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The United States and the Test Ban Treaty

Two weeks before President George W. Bush takes office, the uncertainty that surrounded his election has been replaced by concerns about the impact his presidency will have on America’s foreign policy. America’s allies and adversaries alike are looking for evidence of continuity or change in the new president’s approach. One key test will be the new administration’s actions on nuclear nonproliferation in general and on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in particular.

A year ago, President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright asked me to serve as their Special Advisor for the Test Ban Treaty. The US Senate had recently voted against the Treaty’s ratification. I was asked to conduct a quiet, low-key dialogue with Senators in order to sort out the complex issues in the debate and think about what should be done. To this end, I met with Democratic and Republican Senators and consulted with senior administration representatives, laboratory officials, scientists and other experts with widely disparate views on ratification. I listened to their concerns and sought their suggestions.

My consultations assured me that there is broad bipartisan support within the US for strengthening American leadership of a comprehensive international response to the dangers posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons. I am more convinced than ever that the Test Ban Treaty is an integral – even indispensable – component of global nonproliferation efforts. I hope that the Bush administration will revisit the Treaty in the context of its importance to combating the spread of nuclear weapons.

This week, I submitted to President Clinton a series of recommendations that may help the incoming administration give favorable consideration to revisiting the Treaty. These recommendations focus on four principal concerns raised by Treaty opponents: questions about its value to the non-proliferation regime; the potential for cheating; its impact on the US nuclear deterrent; and the uncertainties associated with the Treaty’s indefinite duration. Although too numerous to list here, the broad objectives of these recommendations are to: