CTBT: The Best vs. the Good

By Keeny, Spurgeon, M, Jr. | Arms Control Today, May/June 1996 | Go to article overview
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CTBT: The Best vs. the Good


Keeny, Spurgeon, M, Jr., Arms Control Today


Despite a very productive session, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) failed to meet its self-imposed deadline of June 28 to agree on the text of a comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT). The chairman of the test ban committee did, however, present on the final day a generally excellent compromise treaty text for the 60 participating states of the recently expanded CD to consider during the July recess as the basis for action when they reconvene on July 29. President Clinton must now decide whether to press for improvement of the draft's unsatisfactory entry into force provision or to accept the entire treaty text as is to help assure prompt completion of the treaty without further changes that may be sought by other countries.

In an attempt to satisfy all potential members, the chairman's text proposes that entry into force require the deposit of instruments of ratification by the five nuclear-weapon states, the three "threshold" states (India, Israel and Pakistan) and 36 other named states. In short, this approach would give 44 states, including India, which has announced that it will not sign, a veto over formal activation of the treaty. In an effort to address this impasse, the text provides for a conference after three years to decide by consensus on measures "to accelerate the ratification process." However, any change to the original entry into force provision would require a treaty amendment that could be blocked by a single country.

The initial U.S. position required that only the five nuclear-weapon states and some agreed number of additional states need ratify in order to activate the treaty. A treaty which formally ended testing by the nuclear-weapon states with worldwide membership would put great pressure on the threshold states to abide by and eventually join. The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), for example, entered into force without many key states, including Germany, Japan, France and China, which subsequently joined that treaty.

The United Kingdom, Russia and China, however, have insisted that the three threshold states, as well as other states, must ratify for the treaty to enter into force. While early inclusion of the threshold states would be highly desirable, India has already announced it will not sign the treaty unless it contains a commitment by the nuclearweapon states to eliminate all their nuclear weapons by a date certain. Consequently, many observers believe that these three nuclear-weapon states are motivated more by a desire to prevent the treaty's entry into force than to put greater pressure on India to join.

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