weeks. Germany, one of the 44 states whose ratification is necessary for the treaty to enter into force, deposited its instrument of ratification on August 20. As of mid-September, the treaty has been signed by 150 states and ratified by 20.


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