The ways to re-energize the global debate on the CTBT and its undelayed enactment

It is undisputable fact: the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty is a legally binding universal ban on nuclear explosions of any kind and everywhere.

© Vladimir Kozin

Chief Adviser, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies

Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of the Natural Sciences

Professor of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences

Remarks at the Panel Debates “CTBT at 20: Re-Energizing the Global Debate”

The Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP)

March 24th, 2016

Today, 183 nations have signed the CTBT and 164 have ratified it.

There are some nations that are still pursuing a controversial stance on the Treaty. The USA is amongst them. Outlining the USA here is not serendipity. If the USA ratifies the act, other nations who failed to do so will follow suit.

On one hand, when it was opened for signature in September 1996, President Bill Clinton was the first world leader to sign the Treaty. Simultaneously, as stands for today, the USA understands the merits of this arrangement. President Barack Obama called for the ratification and entry into force of the CTBT in his 2009 Prague speech.

As a chief US arms controller Rose Gottemoeller has put it “An in-force CTBT will make it difficult for states without nuclear weapons to develop advanced nuclear weapons capabilities”. She also observed that: “An in-force Treaty would also make it hard for states with more established nuclear weapon programs to develop advanced nuclear weapon designs that they have not tested successfully in the past. Because of this, an in-force CTBT helps to constrain regional arms races”.   In her other remarks, Rose Gottemoeller has underscored that: “Plain and simple, the CTBT is good for U.S. and international security. It is a key part of leading nuclear weapons states toward a world of diminished reliance on nuclear weapons … .”

On the other hand, the United States and seven more nations have not yet ratified the Treaty. Although Washington signed the CTBT in 1996, the US Senate in 1999 failed to give its advice and consent to ratification. Since then – there have not been any attempts and subsequently no gains.

The current U.S. Administration has focused only not upon ratification of the CTBT, but rather only on a dialogue, but rather than on a timeline. The Administration also underlined the policy aimed at re-familiarization of Senators with the Treaty. The U.S. State Department believes that ratification of the CTBT will require “debate, discussion, questions, briefings, trips to the National Labs and other technical facilities, hearings and more”, but not a bona fide ratification.

It means that during Barak Obama’s presidency the CTBT, presumably, will not be ratified by the U.S. Senate.

Russia has ratified the Treaty sixteen years ago - in May 2000. Moscow still urges other nations to ratify the CTBT.

  1. There are seemingly two ways to secure earlier enactment of the CTBT.

Exclusively, by persuasion, by power of arguments, rather than by arguments of power.

First, the world community should put more pressure upon those states that failed to ratify the CTBT – e.g. by sending them a common letter of appeal to do so in the immediate future, signed by all interested states at the level of presidents and prime-ministers, and separately by chairpersons (directors) of prominent think-tanks and widely recognized NGOs.

Second, to create better atmosphere for the CTBT ratification all nuclear weapon states should revitalize the option articulated in the past: to make a universal commitment not to use nuclear weapon first or not to use it at all.

There are relevant precedents in this context. Such commitments are existing between the USA and its nuclear allies – the UK and France; between Russia and the PRC. So, why not to try to proliferate such commitment to all nuclear-weapon states – both de jure and de facto? Thus, to make a global universal commitment.

The obvious caveat linked to the CTBT is: the longer it is not ratified, the stronger will be the lust of a number of non-nuclear weapon states to de facto acquire nuclear weapons. The writing on the wall: This will be the worst-case scenario for the current and succeeding generations.