The Superpowers and Nuclear Arms Control: Rhetoric and Reality

By Dennis Menos | Go to book overview

for the immediate conclusion of an agreement. The United States, for its part, has stopped pretending. A CTBT, it believes, is contrary to its security interests. 40 As long as the free world must depend on nuclear deterrence for security, nuclear weapons must be safe, reliable, and survivable. Such assurance is only possible through continuous nuclear testing. Despite declaring opposition to a CTBT, the United States does not preclude entirely the possibility of an agreement. A CTBT will eventually come to pass, it states, sometime in the far future, after the superpowers have reduced their strategic arsenals and ultimately eliminated their nuclear weapons. 41

The search for improvements in the verification provisions of the TTBT and the PNET has been keeping the superpowers busy for more than three years. Through the summer of 1989, numerous sessions were held at the expert level as well as four formal rounds of negotiations. By all indications this is busy work par excellence, the only accomplishment to date being an agreement for a Joint Verification Experiment, which was conducted during 1988 in Nevada and at Semipalatinsk. 42 The experiment provided each side the opportunity to measure the yield of a nuclear explosion carried out by the other. The measuring of nuclear yields was made by the CORRTEX technique in the case of the United States (this involves the burying of a cable containing electronic sensors at the explosion site) and by means of a seismic measuring device, which measures tremors generated by the explosion, in the case of the Soviets. The choice of measuring devices was significant. Throughout the years, the United States has insisted that the CORRTEX cable be used for verification of all blasts expected to exceed 50 kilotons. 43 The Soviets are opposed to this idea for fear that it will result in a continuous U.S. presence at their nuclear test sites.


Is There Hope for a CTBT?

The superpowers today are in the midst of a massive arms buildup, one based primarily on a new generation of first-strike weapons. Extensive testing will be required before many of these "new" weapons are approved for operational deployment. Short of a miracle, only a CTBT can end the senseless weapons spiral and the development of future generations of weapons, which the superpowers are so eagerly embracing in their never-ending pursuit for nuclear advantage.

The chances for a CTBT are almost nil. Perhaps the prophets of gloom are correct in their assessment that the end of nuclear testing will not be realized until the superpowers have perfected the "ultimate weapon," and testing is no longer necessary.


NOTES
1.
Chapter 4 of Albert Carnesale, ed., "Learning from Experience with Arms Control," a manuscript prepared for the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament

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