By Daryl G. Kimball
At a March 8 public forum, former Secretary of State George Shultz underscored once again his support for U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
Shultz was asked for his “personal view on whether the U.S. should ratify the test ban treaty as a way to enhance U.S. security?”
Shultz, who served as President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State from 1982-1989, said: “Yes I clearly think we should ratify that treaty.”
“This issue has kind of lost its attention and we need to get back on the offense. And here’s the way to get back on the offense,” Shultz continued.
“I would say that in some ways a Senator … Senator Nunn might put it this way … a Senator might have been right to vote against it when it was first put forward and right to vote for it now,” he said.
“Why? Because things have changed. Its now not just an idea that we can detect tests. There is a network that has built out now and has been demonstrated that we can detect all, even small tests.”
Shultz went on to note that the nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship program has also been very successful and in the past nuclear tests were conducted primarily to develop new types of nuclear weapons and so, he said, we have no need to test today.
“I find it hard to see how we would justify going and producing a new nuclear weapon, we have quite an arsenal right now.”
In their influential January 2007 joint op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Shultz, along with Henry Kissinger, William Perry, and former Senator Sam Nunn called for:
“Initiating a bipartisan process with the Senate, including understandings to increase confidence and provide for periodic review, to achieve ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, taking advantage of recent technical advances, and working to secure ratification by other key states.”
“[Republicans] might have been right voting against [the CTBT] some years ago, but they would be right voting for it now, based on these new facts…. [There are] new pieces of information that are very important and that should be made available to the Senate.”
A 2012 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Technical Issues for the United States, reaffirms that the United States no longer needs–and would not benefit from–nuclear explosive testing. Renewed nuclear testing would only help improve other nations’ nuclear capabilities and reduce U.S. security. And the report documents why U.S. ratification and entry into force of the CTBT would significantly improve our ability to detect and deter nuclear testing by others.
The NAS report documents how the CTBT constrains the ability of the established nuclear-weapon states, including Russia and China, to build new types of more sophisticated nuclear warhead designs.
The report also documents why, without the option of nuclear explosive testing, newer testing nations, including potentially Iran, could not perfect sophisticated two-stage thermonuclear warheads that can be delivered on long-range ballistic missiles.
The report found that “the development of weapons with lower capabilities … is possible with or without the CTBT for countries of different levels of nuclear sophistication, but such developments would not require the United States to return to nuclear testing in order to respond because it already has-or could produce-weapons of equal or greater capability based on its own nuclear-explosion test history.”
Senior Obama administration officials have explained on a number occasions that the case for the CTBT is stronger than ever, but the Obama administration has not yet launched a high-level campaign for the CTBT like the effort it pursued to secure Senate approval of New START in late-2010.
However, in a speech in South Korea in March 2012, Obama said: “… my administration will continue to pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.” And in February 2013, Acting Undersecretary of State Rose Gottemoeller said in a speech in Tel Aviv: “…ratification and entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) remains a top priority for the United States.”
In recent weeks, a number of other senior statesmen have called upon President Obama to pursue a serious, sustained effort to win Senate approval of the CTBT. They argue that U.S. leadership on the CTBT is an appropriate response to North Korea’s recent nuclear test and vital to strengthening global nonproliferation efforts.
As former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Tom Pickering wrote in a February 20 op-ed in The Christian Science Monitor: “Now is the right time for the White House to launch a high-level push for ratifying the treaty and for the Senate to join in closing the door on nuclear testing.”
“US ratification of the test-ban treaty would increase the global leverage necessary to curtail North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and help deter Iran’s leaders from pursuing a nuclear weapon,” Pickering wrote. “Completing work on the treaty would also reduce nuclear tensions between India and Pakistan and between India and China, and enhance security and stability throughout Asia,” he said.
In a February 16 op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune, former Republican Senator Jake Garn and former Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr., note that “President Obama repeatedly pledged to work to secure ratification of the test ban treaty. Now is the time for him to follow through.”
“For its part, the Senate has a responsibility to consider the CTBT with an open mind, based on an up-to-date analysis.Ratification will be challenging, but Republicans and Democrats understand the importance of common sense steps to reduce the nuclear threat. Working together, they can create a lasting legacy for the country,” Garn and Graham conclude.