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Donald Trump, guided by John Bolton, could wreck the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

Could Trump Trash The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty? Forbes, Michael Krepon, 3 June 19

  Think of what the world would be like if Russia, the United States, China, India and Pakistan were testing nuclear weapons. They are not because of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which is responsible for shutting down nuclear testing by major and regional powers for more than two decades. Walking away from the CTBT would be extraordinarily dumb and dangerous, but the Trump administration has taken a step in this direction.

The CTBT was negotiated in 1996, but it isn’t solidly in place. While Russia has signed and ratified it, Senate Republicans rejected it in 1999. China, like the United States, has signed but not ratified.

 There are other holdouts, including India and Pakistan. And yet none of these states has tested nuclear weapons since 1998. When a treaty is negotiated, it’s common diplomatic practice not to undercut its objectives while awaiting its entry into force. Hence the two-decades-long moratorium on testing by every nuclear-armed state except North Korea.

How long this can this situation last? The answer is in doubt now that the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley, Jr., has declared at a public forum that the “United States believes that Russia probably is not adhering to its nuclear testing moratorium.” The Treaty sets a “zero yield” obligation: states aren’t supposed to test even with the slightest yields. The State Department defines this as any explosion “that produce a self-sustaining, supercritical chain reaction.” In other words, you can conduct experiments, but the experiments should not produce any seismic activity.

As a result of General Ashley’s statement, it’s now open season against the CTBT for those who want to trash another treaty. Critics of arms control have begun to call on Donald Trump to “unsign” the CTBT, just as he has walked away from the Iran nuclear deal and the Arms Trade Treaty. (Trump also announced withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, but in this case, evidence of Russian noncompliance is compelling.) By “unsigning” the CTBT, Trump would tell the world that the United States is no longer bound to respect the Treaty’s obligation not to test nuclear weapons.
Before stumbling into this sinkhole, there are three very important things to bear in mind. First, the U.S. Intelligence Community in general, and the Defense Intelligence Agency in particular, have bad track records in assessing Moscow’s compliance with nuclear testing constraints. Second, National Security Adviser John Bolton and others have a track record of fixing intelligence findings to fit their policy preferences, to the great detriment of America’s national security, expeditionary forces, and international standing. And third, walking away from the CTBT would remove constraints on the resumption of nuclear testing by others far more than on the United States.

Now let’s consider details.

General Ashley declared that the United States believes that Russia “probably” is cheating. This suggests an intelligence community-wide agreement, but Time magazine reports that this is not the case. According to Time’s reporters, there is no consensus, and “the Defense Intelligence Agency generally takes the ‘worst case’ position on military matters.” We deserve to know if there is a difference of view within the intelligence community on whether Russia is “probably” cheating, and if this dispute is about inference rather than evidence. We also need to know whether administration officials are seeking to influence intelligence assessments to suit policy preferences…………

It’s unknown whether John Bolton had any involvement with the DIA intelligence assessment, but another reason for investigation is the National Security Adviser’s record of  “fixing” intelligence to make the case for a second war against Saddam Hussein, a war predicated on weapons of mass destruction that did not exist. Bolton is on record opposing U.S. ratification and entry into force of the CTBT. Is he once again “fixing the facts” to suit his policy preferences? Is the Defense Intelligence Agency once again guilty of reaching conclusions beyond available evidence, and misrepresenting the evidence it has? Or is there strong evidence of Russian violations of the CTBT’s prohibition on testing?

We deserve answers to these questions before opening the floodgates to resumed nuclear testing. https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelkrepon/2019/06/03/could-trump-trash-the-nuclear-test-ban-treaty/#67afa9762514

June 4, 2019 - Posted by | politics international, USA, weapons and war

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