Nuclear Test Ban Debate and Poll
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After the fall of the Soviet Union, President Bush signed a limited testing moratorium to take effect Oct. 1, 1992, for nine months. President Clinton continued the moratorium - the country's last test was in September 1992 - then signed the comprehensive global treaty in 1996. The treaty, a plank in the 1992 Democratic Party platform, went to the Senate for ratification in 1997. It languished in the Senate until Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., unexpectedly scheduled a full Senate vote for Oct. 12.
Among pro-test-ban countries, the thinking is that if the United States ratifies the treaty, Russia and China will follow, then India and Pakistan will fall into line, and North Korea can be ostracized until it accedes to international norms.
Supporters say the treaty is a powerful deterrent to small states which might want to develop nuclear weapons. It provides for an international seismic monitoring network and would give the international community a strong basis for action against a country found to have tested.
Republicans say the treaty is flawed, in part because it would not prevent countries such as North Korea, Iraq and Iran from testing. ``We think it would put us in a weakened position internationally,'' Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said Friday. ``But since there have been all these calls and demands for a vote, we have offered to vote.''
After two years of inaction and without any hearings on the treaty, Senate GOP leaders abruptly decided Thursday to hold a vote Oct. 12. ``This is not what the Founding Fathers meant by advise and consent,'' Sandy Berger, the national security adviser, said in an interview Saturday. ``This is hit and run.'' The administration and its allies accused Republicans of rushing the vote in hopes of defeating the treaty. Democrats fear they are about 15 votes short of the 67 needed to ratify the agreement. Traditionally, major treaties are debated at length in committee hearings before coming to a vote in the Senate.
Defense Secretary William Cohen and Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, will present the administration's case. ``It's a verifiable treaty,'' Cohen said, adding that the United States has the technology to ensure nuclear tests are not conducted.
The Washington Post quoted unidentified senior officials as saying the Central Intelligence Agency has concluded in a new assessment of its capabilities that it cannot monitor low-level nuclear tests in Russia precisely enough to ensure compliance with the treaty.
White House Chief of Staff John Podesta said the treaty will help clear up such uncertainties by permitting 300 additional testing stations around the world and by providing for on-site inspections. ``So that if there are questions about whether a country is testing, we can bring the weight of the international community to bear to have on-site inspections,'' he said. ``This is really an argument for the treaty.''
President Bush unilaterally stopped nuclear testing in 1992 and the United States relies on supercomputer simulations to test the nuclear arsenal. We don't need tests. Proliferators do and the longer we go without the CTBT fully enforced, the greater the risk that proliferators will get what they want.'
John Holum, the administration's top arms-control official, said the treaty was of vital importance because, once it takes effect, it will be ``very difficult for new countries to develop nuclear weapons.''
Conservatives contend the pact - which also has not been ratified yet by Russia or China could threaten the U.S. ability to modernize its arsenal if necessary.
Supporters argue the United States
already has a vast superiority in nuclear weapons, thanks to more than 1,000
nuclear tests during the Cold War, and the test ban treaty would lock in that
The treaty has been signed by more than 150 countries, but cannot go into force unless 44 nuclear-capable countries, including the United States, ratify it. The 44 nations, each possessing various degrees of nuclear capability, that must ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty for it to take effect:
The 26 nations that have ratified the treaty:
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Bulgaria, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
The 15 nations that have signed but not yet ratified the treaty:
Algeria, Bangladesh, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, United States and Vietnam.
The three nations among the 44 that have neither signed nor ratified the treaty:
India, Pakistan, North Korea.
FACT 12 10-13-99
Ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) failed in the Senate by a vote of 48 to 51 with one abstention. The Senate's Republican majority overwhelmingly opposed the pact.
Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush has condemned the treaty, as have Elizabeth Dole and the three Senate Republicans who are presidential hopefuls: John McCain, R-Ariz.; Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; and Bob Smith, Ind-N.H.
But what if the United States needed to resume nuclear testing in 10 or 13 years? Test ban opponents suggest that this small risk means we should opt out of the treaty now. We disagree. While it is difficult to conceive of future security threats likely to require nuclear testing as the most appropriate response, if such a serious threat did emerge the United States could withdraw from the treaty. The treaty would permit withdrawal with six months’ notice.