The Issues Behind the CTB Treaty Ratification Debate

By Kimball, Daryl | Arms Control Today, October 1997 | Go to article overview

The Issues Behind the CTB Treaty Ratification Debate


Kimball, Daryl, Arms Control Today


On October 20, just days before the Senate was to begin hearings on the Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) Treaty, the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers held a press conference to discuss some of the key issues likely to arise during the debate over ratification. The coalition, a national alliance of 17 of the country's largest and most active arms control organizations, including the Arms Control Association, has played a key role in informing the Congress, the media and the public about the national security benefits of the treaty.

Moderated by coalition Executive Director Daryl Kimball, panel participants included Robert Bell, special assistant to the president for national security affairs at

the National Security Council; Charles Curtis, former undersecretary and deputy secretary of energy and a member of the Nuclear Weapons Council from 1994 to 1997; Richard Garwin, a long-time consultant on nuclear weapons and national security who is Thomas J. Watson Fellow Emeritus at IBM Research Laboratories; and Lynn Sykes, Higgins Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and a leading expert on seismic detection of underground nuclear tests.

The following is an edited version of the press conference, which took place prior to the CIA announcement that the Novaya Zemlya seismic event was not a nuclear explosion.

Robert Bell

We were very glad to get the treaty to the Senate on September 22 with the president's announcement of submission when he gave his speech to the United Nations. We worked hard to get the treaty before the Senate formally this session, including several months of very focused work on getting the funding issue settled for the stockpile stewardship program-one of the key aspects of the Senate's consideration of the treaty. We have been clear with the Senate leadership and with [Senate Foreign Relations Committee] Chairman [Jesse] Helms [R-NC] that we do not expect them to try to come to a judgment on this treaty this session. Our goal, this session, is to get hearings started to have a foundation to work from by informing senators and their staffs about the treaty and the arguments for the treaty.

The Foreign Relations Committee, as many of you know, is very deeply invested now in the issue of NATO enlargement. It is going through a commendable series of hearings, with the support of the leadership of both parties, to try to have the informational phase of NATO enlargement completed before the Senate goes out. The idea being that the single, short protocol, which is the instrument of accession for the three states, should come before the Senate early next year and be acted on, we hope and trust favorably, as soon as March. While NATO enlargement is the priority for the Foreign Relations Committee, we think that the Senate, at the informational level, can do two or more things at once. We are looking forward to the hearings that Senator [Pete] Domenici [R-NM] and Senator [Thad] Cochran [R-MS] will be having in about a week. We hope there may yet be an opportunity for hearings in the Foreign Relations Committee, but we are not pressing to get this to a floor vote before the Senate goes out. We will deal with that next spring.

In terms of the treaty itself, I would just make five points. First, it is important to recognize that this is a historic treaty. I don't mean to suggest that some of the treaties that we have moved in the last couple of years have not been important. But as the president said, this is "the longest sought, hardest fought prize in the history of arms control." The attainment of a comprehensive test ban has been a goal of U.S. foreign policy dating back to President Eisenhower, who, we understand, considered the failure to achieve a CTB to be one of his main regrets as a two-term president. We also understand that President Kennedy considered his greatest legacy as president to have been the attainment of the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty. …

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