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Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has enduring value

THE ENDURING VALUE OF THE CTBT, Arms Control Wonk, by  | September 6, 2016

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is turning its attention to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty for the first time since 1999, when it held the briefest of hearings on the Treaty before fast-forwarding it to the Senate, which rebuked President Bill Clinton by denying its consent to ratification. The vote was mostly along party lines – only four Republican Senators voted yea back then – a preview of bitter partisan divides to follow.

One of these years, the SFRC will hold lengthy hearings on the CTBT, focusing on what has changed since the 1999 vote, what benefits the Treaty can provide, and what insurance policies could address lingering concerns. The two biggest and most important developments since the 1999 vote, as former Secretary of State George Shultz and others have noted, are the U.S. stockpile stewardship program and advancing capabilities to detect very low-yield, covert nuclear tests.

At the time of the 1999 vote, effective stockpile stewardship without explosive testing was a concept. Now it is a reality. The U.S. nuclear labs have figured out how to extend the longevity of existing warhead designs without explosive testing. Exceptional progress has also been made in detecting extremely low-yield tests – both by U.S. national technical means and by a parallel International Monitoring System built by the CTBT Preparatory Commission, based in Vienna. As a consequence, the two biggest concerns of CTBT skeptics have been satisfactorily addressed.

For these reasons alone, the CTBT deserves open-minded consideration in hearings informed by technical expertise. The Senate’s consent to ratification could do more than any other single step to reduce nuclear dangers in East Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East, where continued or renewed testing would rattle allies and accelerate negative regional dynamics……….

Given the CTBT’s enduring value, it deserves a boost by means of a rare UN Security Council resolution and a companion P-5 statement – especially on the 20th anniversary of the Treaty’s signing ceremony at the United Nations.

Note: The Stimson Center will convene a meeting on September 13, 2016 on the United States and the Future of the CTBT

September 7, 2016 - Posted by | USA, weapons and war

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