Login/Logout

*
*  

The Arms Control Association is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size." 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
U.S. Nuclear Weapons

NMD Decision-Who's in Charge?

Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

Self-inflicted pressure to meet a self-imposed July deadline continues to build for a presidential decision on deployment of a national missile defense (NMD). Although President Clinton has asserted that no decision has been made, his senior advisors, led by Secretary of Defense William Cohen, publicly advocate that the United States urgently needs such a defense, despite growing evidence that it is not only unnecessary, but also contrary to U.S. security interests.

When Clinton signed compromise legislation in July 1999 making it U.S. policy to deploy an effective limited NMD system, he underscored that the legislation also made it U.S. policy to seek reductions in Russian nuclear forces. He announced that his decision on whether to deploy would be predicated on technological progress, cost estimates, evaluation of the threat and progress in achieving arms control objectives, including any necessary amendments to the ABM Treaty. Developments to date have made it clear that none of these criteria will be met by July 2000.

On technical grounds alone, a responsible decision to deploy cannot be made this summer even if the much-heralded next test should prove successful. So far, intercept tests have used surrogate elements, except for a prototype kill vehicle that may not be compatible with the untested high-acceleration interceptor. Last fall, an independent committee of experts chaired by General Larry Welch, retired Air Force chief of staff, issued an extremely critical report, characterizing the program as "very high risk" and concluding that "demonstration of readiness to deploy will not come until 2003 at the earliest." Recently, the Pentagon official responsible for reviewing all test programs has expressed great concern that the NMD program is driven by an imposed schedule rather than demonstrated accomplishments, making premature decisions extremely unwise.

The rationale for the limited NMD-the threat that "rogue" states such as North Korea, Iraq and Iran may attack or blackmail the United States-is rapidly losing whatever credibility it ever had. Despite Cohen's most recent alarmist statements that "in the next five to 10 years, these rogue countries will be able to hold all of NATO at risk with their missile forces," few states are persuaded that any of these countries would risk obliteration by attempting blackmail, much less by attacking NATO, in the very unlikely event that they developed such a capability. Recent events counter such worst-case estimates, which were based on conceivable technical developments divorced from real-world considerations. North Korea has agreed to discontinue its missile tests while negotiating on its missile program; the UN Security Council has reached consensus on a new inspection regime which, if defied by Iraq, will result in continued sanctions; and elections in Iran suggest it may be moving toward a more cooperative posture.

The estimated cost of the limited NMD continues to grow, ranging from $30-60 billion, with the more ambitious programs championed by Republican NMD enthusiasts costing hundreds of billions. These costs, however, simply involve wasting public funds by overreacting to unlikely threats. The real costs are the imponderable impacts of NMD deployment on U.S. arms control objectives and relations with the rest of the world.

Russia has made it clear that it will not amend the ABM Treaty to permit the proposed NMD deployment. Russian leaders believe that it would form the base for rapid deployment of a NMD system that could negate the surviving Russian deterrent after a pre-emptive U.S. attack. They also hear the call of influential Republican senators for a multi-layered NMD to counter all Russian capabilities. If the United States withdraws from the ABM Treaty, as some threaten, prospects for further reductions under START III would be slim, and Russia might even carry out its threat to withdraw from the START I and II. China, which sees NMD as clearly intended to negate its modest deterrent force, will certainly accelerate its strategic nuclear modernization plans and be drawn closer to Russia.

NATO members, whose views were originally unsolicited, are deeply concerned about the implications for the alliance if Washington believes no part of the United States can be at risk, while the rest of NATO remains completely exposed. Europeans wonder whether in U.S. eyes the Aleutian Islands are more important than Paris, Berlin and London.

To preserve his ability to make a reasoned decision on NMD deployment, President Clinton should direct his advisors to cease their efforts to force a positive deployment decision in the absence of serious consideration of the consequences. His own administration should not be allowed to dominate the public debate in a manner that prevents him from just saying "no" to deployment. Clinton should let his successor struggle with this decision when more is known about the system, the threat and the consequences.

Sparking a Buildup: U.S. Missile Defense and China's Nuclear Arsenal

Charles Ferguson

"A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it." —Chinese proverb

Currently, China is exploring how to modernize its aging nuclear forces as it simultaneously finds itself adapting to the circumstances presented by the U.S. development of advanced theater missile defense for East Asia and national missile defense for the United States. The concurrence of these two events could lead to China shaping a significantly larger nuclear force that could strike the United States unless Washington decides that missile defense deployment is not in its best interest and China continues to adhere to a minimum deterrent posture consistent with its currently small arsenal.

More than simply finding ways to preserve China's nuclear deterrent, the vociferous Chinese opposition to U.S. missile defense plans symbolizes the more significant strategic clash over the roles of the United States and China in the world. Just at the time when China is starting to develop economic and military muscle and is successfully emerging from a century of foreign domination and humiliation, which stretched from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th, it is increasingly alarmed about the United States as a global hegemon that is growing without bounds.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin articulated the strategic clash between China and the United States in a speech commemorating the Chinese who died as a result of the May 1999 U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Kosovo. "Relying on its economic, scientific, technological, and military prowess, the United States continues to practice hegemony and power politics and wantonly interferes in the internal affairs of other countries. What it has done has heightened the vigilance of more and more countries and people," he said.<1>

Making explicit the perceived connection between missile defense and the United States' encroachment on China's sovereignty, General Zhang Wannian, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, stated, "Any country selling the theater missile defense system to China's Taiwan or incorporating Taiwan in the theater missile defense program will directly or indirectly put Taiwan in the framework of Japan-U.S. security cooperation, which will be a grave infringement in China's internal affairs." He made this statement at a June 9, 1999, meeting with Marshal Sergeyev, Russia's minister of defense, who "expressed satisfaction with the development of friendly cooperation between the two armed forces [of China and Russia]," according to Zhang. He added that "Russia is resolutely opposed to the U.S. attempt for world hegemony."<2>

From the U.S. government's perspective, its "leadership has never been more needed, or more in demand. And so it is perplexing that the United States finds itself today being accused of both hegemony and isolationism at the same time," according to Samuel Berger, assistant to the president for national security affairs.<3> In the same speech, he elaborated, "Among our many friends and allies around the world, the dominant vision of the United States still is one of a country whose leadership is essential to peace and prosperity and which exercises leadership for the greater good." Concerning China, he called for balance, asserting that "we should not look at China through rose-colored glasses; neither should we see it through a glass darkly, distorting its strength and ignoring its complexities."

To follow Berger's advice on China, each side needs to understand the other's security concerns. The coincident timing between China's nuclear force modernization and the United States' missile defense development presents a critical moment for the United States and China to attempt to reach a strategic understanding. It is not clear whether or not the United States will decide to deploy a national missile defense, but U.S. intentions toward China seem ambiguous at best, and hostile at worst. China is modernizing its nuclear forces, and there are several courses of action that it could take to defeat a U.S. national missile defense (NMD)—options Washington should be aware of before making its decision. To avert nuclear escalation, both sides must enter a sustained exchange of views on their intentions about missile defense and force modernization, in particular, and their roles in the world, in general. This dialogue should culminate in actions that reduce the risk of either planned or accidental nuclear conflict.

America's Unclear Intentions

In trying to determine if U.S. missile defense is designed for China, Chinese leaders hear two distinct political voices. The Republicans forcefully announce that missile defense is intended for China, but the Clinton administration takes a more ambiguous position. While the administration has clearly stated that the United States needs an NMD system to defend against so-called "rogue" nations, such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq, and to shoot down a handful of missiles from an accidental launch, it has not explicitly mentioned China as one of the driving forces behind NMD. Despite this ambiguity, current U.S. NMD plans appear sized for the small Chinese ICBM force.

The Clinton administration has spent considerably more effort courting Russia on accepting U.S. missile defense than it has openly put forth addressing Chinese concerns. For example, in discussing the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in November 1999, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, "The limited changes [to the treaty] we are contemplating would not undermine Russian security," but she failed to explicitly discuss the impact on Chinese security.<4> Although this approach might be expected because the United States and Russia are the parties to the treaty and because Russia has a far larger nuclear arsenal, it only serves to further obfuscate U.S. intentions.

Defense Secretary William Cohen has also carefully avoided any explicit reference to China in U.S. national missile defense designs. For instance, during a talk in January 1999 in which he outlined the missile threat, he never once mentioned China. Following that speech, he also dodged the issue of China when a questioner asked, "Secretary [of Defense Robert] McNamara made a very similar speech 32 years ago that you just went through, except he named China as the rogue nation…. What are your hopes and fears in that line?" Cohen replied, "What we're dealing with here is the question of those nations—rogue nations could be North Korea, it could be others—who acquire a limited capability that could in fact pose a threat to the American people. We intend to develop, are prepared to develop, a system that would give us that limited type of protection against either the rogue nation or the accidental, unauthorized type of launch."<5>

Following a January meeting at the Pentagon with Lieutenant General Xiong Guangkai from the Chinese Ministry of Defense, Walter Slocombe, undersecretary of defense for policy, was asked if the administration tried to "convince [the Chinese] that NMD is not designed to take away their nuclear deterrent." He replied, "It's not for us to convince them of that proposition." He later added, "I have said in the past that we believe that our system is designed with respect to rogue states. That is the concern. It is not aimed at China or Russia or any other country, other than the rogue states."<6>

Though the United States has been less than forthcoming in its rhetoric, it has at last begun to engage China in a dialogue about NMD. In February, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott led a high-level delegation to Beijing to explain U.S. national missile defense plans and U.S. views of the emerging missile threat.

Of course, for President Clinton, NMD has another purpose: to shield his chosen successor from charges of being soft on defense. As John Pike, a scholar at the Federation of American Scientists who is opposed to missile defense, has observed, "The president's deployment decision will have more to do with defending Al Gore against George Bush than the American people against North Korea."<7> Indeed, in assessing U.S. intentions and planning its nuclear force modernization, China has to determine not only what the meaning behind the Clinton administration's vagueness means, but also the likely direction of U.S. policy when a new president takes office in less than a year. Chinese leaders need to ascertain if the United States' China policy and missile defense plans will change soon.

Vice President Gore will probably continue the Clinton administration's policy on missile defense if he becomes the president. In a December debate in New Hampshire, Gore expressed the guarded view that "some kinds of missile defense" would be permissible given the current state of U.S. relations with Taiwan and the mainland. When asked by a reporter to be more specific, Gore demurred.<8> He coined a new term "constructive ambiguity" as the hallmark of the United States' success in dealing with China. Despite the studied ambiguity, Gore and his foreign policy team have clearly expressed that they do not want to spark an arms race over missile defense to Taiwan. In contrast, they have been less clear on the impact of national missile defense on China's deterrent vis-à-vis the United States.

Unlike Gore, Bill Bradley has apparently been forging his foreign policy views without as much external input. He was roundly criticized following a town meeting on foreign policy at Tufts University on November 29, 1999. Notably, he spoke little about missile defense or China.<9> However, of all the presidential candidates, Bradley expresses the most caution over the consequences that missile defense could have on arms control and strategic stability.

In contrast to Gore's ambiguity and Bradley's caution, Governor George W. Bush and Senator John McCain, the two leading Republican presidential contenders, are not reticent about their support for deploying missile defense and directing it at China. Both have pledged to deploy national missile defense even if it means abrogating the ABM Treaty.

In a recent foreign policy interview, McCain discussed his policy on national and theater missile defense. He said, "What we need is to build modest systems and improve on them. For example, I'd like to see us develop a sea-based system that we could station off Taiwan, if necessary, in international waters." He was then asked if that would provoke China. In response, he said, "We would only do that in case the Chinese were acting aggressively toward Taiwan, which would be a violation of the one China policy, which they are committed to, because the one China policy calls for the peaceful reunification of China."<10> McCain believes in addressing China with unabashed realism. He has characterized Chinese leaders as "determined, indeed ruthless, defenders of their regime, who will do whatever is necessary, no matter how inhumane or offensive to us, to pursue their own interest."<11>

Unlike McCain, Bush has not served in Congress and lacks McCain's depth of experience in foreign policy. Nonetheless, Bush has built foreign policy muscle by enlisting a formidable team of advisers on whom he is apt to rely heavily. Concerning China, they appear divided. In particular, Condoleezza Rice, a key adviser in the Bush administration's National Security Council, takes a realist stance and remarks that "China has its own interests. It's a great power in the traditional sense. You need a broadly based policy, try to encourage economic liberalization, compete where you must on security issues."<12> However, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, two other Bush advisers, see China in a more hostile light. Significantly, in July 1999, they signed a Heritage Foundation document that called for the United States "to deter any form of Chinese intimidation of the Republic of China on Taiwan and declare unambiguously that it will come to Taiwan's defense in the event of an attack or a blockade against Taiwan, including against the offshore islands of Matsu and Kinmen [Quemoy]." Notwithstanding their somewhat different stances on China, all the advisers support missile defense.

In a November interview with The New York Times, Bush spelled out his views on missile defense deployment and transfer of missile defense to Taiwan. Concerning deployment, he said, "I think we ought to give Russia a reasonable period of time...if not, we ought to abrogate the ABM Treaty." He specified that a reasonable period is "months," not years. In response to a question concerning whether or not he has decided about selling missile defense to Taiwan, he replied, "You mean, when we deploy the Aegis cruiser system, for example, will we sell the technology to Taiwan? Depends on how the Chinese behave."<13> Trying to split the difference between menacing and coddling China, he said, "[China] will be unthreatened, but not unchecked."<14>

China's Perspective: Back to the Future

After the bombing of Kosovo, Chinese leaders are worrying where the United States' humanitarian and democratic missions—backed by military power—will venture next. In 1997, China regained Hong Kong, and last December it reacquired Macau. Chinese leaders have clearly stated that Taiwan is next in line for reunification. However, U.S. military aid to Taiwan serves to stymie those plans. While the U.S. government supports the one China policy, thereby not advocating Taiwanese independence, the United States is required to equip Taiwan with weapons for its self-defense, in accordance with the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act and the three communiqués. Recently, a majority in the House of Representatives voted to increase military aid and ties through the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, which the Clinton administration has threatened to veto.

Taiwan has expressed strong interest in receiving advanced theater missile defense (TMD) from the United States. Although the United States has sold the Patriot Advanced Capability-2, a limited TMD system, to Taiwan, it has not decided whether to provide more advanced TMD, if such systems are developed. In March 1999, during a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, Secretary of State Albright reportedly stated that "there would be less need for [TMD] if China stopped pointing its missiles so aggressively at Taiwan or were more helpful in restraining North Korea."<15> These remarks were tempered when she explained that "a decision...has not been made to deploy defensive technologies that do not yet exist."<16> On November 12, 1999, State Department spokesman James Rubin said that Washington does "not preclude the possible sale of TMD items to Taiwan in the future." However, the United States does not support Taiwan's development of long-range ground-to-ground ballistic missiles.

China considers Taiwan a renegade province. Although China is unlikely to invade Taiwan in the near future, it has not relinquished the option of using military force against Taiwan. Regarding missile defense for Taiwan, China is adamantly opposed and concerned that it will embolden Taiwan's leaders to declare independence. Taiwan's desire for U.S. missile defenses from the United States represents only one of the outstanding elements of the U.S.-Chinese-Taiwanese missile diplomacy triangle. During this past year, reports have surfaced that China has deployed as many as several hundred short-range ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan. Although some Chinese officials have openly denied that China is targeting Taiwan with missiles, the Chinese missile firings just north and south of Taiwan prior to the 1996 Taiwanese presidential election removed any doubt that China would use missiles to try to influence Taiwan's behavior. In response, the United States demonstrated resolve by positioning two aircraft carrier battle groups near Taiwan.

To Chinese leaders, potential enhanced military ties between the United States and Taiwan flashes back to the time of the 1954 Taiwan Strait Crisis and the events preceding it. The Korean War ended in 1953 with the Korean Peninsula divided between the North, backed by China, and the South, supported by the United States. Although the United States and allied forces lost tens of thousands of troops, China suffered even greater losses, with perhaps up to 1 million soldiers having died.

During the Korean War, China felt coerced by the United States' threat of nuclear attack. This nuclear blackmail contributed to China's fears of U.S. containment that were further inflamed by events over Taiwan. Soon after the Korean War, the United States moved to bring Taiwan into a mutual defense pact. Fueling China's concerns over encroachment of its sovereignty, in late 1953 and early 1954, Taiwanese warships hijacked some merchant ships belonging to or headed for China. In summer 1954, the United States sent two aircraft carrier battle groups into the East China Sea. Closely following these events, on September 3, 1954, China began an artillery bombardment of the offshore island of Quemoy, which was claimed by Taiwan. These and other increased tensions led to the signing of the mutual defense pact between Taiwan and the United States on December 2, 1954.

On January 15, 1955, China committed itself to building nuclear weapons to prevent further nuclear blackmail and to try to counter the United States' containment strategy. During that time period, Chairman Mao Zedong characterized the atomic bomb and U.S. imperialism as "paper tigers." Recently, Ambassador Sha Zukang, China's top arms control official, borrowed the term when referring to China's perception of missile defense. "Once you have got the [missile] shield, others will develop a spear strong enough to penetrate it.… Using Mao's words, it's a paper tiger—fierce enough to frighten away cowards only," he said.<17>

This past history demonstrates that when China has experienced nuclear threats and containment, it has reacted by developing nuclear weapons, thereby undermining U.S. security. In a reminiscent manner, China's current perceptions of infringements on its sovereignty through deployment of a U.S. NMD system and possible fortified military ties between the United States and Taiwan, including advanced TMD, could lead to a strengthening of China's missile force and nuclear arsenal. Such a reaction would also undercut U.S. security.

China's Potential Response to NMD: More Missiles, More Warheads

If the United States erects an NMD system, how many more ICBMs and warheads capable of striking the continental United States would China want to deploy?

Despite the fact that China is a developing country, it has the financial wherewithal to build as many missiles and warheads as it believes are necessary to oppose projected NMD plans. For instance, one Chinese analyst has estimated that China would have to spend less than one-tenth of what the United States would spend in order to maintain parity between Chinese missiles and U.S. missile interceptors. Building 200 ICBMs would cost about $2 billion. This expenditure could be spread over several years and would represent less than 2 percent of China's current foreign currency reserve.<18>

Chinese military planners would probably decide on the number of warheads and missiles to build based on worst-case assumptions about the effectiveness of the U.S. NMD system. Although the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) is not planning on achieving 100 percent effectiveness for its missile interceptors, Chinese planners may start with the assumption that each interceptor could be this effective.

They would then have to consider BMDO's firing doctrines. BMDO's canonical doctrine of two-on-one, shoot-look-shoot means that for every incoming warhead two interceptors will be initially launched, followed by two additional interceptors if the first two miss.<19> This doctrine implies deploying four interceptors for every expected warhead. However, if the Chinese military anticipates the first volley working essentially perfectly, China would choose to build at least two warheads for every four interceptors.

Under more rigorous testing than has yet transpired, BMDO may determine that it cannot adhere to an effective shoot-look-shoot firing doctrine because this tactic is too technically demanding. Instead, BMDO could rely on a barrage firing doctrine in which a volley of four interceptors would be launched for each warhead.

In the ultimate worst-case scenario, Chinese military planners would assign 100 percent effectiveness to each interceptor and assume that BMDO would rely on a single shot firing doctrine of one interceptor per warhead.

Table 1 lists the number of additional Chinese warheads on ICBMs that would be built based on the above firing doctrines and worst-case assumptions. It assumes that China believes that the two dozen ICBM warheads in its current arsenal are sufficient for China's nuclear deterrent without missile defense. However, China may be planning on building more ICBM warheads regardless of missile defense. In either case, more transparency about China's intentions for its future arsenal is needed.

Could the latest generation of Chinese ICBMs carry these additional warheads in a multiple-warhead mode? The United States and the Soviet Union developed multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) for their missiles as a means of overwhelming anticipated missile defenses. But MIRVs are not the only method to ensure penetration of defenses. Other feasible options include building more missiles with single warheads, in addition to deploying decoys and other countermeasures on missiles. However, MIRVs could be a less expensive method compared to deploying more missiles.

If deployed in sufficient quantities, MIRVs can provide the capability to destroy a significant portion of an enemy's missile force, thereby limiting damage from second or follow-on strikes. The Chinese would not pursue MIRVs for this reason because they have too few warheads for counterforce strikes against the United States or Russia. Both the U.S. and Russian strategic arsenals are more than 15 times the size of the total Chinese force. Further, China lacks the fissile material to build enough warheads to countenance a counterforce strategy, according to best estimates.<20>

China's new mobile missiles, once fully developed, will strengthen the survivability of China's nuclear force because they will be harder to target than the older silo- and cave-based missiles. But the newer solid-fueled missiles have significantly smaller throw-weights (payloads) than the previous generation of liquid-fueled missiles—a fact that could severely limit China's ability to MIRV these missiles.

While the May 1999 Cox Report and its proponents have trumpeted China's MIRVing capability, other intelligence community reports and analysts have raised doubts about whether China has the ability or the motivation to MIRV its missiles. The 1998 National Air Intelligence Center's Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat report states that China's DF-31 and DF-41 ICBMs will not be MIRVed. Moreover, the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate released in September 1999 notes that deployment of MIRVs on "a future mobile missile would be many years off."

To help set bounds on the possible number of multiple warheads that the Chinese missiles might carry, Table 2 lists the relevant characteristics of U.S. ICBMs. Using Table 2's data and assumptions, Table 3 shows the maximum number of warheads that each Chinese solid-fueled missile might hold.

For a relatively heavy warhead, such as the W88, China would only be able to place two or three MIRVs on its latest missiles.<22> In contrast, it would increase the MIRVing capacity by a factor of two to four by opting for a lighter warhead, such as the W68. The trade-off for more MIRVs involves a decrease in yield. Some U.S. defense analysts have argued that because smaller-yield warheads must be more accurate, China might not be able to MIRV.<23> On the contrary, accuracy should not be a major impediment as long as China subscribes to a countervalue doctrine of aiming warheads at cities. For example, a W68-type warhead that explodes even hundreds of meters away from the center of a populous city will probably kill hundreds of thousands of people.

However, this discussion should not be construed as advocating MIRVs on Chinese missiles. From an opponent's perspective, as the number of MIRVs increases per missile, the missile's value as a target also increases. From China's perspective, therefore, fewer or no MIRVs would enhance the survivability of its missile force.

Citing a further reason why China may not want to MIRV, physicist Richard Garwin has written, "MIRVs are not the optimal weapons if China anticipates encountering a U.S. national missile defense (NMD) system.… Instead, China is far more likely to use effective countermeasures (such as light-weight decoy balloons) rather than multiple RVs on its future missiles."<24> Although such countermeasures would provide a significant penetration capability of a limited NMD system, Chinese military and political leaders may decide that these measures are not adequate by themselves and that more missiles with more warheads might signal greater Chinese strength, thereby serving as a more effective political weapon. Nonetheless, several reports indicate that China has been testing decoys and other countermeasures on its latest generation missiles. Further, expanded military ties between Russia and China could lead to China's purchase of missile defense penetration aids from Russia.

Nuclear Risk Reduction Needed

If the United States deploys a limited NMD system, it will, in effect, eviscerate China's currently small deterrent. This action will pressure China to engage in an nuclear arms buildup. Although such an increase could be gradual, based on the pace of China's past nuclear force modernization programs, it is threatening nonetheless: the end result would be a significantly larger Chinese nuclear force able to strike the continental United States.

To mitigate these increased nuclear dangers, the United States and China should implement risk-reduction measures. While such steps cannot resolve the security dilemma posed by missile defense, they will enhance the security of both nations, even if the United States chooses not to deploy an NMD system.<25>

During the Cold War, Russia and the United States developed several agreements to reduce the risk of nuclear war between them. These agreements included confidence-building measures to increase communications, prevent incidents at sea and in the air, and prevent missile test-firings from sparking an inadvertent war. China and the United States should seriously consider implementing similar agreements.

While China and the United States have taken tentative steps toward some of these agreements, they have not done enough to construct more meaningful accords and enhance existing ones. Current agreements include the January 1998 Military Maritime Consultative Agreement, the May 1998 Hotline Agreement and the June 1998 Nuclear Weapons De-Targeting Agreement.

The first agreement established a consultative mechanism "to promote safe maritime practices and establish mutual trust [such] as search and rescue, communications procedures when ships encounter each other, interpretation of the Rules of the Nautical Road and avoidance of accidents at sea." While this agreement is an encouraging first step, it is lackluster in comparison to the detailed 1972 Incidents at Sea (INCSEA) agreement between the former Soviet Union and the United States.<26> Importantly, the original INCSEA agreement stipulated that each side should refrain from "simulating attacks" against the other. In the Taiwan Strait flashpoint, these restraints would lessen the risk of misconstruing the other side's intentions.

The second agreement provided for a direct communications link between the heads of government. Presidents Jiang and Clinton first tested it as part of Clinton's visit to China in June 1998. Building on this agreement, both sides could construct nuclear risk reduction centers in both China and the United States that would enhance diplomatic communication channels during times of crisis. These centers would facilitate other crisis reduction data exchanges.

The third agreement specifies that both sides agree to not target each other's nuclear forces. However, it is largely a symbolic gesture in that China reportedly maintains its nuclear weapons capable of striking the United States in a low-alert condition with warheads reportedly off the missiles and China has repeatedly declared a no-first-use policy.

A more meaningful confidence-building measure would be a de-alerted U.S. nuclear force.<27> Many arms control scholars have championed taking U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert to lessen the likelihood of accidental nuclear war. In the context of the U.S.-Chinese nuclear relationship, a de-alerted U.S. nuclear force could reduce Chinese fears of a first strike that could decimate China's retaliatory force and a U.S. missile defense system that could shoot down whatever remained. A de-alerted force that provides a mutually assured survivable deterrent and ensures that any re-alerting would be detected with sufficient advanced warning would give China adequate confidence that the United States does not intend to direct a first strike at it. Nevertheless, China should take steps to secure the survivability of its deterrent because a de-alerted U.S. force would not be sufficient to guarantee the viability of China's deterrent.

In addition, China and the United States should enact predictability measures that would achieve greater transparency between their militaries, such as annually exchanging data about force levels and plans. Such measures would build upon the resumption of high-level military-to-military contacts, as exemplified by the January talks at the Pentagon with Lieutenant General Xiong Guangkai, the deputy chief of the People's Liberation Army's general staff.

While the United States and China are presently headed toward a strategic collision over missile defense, they still have time to avert a wreck. The next few years represent a critical period. China will be deciding the size and composition of its nuclear arsenal, taking into account U.S. missile defense plans. In parallel, the United States will be evaluating whether or not the criteria of missile threats, impact on arms control, technological readiness, and financial costs dictate missile defense deployment.

To help reduce the perceived need for these defenses, as one of North Korea's few friends, China can exert whatever influence it has on North Korea to curb that nation's missile program. Moreover, China can continue to make clear the adverse effect of missile defense on arms control and reductions. In the United States, the near-term policy on China and missile defense depends strongly on which political party will control the next presidency. The policy choice now appears to be either acrimony or ambiguity. However, the United States cannot afford to be acrimonious or ambiguous when it comes to its intentions concerning China and missile defense. Either option could lead to more Chinese nuclear warheads able to strike the United States.


NOTES

The author would like to thank several colleagues, especially Li Bin and John Pike, for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article.

1. "Text of Jiang Zemin 13 May Speech," FBIS-CHI-1999-0513, May 13, 1999.

[Back to Text]

2. "Zhang Wannian Holds Talks with Sergeyev," FBIS-CHI-1999-0611, June 10, 1999.

[Back to Text]

3. Samuel R. Berger, "Speech before Council on Foreign Relations on American Power," USIS Washington File, October 21, 1999.

[Back to Text]

4. Madeleine Albright, "A Call for American Consensus: Why Our Arms-Control Leadership Is Too Important to Risk in Partisan Political Fights," Time, November 22, 1999.

[Back to Text]

5. Department of Defense News Briefing, January 20, 1999.

[Back to Text]

6. Department of Defense News Briefing, January 27, 2000.

[Back to Text]

7. Elizabeth Becker and Eric Schmitt, "Delay Sought in Decision on Missile Defense," The New York Times, January 20, 2000, p. A13.

[Back to Text]

8. Jim Mann, "In Asian View, Gore Is the Wild Card," The Los Angeles Times, December 22, 1999, p. 5.

[Back to Text]

9. Mike Allen, "Bradley the Loner: A Campaign Liability?" The Washington Post, December 11, 1999, p. A4.

[Back to Text]

10. George Weeks, "McCain: Clinton's Policy 'Feckless'," Detroit News, November 18, 1999, p. A13.

[Back to Text]

11. "Remarks of Senator John McCain to National Jewish Coalition," December 1, 1999.

[Back to Text]

12. Jacob Heilbrunn, "Condoleezza Rice: George W.'s Realist," World Policy Journal, Winter 1999/2000, p. 49.

[Back to Text]

13. William Safire, "Pre-selling a Speech," The New York Times, November 18, 1999, p. 25.

[Back to Text]

14. Dan Balz, "Bush Favors Internationalism: Candidate Calls China a 'Competitor,' Opposes Test Ban," The Washington Post, November 20, 1999, p. A1.

[Back to Text]

15. "That Elusive Chinese Spring," The Economist, March 6, 1999, p. 27.

[Back to Text]

16. Anthony Spaeth and Jaime A. FlorCruz, "Wanna Dance?" Time South Pacific, March 15, 1999, p. 40.

[Back to Text]

17. Jim Mann, "China Snarls Again at 'Paper Tiger'," The Los Angeles Times, January 19, 2000, p. 5.

[Back to Text]

18. Private communication with Dr. Shen Dingli, deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, Shanghai, China.

[Back to Text]

19. For a more detailed discussion of missile defense effectiveness, read Dean Wilkening, "A Simple Model for Calculating Ballistic Missile Defense Effectiveness," CISAC Working Paper, August 1998.

[Back to Text]

20. Lisbeth Gronlund, David Wright, and Yong Liu, "China and a Fissile Material Production Cut-off," Survival, Winter 1995/1996.

[Back to Text]

21. Although the Poseidon submarine launched ballistic missile was tested with 14 MIRVs, the average deployed number of MIRVs was 10. With 14 MIRVs, the Poseidon essentially had little footprint crossrange. In other words, it could not cover spread out targets and thus had no real MIRVing capability. See: Graham Spinardi, From Polaris to Trident: The Development of the U.S. Fleet Ballistic Missile Technology, Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 106-107.

[Back to Text]

22. According to the Cox Report, China stole design information for the W88. This allegation has not been proven. Moreover, China claims that its weapons scientists are capable of producing these type of warheads without any help from espionage.

[Back to Text]

23. Zalmay Khalilzad et al. , The United States and a Rising China: Strategic and Military Implications, RAND, 1999.

[Back to Text]

24. Richard Garwin, "Why China Won't Build U.S. Warheads," Arms Control Today, April/May 1999, p. 28.

[Back to Text]

25. These ideas are based on discussions with John Pike and a presentation, titled "Russian-American Risk Reduction with Chinese Characteristics" by the author given at the Eleventh International Summer Symposium on Science and World Affairs in Shanghai, China on July 30, 1999.

[Back to Text]

26. Julian Schofield, "The Next Step: The Military Maritime Consultative Agreement and a Sino-American Incidents at Sea Agreement," Korean Defense Journal, Summer 1999.

[Back to Text]

27. Michael O'Hanlon, "Star Wars Strikes Back," Foreign Affairs, November/December 1999, advanced a similar notion in the Russian-American context.

[Back to Text]


Charles Ferguson, a physicist, directes the Nuclear Policy Project at the Federation of American Scientists. [Back to top]

Civil Reactors to Replenish U.S. Tritium Supply

January/February 2000

In a departure from the long-standing U.S. tradition of separating civilian and military nuclear reactors, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson announced December 22 that the Department of Energy (DOE) had reached an agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to produce tritium for U.S. nuclear weapons in TVA's civilian light-water reactors at the Watts Bar nuclear plant near Knoxville. Production is currently scheduled to begin in 2003.

Tritium, which the United States has not produced since 1988, is a radioactive gas used to boost the yield of nuclear weapons. The United States currently maintains a five-year reserve supply of tritium-a store based on the time required to restart production at former tritium-producing reactors that were shut down because of safety concerns-but supplies are decaying. Using TVA's reactors would allow the United States to reduce its reserve to a two-year supply, since TVA's reactors need only two years to begin tritium production.

If the United States maintains its current nuclear arsenal under START I, reserve nuclear warheads and a sizable tritium reserve, it will need a new source of tritium by 2005. If the United States further reduces its arsenal to the warhead ceiling allowed under START II while maintaining a reserve sufficient to return to START I levels, it will not need a new tritium supply until 2011.

DOE has pursued and continues to fund several other options for tritium production, including construction of a particle accelerator or a new light-water reactor, or completion of a light-water reactor already under construction in Bellefonte, Alabama. DOE chose to use TVA's reactors primarily because of the low cost, but the department continues to fund alternatives in case the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is scheduled to complete a review of the TVA option by next summer, fails to approve the use of TVA reactors.

Producing tritium in civilian power reactors could have unintended consequences for U.S. arms control and non-proliferation efforts, potentially undercutting the policy of encouraging other states to not use civil reactors for military purposes.

Civil Reactors to Replenish U.S. Tritium Supply

U.S. and Soviet/Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces

START I was signed July 31, 1991, and entered into force on December 5, 1994. Under the treaty, the five parties—the United States, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine—semi-annually exchange memorandum of understanding (MOU) data providing numbers, types and locations of accountable strategic nuclear weapons. The tables below compare the number of START-accountable deployed warheads declared in the initial September 1990 MOU with data from the July 1999 MOU, demonstrating the progress the parties have made in nuclear force reduction thus far.

For more information, contact Wade Boese.


U.S. Strategic Forces:

Warheads by Delivery System1

  September

1990

July

1999

ICBMs
MX 500 500
Minuteman III 1,500 1,950
Minuteman II 450 1
Total 2,450 2,451
SLBMs
Poseidon (C-3) 1,920 320
Trident I (C-4) 3,072 1,536
Trident II (D-5) 768 1,920
Total 5,760 3,776
Bombers
B-52 (ALCM) 1,968 1,430
B-52 (Non-ALCM) 290 47
B-1 95 91
B-2 0 20
Total 2,353 1,588
Total Warheads 10,563 7,815

Soviet/Russian Strategic Forces:

Warheads by Delivery System1

  September

19902

July

19993

ICBMs
SS-11 326 0
SS-13 40 0
SS-17 188 0
SS-18 3,080 1,800
SS-19 1,800 960
SS-24 (silo) 560 100
SS-24 (rail) 330 360
SS-25 288 360
SS-27 (silo)4 10
SS-27 (road)4 0
Total 6,612 3,590
SLBMs
SS-N-6 192 0
SS-N-8 280 128
SS-N-17 12 0
SS-N-18 672 624
SS-N-20 1,200 1,200
SS-N-23 448 448
Total 2,804 2,400
Bombers
Bear (ALCM) 672 504
Bear (Non-ALCM) 63 4
Blackjack 120 48
Total 855 556
Total Warheads 10,271 6,546

Strategic Forces on Non-Russian Territory1

  Belarus Kazakhstan Ukraine
ICBMs 0 0 400 (SS-24)
SLBMs 0 0 0
Bombers 0 0 192 (Bear)

136 (Blackjack)

Total 0 0 728

NOTES

1. Warhead attributions are based on START I counting rules. This results in bombers having fewer warheads attributed to them than they actually carry. On the other hand, even though all nuclear warheads from Ukraine have been removed to Russia, they remain START-accountable until the delivery systems have been destroyed. [Back to Table 1 , 2 or 3]

2. Includes weapons in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine. [Back to Table]

3. Weapons in Russia only. [Back to Table]

4. Also known as the TOPOL-M or RS-12M Variant 2 ICBM. [Back to Table]

Sources: START I Memorandum of Understanding, July 1, 999; ACA.

CTBTO Funding Remains in U.S. Budget

Despite Senate rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in October, U.S. funding for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization's (CTBTO) network of monitoring stations remained untouched in the Foreign Operations FY2000 Appropriations bill. Under the auspices of the CTBTO's Provisional Technical Secretariat, the International Monitoring System (IMS) and International Data Centre (IDC) are responsible for establishing the 321 monitoring sites that will track nuclear explosions and share the data on a global telecommunications network.

According to an October 29 New York Times article, a handful of senior aides to Republican senators, in an attempt to ensure the CTBT did not come up for vote in a new Congress, tried to gut funding for the monitoring system in the foreign operations bill. However, the budget passed the Senate on November 19 with no change to the $15 million appropriated for the CTBTO.

A State Department source said that there was never any real threat to the money in the budget and that the issue was "overblown" by the Times article. There is a possibility that some aides or senators will try to push the issue again in next year's budget, he said, but the funding remains intact for now.

The United States is the largest contributor to the monitoring system, accounting for about 25 percent of the CTBTO's total operating budget of $75 million, with Japan, France, the United Kingdom and Germany also contributing significant amounts. In addition to the $15 million included in the foreign operations bill, the Pentagon budgets an average of $5 million per year for the IMS.

The verification regime, which was formed in 1995 during treaty negotiations, will be completed around 2001, according to the CTBTO. One hundred of the 321 monitoring stations already operational and transmitting data through the global network. Ninety countries will host stations upon completion, including China, Argentina, Russia and Italy.

Congress Approves DOE Reorganization; Clinton Leaves Control With Energy Secretary

UNWILLING TO VETO the fiscal year 2000 defense authorization bill, President Clinton approved the partial separation of the nation's nuclear weapons complex from the Department of Energy (DOE) on October 5, but infuriated congressional advocates of the reorganization by transferring control of the new National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) back to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. Proposed in the wake of allegations of Chinese espionage at U.S. nuclear weapons labs, the reorganization called for in the defense bill would have provided the new nuclear agency substantial independence from DOE in establishing its own safety, security, environmental and counterintelligence policies, contrary to the administration's preference.

Initially opposed to the plan, Secretary Richardson finally gave his support in July after negotiating with the Senate for greater DOE control of the agency, but a House-Senate conference later altered the bill to give the NNSA more independence. When the House and Senate both overwhelmingly passed the revised bill in September, Richardson threatened to recommend the president veto the bill, but reversed his position after the White House indicated that a veto was unlikely because of the legislation's strong bipartisan support and inclusion of a widely popular pay raise for military personnel.

But after signing the bill October 5, President Clinton stunned Congress when he ordered Richardson to "perform all duties and functions" of undersecretary for nuclear security, the position formed to lead the NNSA. In explaining his decision, Clinton warned that the new law would impair Richardson's ability to fulfill his obligations as Energy Secretary and jeopardize changes in security and counterintelligence functions that he had already made.

Richardson was further instructed to assign DOE employees to "a concurrent office within the NNSA" in order to "mitigate the risks to clear chain of command presented by the Act's establishment of other redundant functions by the NNSA." Finally, Richardson was ordered to operate the new NNSA in compliance with existing federal environmental laws and standards. The president's statement also made clear that no candidate for the undersecretary position would be offered for the Senate's approval until Congress had remedied the reorganization plan's "deficiencies."

The president's instructions outraged several members of Congress who had worked to draft the law. In a letter to the president, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Floyd Spence (R-SC) strongly protested the president's signing statement, warning that unless reversed, the president's decision would "certainly serve to strengthen already substantial support for creating an agency entirely independent of DOE to manage the nation's nuclear programs." (Emphasis in original.) Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) also made clear his anger at Richardson and the administration, describing the president's action as "an absolute frontal attack."

UNWILLING TO VETO the fiscal year 2000 defense authorization bill, President Clinton approved the partial separation of the nation's nuclear weapons complex from the Department of Energy (DOE) on October 5, but infuriated congressional advocates of the reorganization by transferring control of the new National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) back to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. Proposed in the wake of allegations of Chinese espionage at U.S. nuclear weapons labs, the reorganization called for in the defense bill would have provided the new nuclear agency substantial independence from DOE in establishing its own safety, security, environmental and counterintelligence policies, contrary to the administration's preference. (Continue)

Damage Assessment: The Senate Rejection of the CTBT

An Arms Control Association Press Conference

On October 13, the United States Senate voted 51-48 to reject the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The next morning the Arms Control Association held a press conference to discuss the ramifications of that historic vote, including the possibility of resumed nuclear testing, the damage to U.S. credibility abroad and the injury to other arms control agreements. (For more information on the CTBT vote, see our news coverage and the chart of signatories and ratifiers.)

Panelists for the press conference were Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., president and executive director of the Arms Control Association; John Steinbruner, currently senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and soon to be professor of public policy at the University of Maryland; Ambassador Thomas Graham, president of the Lawyers Alliance for World Security; and John Isaacs, president and executive director of the Council for a Livable World.

This is an edited version of their remarks and the question-and-answer period that followed.

Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.:

The Senate's very unfortunate repudiation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT] yesterday was a shock to all of us when it actually occurred, even though I think the outcome was in the end generally anticipated. As has been frequently noted, this is the first rejection of a security-related international treaty by the U.S. Senate since the ill-fated Treaty of Versailles, and we're all familiar with the history subsequent to that action.

I believe the Senate action is the most serious setback to the arms control regime in the 40 years since President Eisenhower first introduced the comprehensive test ban in 1958. It seriously undercuts the ability of the United States to play a leadership role in its central foreign policy objective of preventing further proliferation of nuclear weapons and also in its goal of further progress in arms control in general.

For many years, the comprehensive test ban has been seen as the litmus test of the willingness of the nuclear-weapon states to follow their obligation under the Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT] to move away from dependence on nuclear weapons as the central component of their military establishment and policy. Many non-nuclear-weapon states that strongly support the NPT and have no nuclear aspirations nevertheless consider the NPT inherently discriminatory because it allows the nuclear-weapon states not only to maintain their nuclear capability, but also to test, which, short of nuclear war, is widely seen as the most blatant manifestation of nuclear weapons capabilities.

When, in 1995, the Non-Proliferation Treaty came up for review and extension, the United States was able, with great effort, to build an international consensus in support of indefinite extension. But to achieve that outcome, the United States committed itself—and the other nuclear-weapon states also committed themselves—to achieving a comprehensive test ban in 1996. The treaty was completed under U.S. leadership, and President Clinton was the first to sign the treaty in September 1996.

The world will see the Senate action as a repudiation of this clear U.S. commitment. I think that in a damage assessment of where we stand, it is self-evident that this action greatly undercuts the ability of the United States to persuade or pressure other countries not to continue or initiate nuclear weapons programs.

The most specific example is the case of India and Pakistan, where current events indicate the extreme instability in the region and where I think there is little question that the Indian nuclear establishment would very much like to continue testing. There is no way the ambitious objective laid out for the Indian nuclear program can be met with the few tests, which may not have been that successful, that have occurred to date.

In a broader and perhaps more dangerous ramification from the point of view of U.S. security, I think there's a real chance that unless this action can be reversed, we will see China and Russia, in due course, resume nuclear testing. It was with great difficulty that they were persuaded to go along with the comprehensive test ban. It was strongly resisted by their nuclear weapons establishments. Russia is in a position where, with its economic crisis and its nuclear establishment in disarray, there is no way it can duplicate, even on a small scale, the kind of stewardship program for which the U.S. is paying $4.5 billion a year to maintain the reliability and safety of its nuclear stockpile and integrity of its nuclear weapons establishment.

China also has economic problems, and its program is much less mature. Based on personal conversations, I believe that their nuclear weapons establishment would very much like to be able to continue nuclear testing. If the United States establishes that it is free to resume nuclear testing whenever it wishes, it will be increasingly difficult to prevent a resumption of testing in Russia or China.

Domestically, the vote underscores a new fierce partisanship relating to arms control that really reverses a general overall bipartisan approach to arms control. There have been differences, but the Republicans can certainly claim as much credit as the Democrats for success in this area over the last four decades.

In this regard, I was just shocked at the poor quality of the debate, and particularly that of those who opposed the treaty. We're not here to rehash that debate, but it really was a new low in partisan rhetoric. The arguments that alleged inability to maintain the reliability and safety of the stockpile were totally incorrect and misleading.

But what disturbed me the most were the frequently repeated charges that the treaty would endanger the U.S. deterrent. This is something like shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. The notion that our stockpile, which has more than half a dozen different designs of nuclear weapons and several thousand deployed weapons, would suddenly, despite the tremendous resources available to the stewardship program, become unreliable, unusable and known to be so by the rest of the world, is simply absurd.

The most distressing aspect was the complete disregard for the advice of the military on this subject. As you all know, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs [of Staff], the vice chairman and the heads of the four services all joined in supporting the treaty, as did four previous chairmen of the Joint Chiefs. These are the people who have responsibility for the reliability of the forces and for the safety of their personnel, and they certainly are not known as flaming radicals. On the contrary, they have a very conservative and cautious approach to their responsibilities. Their advice and support—freely given support—seemed to carry no weight at all.

I think the fact that almost all Republicans lined up against this measure in an exhibition of party loyalty demonstrates the alarming fact that the Republican Party has been taken over by a very small group of extremists in this area, led by Jesse Helms [R-NC], James Inhofe [R-OK], Jon Kyl [R-AZ] and others, and strongly supported by Majority Leader Trent Lott [R-MI].

Their approach is not just to disapprove of the comprehensive test ban as a special case. I think it's pretty clear from the statements in debate that they are opposed to all arms control and will object to anything that is brought forward, and that they actually are anxious to dismantle as much of the existing arms control framework as possible.

Well, what is to be done? The president obviously must forcefully and continually restate our support for the comprehensive test ban, despite its rejection by the Senate. It's his responsibility, not theirs, as to what happens next and to do the best he can to assure people that this issue will be revisited. And I think the Democratic senators, since their effort to defer the vote was also rejected out of hand, have an obligation to maintain this issue continually and strongly before the Senate so the issue is kept alive.

Finally, since the Republican Party has chosen to make this a partisan issue—a test of party loyalty, in fact—I think that although I have always felt it's critical to have a bipartisan approach to arms control, there's no choice now but to make this a partisan issue and take it to the people, who have demonstrated their strong support for arms control, and particularly the comprehensive test ban.

Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr.:

Last night, the United States Senate voted against ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, with only four Republicans crossing party lines. I would like to address the likely impact that this unfortunate decision will have on international efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

The Senate's inability to approve CTBT ratification is far and away the most disastrous development in international nuclear non-proliferation policy in recent years. It is a decision in the Versailles Treaty tradition, and we know where that took us. There is also something wrong when a majority of the Senate votes down a treaty that 82 percent of the American public not only wants ratified, but wants ratified promptly.

From the beginning of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regime in 1968, non-nuclear-weapon states have regarded the CTBT as a litmus test as to whether the nuclear-weapon states will live up to their half of the basic NPT bargain: 182 countries have forsworn nuclear weapons in exchange for negotiation toward eventual disarmament by the nuclear-weapon states.

When the indefinite extension of the NPT was negotiated in 1995—something the United States very much wanted—an associated consensus agreement called the Statement of Principles and Objectives specifically called for the completion of the test ban by the end of 1996. This was the only objective that was given a specific time frame for achievement. And while the CTBT was opened for signature in 1996, failure to ratify it will be seen as an act of bad faith by significant non-nuclear-weapon states that only reluctantly agreed to a permanent NPT in 1995, freeing them from a committment they now consider void, their commitment to a permanent NPT.

This vote could have disastrous implications. CTBT rejection is tantamount to stating to potential proliferators, as has been said by others, that although we have not tested in seven years and have no intention of testing in the foreseeable future, you others have the green light.

To repeat, this is the most serious setback to U.S. national security in recent years. As President Chirac of France, Prime Minister Blair of the United Kingdom and Chancellor Schröder of Germany noted in their unprecedented October 8 op-ed in The New York Times, "As we look to the next century, our greatest concern is proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and chiefly nuclear proliferation. We have to face the stark truth that nuclear proliferation remains the major threat to world safety."

The NPT regime is the fundamental component of international efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation. CTBT rejection has raised the prospect of the NPT regime gradually unraveling, perhaps beginning at the April 2000 NPT review conference, with nuclear weapons spreading widely around the world. This would create a nightmarish situation for U.S. and world security. Also, as Chirac, Blair and Schröder noted, U.S. CTBT rejection creates a fundamental divide between the United States and its NATO allies.

With U.S. rejection of the treaty, China and Russia may resume testing. China only reluctantly joined the CTBT in 1996 and has been waiting—explicitly waiting—for U.S. leadership. Russia has announced the formulation of a new nuclear doctrine requiring new types of tactical nuclear weapons, which some are already saying necessitates further Russian nuclear testing.

It is likely that India and Pakistan will now refuse to sign the CTBT, as they had promised to do, and perhaps will conduct further nuclear tests. Nations such as Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Indonesia and Egypt eventually may test nuclear weapons. Should any of these latter states test nuclear weapons, it is quite likely that many other states, such as Japan, South Korea and others, would reconsider their status as non-nuclear-weapon states under the NPT. This would, of course, completely destroy the NPT regime, which could never be revived. We would just have to be prepared to live in a widely proliferated world.

This week's military coup in Pakistan, the first in a nuclear-equipped nation, underscores the danger of nuclear weapons spreading to unstable regimes and regional adversaries. Ratification and entry into force of the CTBT would benefit U.S. national security for that reason. It is of the highest importance to U.S. and world security that the U.S. Senate reverse its decision in the near future. In the meantime, the president should make clear that we will maintain the testing moratorium, and he and others should keep reiterating that it remains U.S. policy to seek ratification as soon as possible.

The bargaining by the United States and others for the CTBT in 1995 led to achieving our objective of a permanent NPT, something we very much wanted. This is an important commitment that we made in the context of a strong, viable and permanent Non-Proliferation Treaty regime, which is central to our security in the future. We are a nation that believes in the rule of law. Therefore, we should keep our commitments and ratify the CTBT.

John Steinbruner:

Let me say at the outset that we have unquestionably experienced some very serious damage as a result of the Senate's action, and I believe that most of the world will be surprised and shocked. This act was a partisan maneuver within the American political system, and other nations will predictably find it very difficult to comprehend because the CTBT is widely judged to be overwhelmingly in the interest of the United States. It's therefore probable that much of the world doesn't yet know what to do. As a result, the vote is not likely to have any noticeable effect in the short term.

It is clear that both India and China have some internal pressures to resume testing themselves. Most analysts still believe that there is sufficient political restraint at the top of those governments to prevent testing in the near future. But we have set a clock ticking in both political systems, and there will probably be tests unless there is some change in the situation.

I think that most of the world will choose to believe that somehow this decision will be reversed, leading to ultimate ratification by the United States. So it's still possible to believe that this is a temporary setback from which we can recover. But we should also examine the possibility that it could be a lot worse than that. In that regard, I thought it was ironic that HBO was showing the movie "Titanic" this week. There's a chance we've hit an iceberg here, and we're in the early stages of fathoming what has happened and what it means.

I want to talk, however, about the larger context of events that magnifies the risks of this specific development. Russia is undergoing a monumental internal transformation, and that poses grave dangers to us because they are, at the same time, trying to run a military establishment that is simply overwhelmed by its security burden. The Russians have no international help worthy of mention. They are in implicit confrontation with NATO and with China. They have the longest and the most turbulent border, the most exposed territory. They have by far the greatest security problem in the world.

They have an economy that is somewhere between 2 and 7 percent of ours, depending on which numbers you believe, for a society of 146 million people. Their economy also has very deep structural problems and will not grow in macroeconomic terms any time soon because they do not have, and nobody has for them, a viable reform design to handle large establishments that are so far from market conditions.

The result is that the Russians simply cannot afford their military establishment, which currently has less than 10 percent of the minimum amount of money required to maintain its personnel and equipment and thereby preserve its internal coherence. As a result of this condition, Russian military forces are deteriorating and have been for the entire history of the Russian republic.

That same establishment is running a deterrent operation directed against the United States. As we speak, there are 3,000 Russian weapons on rapid-reaction alert, primed to respond within 10 minutes after the detection of an attack with a mass attack on the United States and to begin to execute it within 20 minutes.

The associated early-warning system does not have comprehensive coverage of Russian territory either in space or in time, and it will not acquire it any time soon. In addition the entire mechanism of internal control required to hold weapons on this degree of alert and keep them from being launched accidentally or without authorization has deteriorated.

This situation is by far the gravest physical danger to the United States, and there is nothing in our current policy that will alleviate that threat. Quite the contrary, the entire thrust of our policy is exacerbating the problem. Although we do have the very useful Nunn-Lugar program to help reinforce Russia's internal control mechanisms, that activity is a small element of a much larger context that has been dominated recently by three developments. First, there is NATO expansion, which intensifies the pressure on the Russian military establishment to a degree that our political system has not fathomed. Second is our intervention in Kosovo, where we demonstrated that NATO, despite its claim to be a defensive alliance, will initiate offensive operations outside of its territory, not in response to attack on any of its members and without consideration for international mechanisms, including the UN Security Council. Russia sees this as a very serious threat.

Finally, the United States is saying that it will deploy a national missile defense, basically presenting the Russian political system with an ultimatum: either you accept the revisions to the ABM Treaty or we will deploy a national missile defense in defiance of the treaty. That presents Russia with a severe policy dilemma. They do not believe they can responsibly accept a limited national missile defense deployment in their own interests. However, if they reject it, the entire framework of restraint, as they view it, is destroyed. We have put them into an extremely serious corner, and they're trying to figure out what to do. There is some possibility—I don't want to exaggerate it but I think it would be irresponsible not to look at it—that the entire framework of arms control will become seriously unglued.

Our political system has not fathomed the nature of this problem. We don't understand the real danger to us. And that is why one thinks about the Titanic—people oblivious to the danger, acting with unbelievable irresponsibility and supreme arrogance. We're on the outskirts of that situation, and we may have triggered a sequence here that we will not be able to reverse.

We may see severe negative consequences if the resonant features of this situation begin to kick in. The full sequence would be a policy catastrophe. If the repudiation of the CTBT foreshadows the end of the ABM Treaty and offensive strategic restraints and the NPT, we will be in an entirely new and very dangerous situation. When you add the element of internal deterioration in Russia and the progressive loss of control over a large weapons inventory, you've got a truly explosive situation. It's time for all of us to wake up.

[On to next page]

An American Tragedy

In rejecting ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Senate willfully plunged a dagger into the heart of U.S. efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The international community, overwhelmingly supportive of the treaty, looked on in shocked disbelief as an American tragedy unfolded, replete with mean-spirited politics, outrageous rhetoric and obsessive fears of diminished nuclear potency and multinational obligations constraining U.S. freedom of action. This calculated and perverse Senate action, the first rejection of a multilateral security agreement since the Versailles Treaty, has severely undercut the credibility of U.S. leadership in efforts to strengthen the non-proliferation regime. The damage will not be easily repaired.

The success of the small group of ultra-conservative hawks, led by Senators Jesse Helms (R-NC), James Inhofe (R-OK) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), in corralling all but four courageous Republicans in lockstep opposition to the CTBT signaled the end of the long-standing bipartisan approach to arms control. The cavalier fashion in which a matter of such importance was rushed to a vote without adequate hearings or debate cast shame on "the world's greatest deliberative body."

In the outrageously truncated schedule of hearings and debate, dictated by Lott in an obvious effort to dispose of the treaty as quickly as possible, Republican senators dismissed administration arguments that the treaty was critical to building international support for the non-proliferation regime and focused their attention on the test ban's impact on the reliability and safety of the U.S. stockpile and the treaty's verifiability. Their oft-repeated assertion that it would not be possible to maintain a credible deterrent without testing, even with a $4.5 billion annual stewardship program, demonstrated that they did not understand the reliability problem, the concept of deterrence or the stewardship program. The notion that the several thousand strategic nuclear warheads of a half dozen different types would all suddenly fail despite monitoring by a highly sophisticated surveillance and replacement program is patently absurd. It was indeed shocking that these senators put their own uninformed judgments above those of the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the four service chiefs, all of whom endorsed the treaty, as did four former JCS chairmen. These are the cautious professionals who have real-life responsibility for the reliability and safety of their forces. In a written statement, the three nuclear laboratory directors also expressed their confidence in guaranteeing the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

Republican senators also denounced the treaty as "unverifiable" because of the threshold below which seismic detection of underground tests is not possible—although such testing might be revealed by other means. They dismissed the fact that such small tests, which are not useful for thermonuclear weapons development, do not threaten U.S. security and are not necessary for maintaining the U.S. stockpile. And they could not grasp why U.S. security would be better served by limiting violators to at most a few small-yield tests than by allowing them to conduct unlimited tests at any yield.

By design, the abbreviated schedule prevented negotiation of conditions on the resolution of ratification to respond to possible concerns as was done in the case of the Chemical Weapons Convention. In fact, in rejecting approval of the resolution, the Republicans also rejected six conditions that the Democrats had attached guaranteeing inter alia funding of the stewardship program and obligating the president to exercise the treaty's withdrawal option if testing were found necessary to insure reliability of the stockpile.

President Clinton attempted to blunt the negative impact of the Senate vote by announcing that he would continue to honor the CTBT, which precludes testing, and would seek future Senate approval of ratification. Some Republicans clearly regretted the outcome, 17 having sided with the Democrats in a last-minute effort to defer a vote. But there is now little chance to revisit the treaty during Clinton's administration.

In the final analysis, the Republican-dominated Senate willfully converted a U.S. diplomatic triumph into a repudiation of U.S. international responsibilities. With Republican foreign and security policy in the hands of Helms, Inhofe, Kyl and Lott there is no chance for change unless the overwhelming public support for the treaty is reflected in the electoral process. Democratic presidential candidates Al Gore and Bill Bradley have made clear their strong support for the CTBT and intention to make it a campaign issue, while all Republican hopefuls have rushed to support the Senate action. The Republican presidential candidate and every Republican senatorial candidate should be held accountable for the American tragedy their party orchestrated.

Senate Rejects Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; Clinton Vows to Continue Moratorium

IN A MAJOR setback to the nuclear non-proliferation regime and U.S. credibility, the Senate decisively rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) on October 13 by a vote of 51-48, marking the first time that it has defeated a security-related treaty since the Treaty of Versailles nearly 80 years ago. Immediately following the largely party-line vote, President Bill Clinton pledged that he would keep fighting for the CTBT and that the United States would continue its moratorium on nuclear testing, which has been in effect since 1992. Despite his assurances, the vote sent shock waves throughout the world, drawing strong condemnation from Russia and China as well as American allies in Europe and Asia. (See story.)

Just 12 Days

In September 1996, President Clinton became the first world leader to sign the CTBT, which prohibits "any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion." One year later he submitted the treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent. However, Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), whose Foreign Relations Committee has jurisdiction over treaties, repeatedly stated that the CTBT was a low-priority item and that it would only receive consideration after the committee had voted on two unrelated sets of agreements not yet submitted by the administration: the 1997 amendments to the ABM Treaty and the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

This logjam persisted for almost two years until July 1999, when all 45 Democratic senators signed a letter urging Helms to conduct hearings on the CTBT and report it to the full Senate for debate. (See ACT, July/August 1999.) When Helms snubbed the request, Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) threatened to hold up Senate business unless the treaty received floor consideration. "This is going to be a tough place to run if you do not decide to bring this issue to the floor of the Senate and give us the opportunity to debate [the CTBT]," he warned on September 8.

Confident that the Republicans already had the votes to defeat the treaty, Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) called for a quick vote—a move that surprised the Democrats and most observers. Forced to choose between a vote after limited debate or no vote at all until the next Congress, the Democratic leadership, in consultation with the White House, reluctantly agreed to Lott's proposal. On October 1, a unanimous consent agreement was reached under which the Senate would bypass the Foreign Relations Committee and vote on the CTBT on October 12 after just 18 hours of floor debate. Under the terms of the agreement, the Republican and Democratic leaderships were each permitted to introduce only one amendment to the resolution of ratification, thereby curtailing the administration's ability to craft a resolution that could have addressed the stated concerns of some senators.

The White House was highly critical of the truncated process. "This is not what the Founding Fathers meant by advise and consent. This is hit and run," National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said October 2. Two days later, White House press spokesman Joe Lockhart argued that the lack of attention given to the CTBT was unprecedented. By way of comparison, he noted that the ABM Treaty had received eight days of hearings in the Foreign Relations Committee and 18 days of consideration on the Senate floor; the INF Treaty had received 23 days of committee hearings and nine days of floor consideration; and START I had received 19 days of committee hearings and five days of floor consideration.

White House Launches Full-Court Press

Faced with the unanimous consent agreement, the White House immediately launched a highly visible campaign to achieve ratification. In an October 4 photo opportunity with his national security team, Clinton made the case for the treaty and responded to charges that the Central Intelligence Agency is unable to determine whether Russia is secretly conducting low-yield nuclear tests at its Novaya Zemlya facility. He argued that while such tests are difficult to detect, the treaty gives the United States "new tools" to ensure compliance, such as the creation of an International Monitoring System (IMS) consisting of 321 monitoring stations located throughout the world and the ability to request an on-site inspection if suspicious activity cannot be adequately clarified.

Clinton repeated his call for ratification during an October 5 signing ceremony for the defense authorization bill and a pep rally the next day at the White House, which included participation from the present and past chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as a number of the 32 Nobel laureates in physics who had publicly endorsed the CTBT. "The best way to constrain the danger of nuclear proliferation and, God forbid, the use of a nuclear weapon, is to stop other countries from testing nuclear weapons. That's what this test ban treaty will do. A vote, therefore, to ratify is a vote to increase the protections of our people and the world from nuclear war. By contrast, a vote against it risks a much more dangerous future," Clinton said.

Congressional Hearings Begin

Other key Clinton administration officials argued for ratification during three days of congressional hearings held October 5-7, only one of which took place in the Foreign Relations Committee. The hearings focused on two issues: whether the United States could effectively verify if countries were adhering to the CTBT and whether the United States could maintain a safe and reliable nuclear arsenal solely through its stockpile stewardship program.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on October 6, Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Henry Shelton, as well as former chairman General John Shalikashvili, argued that the United States should ratify the CTBT with the six safeguards that President Clinton established in August 1995 as conditions for U.S. entry into the test ban. (See sidebar.) In particular, they pointed out that Safeguard F would allow the United States to withdraw from the CTBT under the standard "supreme national interests" clause in the event that the secretaries of defense and energy (as advised by the Nuclear Weapons Council, the commander-in-chief of U.S. Strategic Command and the heads of the three nuclear weapons laboratories) could no longer certify that a weapon critical to the U.S. nuclear deterrent was safe and reliable. With respect to verification, the witnesses argued that even though some low-yield nuclear tests might go undetected, such tests are not militarily significant.

Challenging these views, former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger testified that in the absence of underground nuclear testing, confidence in the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal would inevitably decline. Schlesinger was particularly critical of the fact that the treaty bans all tests in perpetuity. In addition, he said that the stockpile stewardship program will not be fully operational for another 10 years.

Sparring over these issues continued October 7, when the Armed Services Committee received testimony from Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson and the directors of the three nuclear weapons laboratories (John Browne of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Bruce Tarter of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Paul Robinson of Sandia National Laboratories). Although Richardson was confident about the abilities of the $4.5 billion-per-year stockpile stewardship program, the three lab directors were much more cautious, stating that the United States was heading into "uncharted waters" and that there were no guarantees that the program would be successful. However, when pressed on this point by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), the lab directors said they supported the CTBT provided that there is full funding for the stewardship program and that the six safeguards are adopted by the Senate. Clarifying their views in a joint statement issued the next day, the lab directors wrote, "While there can never be a guarantee that the stockpile will remain safe and reliable indefinitely without nuclear testing, we have stated that we are confident that a fully supported and sustained stockpile stewardship program will enable us to continue to maintain America's nuclear deterrent without nuclear testing."

Let's Make a Deal

Meanwhile, recognizing that the 67 votes needed for ratification were not there, Senators Daschle and Lott began a behind-the-scenes dialogue as early as October 5 on ways to postpone the vote and prevent a humiliating blow to U.S. credibility abroad. Lott said he was willing to put off the vote as long as Clinton requested the delay and agreed not to bring up the CTBT during the remainder of his presidency.

In the days that followed, as it became even clearer that the treaty would be soundly defeated, Clinton met Lott's first demand and requested that the vote be postponed, but he was not willing to rule out the option of resubmitting the treaty before leaving office. Efforts to reach a deal were further complicated by the fact that Senate rules required all 100 senators to agree to change the original unanimous consent agreement in order to postpone the vote. A small but powerful group of conservative senators—including Helms, James Inhofe (R-OK), Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Robert Smith (I-NH)—indicated that they would block any attempt to delay the vote because they believed the treaty should be defeated.

As the floor debate opened on October 8, the Clinton administration and Senate Democrats increased their efforts to postpone the vote. That same day, in an unprecedented appeal, French President Jacques Chirac, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder published an op-ed piece in The New York Times imploring the Senate to ratify the treaty. Also on October 8, the states participating in the Vienna conference on bringing the CTBT into force issued a declaration calling upon those states that had not yet ratified the treaty to do so. (See document.)

The Endgame

Efforts to delay the vote went down to the wire. On October 11, Clinton put his request for a postponement in writing, but still would not agree to put off the vote until 2001. In his letter to Lott and Daschle, Clinton said, "I firmly believe the Treaty is in the national interest. However, I recognize that there are a number of Senators who have honest disagreements. I believe that proceeding to a vote under these circumstances would severely harm the national security of the United States, damage our relationship with our allies, and undermine our historic leadership over forty years, through administrations Republican and Democratic, in reducing the nuclear threat."

On October 12, the day before the vote, the sides came close to reaching a deal. In return for a delay, Daschle pledged that he would not bring up the CTBT for a vote before 2001 barring "extraordinary circumstances," an implicit reference to the resumption of nuclear testing in South Asia. Although Daschle and Lott tentatively agreed on this language, the deal fell through when the same small group of conservative senators objected.

The Democrats also tried to remove the CTBT from the so-called "executive calendar," an unusual parliamentary maneuver that would have required only a simple majority (51 votes). Although 62 senators, including influential Republicans such as Pete Domenici (R-NM), Richard Lugar (R-IN) and John Warner (R-VA), indicated in an October 12 letter to Lott and Daschle that their preference was to delay the vote, the majority leader did not give Republicans his blessing to support the procedural move, thereby making the vote a test of party loyalty that was later defeated by a 55-45 vote.

When the roll was finally called on October 13, the resolution to ratify the CTBT (including the six safeguards that Daschle had submitted as an amendment) was defeated by a 51-48 vote with one abstention. (See the voting record.) Forty-four Democrats voted for ratification as did four Republicans: John Chafee (R-RI), James Jeffords (R-VT), Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Arlen Specter (R-PA). Fifty Republican senators and one independent (Robert Smith of New Hampshire) voted against ratification, and Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) voted "present." The treaty fell 19 votes short of achieving the necessary two-thirds majority necessary for ratification.

Clinton Goes on the Offensive

Just hours after the vote, Clinton reassured the world that the fight for the CTBT was "far from over" and announced that the United States would continue its moratorium on nuclear testing, which has been in effect for the past seven years. He also called upon Russia and China (which have signed the treaty but not ratified) as well as Britain and France (which have signed and ratified) to continue their moratoria on nuclear testing.

In his October 13 statement outside the Oval Office, Clinton strongly condemned the Senate's action. "For two years, the opponents of this treaty in the Senate refused to hold a single hearing. Then they offered a take-or-leave-it deal: to decide this crucial security issue in a week.… They rejected my request to delay the vote and permit a serious process so that all questions could be evaluated. Even worse, many Republican senators apparently committed to oppose this treaty before there was an agreement to bring it up, before they ever heard a single witness or understood the issues. Never before has a serious treaty involving nuclear weapons been handled in such a reckless and ultimately partisan way," he said.

Clinton continued his assault on the Republican Party in a press conference the next day. He characterized the Senate vote as "partisan politics of the worst kind" and charged treaty opponents with showing "signs of a new isolationism." Clinton argued that the Senate majority "has turned its back on 50 years of American leadership against the spread of weapons of mass destruction" and that they "are betting our children's future on the reckless proposition that we can go it alone; that at the height of our power and prosperity, we should bury our heads in the sand, behind a wall."

Lott quickly denied that partisan politics played any role in the CTBT's defeat. "We have some of the most thoughtful senators that have ever served in this body that said that this treaty was not verifiable, that it was fundamentally flawed, and it should not be ratified," he said in an October 14 press conference. Furthermore, Lott accused the administration of not effectively lobbying for the treaty. "I was demanded and forced into having a debate and a vote. And so when we agreed, then they said, 'Well, wait a minute; there may not be the votes to ratify this treaty.' Well, I wonder why. Because we had been doing our work. We'd been checking into it," Lott said.

Given the Senate's action along party lines, there is the real possibility that the CTBT will become an issue in the 2000 presidential and congressional elections. Following the vote, Vice President Al Gore condemned the "partisan" way in which the Senate handled the CTBT and pledged to resubmit the treaty for ratification if he is elected president next year. Earlier, on October 5, leading Republican contender George W. Bush announced that he is opposed to the CTBT as are other Republican candidates, such as Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who voted against the treaty. Bush did say, however, that he supports the current moratorium on nuclear testing.


Nuclear Safeguards Necessary for U.S. Ratification of the CTBT

A: The conduct of a Science Based Stockpile Stewardship program to ensure a high level of confidence in the safety and reliability of nuclear weapons in the active stockpile, including the conduct of a broad range of effective and continuing experimental programs.

B: The maintenance of modern nuclear laboratory facilities and programs in theoretical and exploratory nuclear technology which will attract, retain, and ensure the continued application of our human scientific resources to those programs on which continued progress in nuclear technology depends.

C: The maintenance of the basic capability to resume nuclear test activities prohibited by the CTBT should the United States cease to be bound to adhere to this treaty.

D: Continuation of a comprehensive research and development program to improve our treaty monitoring capabilities and operations.

E: The continuing development of a broad range of intelligence gathering and analytical capabilities and operations to ensure accurate and comprehensive information on worldwide nuclear arsenals, nuclear weapons development programs, and related nuclear programs.

F: The understanding that if the President of the United States is informed by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Energy (DOE)—advised by the Nuclear Weapons Council, the Directors of DOE's nuclear weapons laboratories and the Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command—that a high level of confidence in the safety or reliability of a nuclear weapon type which the two Secretaries consider to be critical to our nuclear deterrent could no longer be certified, the President, in consultation with Congress, would be prepared to withdraw from the CTBT under the standard "supreme national interests" clause in order to conduct whatever testing might be required.

[Back to text]


The Voting Record Voted Against Ratifying the CTBT

Spencer Abraham (R-MI), Wayne Allard (R-CO), John Ashcroft (R-MO), Robert Bennett (R-UT), Christopher Bond (R-MO), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Jim Bunning (R-KY), Conrad Burns (R-MT), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), Thad Cochran (R-MS) Susan Collins (R-ME), Paul Coverdell (R-GA), Larry Craig (R-ID), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mike DeWine (R-OH), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL), William Frist (R-TN), Slade Gorton (R-WA), Phil Gramm (R-TX), Rod Grams (R-MN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Charles Hagel (R-NE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jesse Helms (R-NC), Tim Hutchinson (R-AR), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), James Inhofe (R-OK), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Trent Lott (R-MS), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Connie Mack (R-FL), John McCain (R-AZ), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Frank Murkowski (R-AK), Don Nickles (R-OK), Pat Roberts (R-KS), William Roth Jr. (R-DE), Rick Santorum (R-PA), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Bob Smith (I-NH), Olympia1 Snowe (R-ME), Ted Stevens (R-AK), Craig Thomas (R-WY), Fred Thompson (R-TN), Strom Thurmond (R-SC), George Voinovich (R-OH), John Warner (R-VA)

Voted for Ratifying the CTBT

Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Max Baucus (D-MT), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Joseph Biden Jr. (D-DE), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), John Breaux (D-LA), Richard Bryan (D-NV), John Chafee (R-RI), Max Cleland (D-GA), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Thomas Daschle (D-SD), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Richard Durbin (D-IL), John Edwards (D-NC), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bob Graham (D-FL), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ernest Hollings (D-SC), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), James Jeffords (R-VT), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Robert Kerrey (D-NE), John Kerry (D-MA), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Daniel Moynihan (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Harry Reid (D-NV), Charles Robb (D-VA), John Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Gordon Smith (R-OR), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Robert Torricelli (D-NJ), Paul Wellstone (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Voted Present

Robert Byrd (D-WV)

Source: U.S. Congressional Record

Senator Helms' Floccinaucinihilipilification

Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

As self-appointed arbiter of U.S. foreign policy, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC) recently disdainfully dismissed an appeal by all 45 Democratic senators that he allow the Senate to consider the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which has languished before his committee for two years without hearings. In his supercilious reply, Helms proclaimed his "floccinaucinihilipilification" of the CTBT, or in plain English, his belief that the treaty is absolutely worthless. With Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's (R-MS) support, Helms reasserted his intention to hold the treaty hostage to advance his campaign to destroy the unrelated ABM Treaty, thereby blocking Senate action on the CTBT. Failure to ratify the CTBT will endanger U.S. security by undercutting U.S. efforts to build international support for the nuclear non-proliferation regime and by allowing further nuclear weapon developments by countries that could threaten the United States.

The 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which now bars testing by the 181 non-nuclear-weapon states-parties through their agreement not to acquire nuclear weapons, allows the five recognized nuclear-weapon states to continue testing, underscoring the inherently discriminatory nature of the treaty. By applying equally to all nations, the CTBT would end the privileged status of the nuclear-weapon states to continue testing to further develop their nuclear capabilities. The treaty is widely seen as the litmus test of whether the nuclear-weapon states recognize their own NPT treaty obligation to move toward nuclear disarmament.

The CTBT would ban nuclear testing by Russia, the only country that can now possibly threaten the survival of the United States, and by China, the only other country that might in the future achieve that capability. But neither Russia nor China will ratify before the United States does. The treaty also provides a practical means to limit the development of more advanced weapons by India, Israel and Pakistan, three nuclear-capable countries that are unlikely to join the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states because it would require the elimination of all their nuclear weapons. Finally, by establishing an international norm against testing, the CTBT would put additional pressure not to test on North Korea and Iraq, which are in violation of their NPT obligations, and Iran, which the United States believes is positioning itself to violate the NPT.

Despite these compelling considerations, test ban opponents assert in a campaign of false and misleading statements that without testing the U.S. deterrent will be threatened by the loss of stockpile reliability and that the treaty is "unverifiable." These alarming assertions could not be sustained in a serious Senate debate. The leaders of the three U.S. nuclear weapon laboratories agree that the reliability and safety of the stockpile can be maintained without further nuclear testing. This will be accomplished by the generously funded stockpile stewardship program, which will monitor the reliability of the stockpile with non-destructive and non-nuclear testing, as well as computer simulations. This will give ample warning if weapons or components must be refabricated. The current chairman of the JCS, General Henry Shelton, as well as four former JCS chairmen have endorsed the treaty as serving U.S. security interests. They are confident of the reliability and safety of the U.S. stockpile and see no need to develop new types of weapons to meet U.S. military requirements in an era of declining relevance of nuclear weapons.

The U.S. record of successfully identifying some 1,000 foreign nuclear tests (about 700 underground) refutes the charge that the treaty is unverifiable. With the added capabilities of the treaty's international monitoring system, any tests large enough to affect U.S. security will be detected. And the treaty provision to permit on-site inspections will provide a mechanism for taking violations to the United Nations with the support of the international community if clear evidence is discovered or if the inspection is denied.

Helms' obstruction has already lost the United States voting participation in the special Vienna conference October 6-8 to facilitate entry into force of the CTBT. If he is allowed to continue to block ratification, the U.S. leadership role will be seriously undercut at the important five-year NPT review conference scheduled for April-May 2000. Rather than being looked to as the leading force against nuclear proliferation, the United States will be widely held as responsible for the failure of the nuclear-weapon states to honor their pledge on the CTBT in obtaining the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995.

The Republican leadership should not permit Helms to co-opt them as co-conspirators in his effort to block CTBT ratification. If Helms succeeds in denying the Senate the right to exercise its constitutional responsibility to consider this important treaty, the issue must be taken to the American people. Polls indicate that an overwhelming bipartisan majority does not share the senator's cavalier "floccinaucinihilipilification" of the CTBT.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - U.S. Nuclear Weapons