Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Op-Ed for the Chicago Tribune
Chicago, Illinois, October 7, 1999
"Senate Shouldn't Delay Passing Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty"
Three years ago last month, President Clinton became the first world leader to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Since then, 153 other world leaders have followed suit. Fifty-one nations, including most of our allies, have ratified the treaty.
Almost two years after the treaty was submitted to Congress for ratification, the Senate began hearings Wednesday. Senators will focus on the concrete benefits this treaty brings the United States. And when they do so, they should conclude that the treaty is an unalloyed benefit for America's national security and an important tool in blocking the threat of nuclear proliferation.
The simple truth is that because the U.S. has the world's most advanced nuclear capabilities, we have much to gain from freezing the picture by ending explosive testing forever. We already have the expertise gained from more than a thousand tests of our own. We have the ability to maintain a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent without further explosive tests. Indeed, we have not tested since 1992--when Republicans and Democrats in Congress together enacted a national moratorium.
We don't need explosive testing. Only would-be proliferators, rogue states and terrorist groups do. And there is no good reason to let them have it.
There are those who say the treaty is too risky because some countries might cheat. But what exactly would we be risking? With no treaty other countries can test without cheating, and without limits. The treaty will improve our ability to deter and detect clandestine nuclear-weapons activity. It will provide a global network of more than 300 sensors, and it commits every signatory to accept intrusive monitoring. The more countries that support and participate in the treaty, the harder it will be for others to cheat and the higher price they will pay if they do.
Of course, signatures on a piece of paper cannot by themselves end the threat of nuclear attack. We cannot rely on a treaty as our sole means of defense. But we know that strong global rules against proliferation make a difference. Those norms helped persuade countries from Argentina to Ukraine not to go nuclear. They rallied a global response when India and Pakistan defied international public opinion by testing.
The treaty is the capstone of that legal framework. And as long as the United States fails to ratify the treaty, we cannot insist that India and Pakistan--or Russia and China--play by its rules. What is more, we are excluded from discussions about the treaty's future.
Around the world we face dangerous possibilities for proliferation that make it more important than ever to put explosive testing out of bounds for good. Imagine a nuclear standoff in the Persian Gulf or one involving a terrorist group with nuclear materials. If we reject this treaty we are telling the world--terrorists, rogue states, regional rivals--that nuclear weapons testing and technology are not just acceptable but essential. And that can only harm America's security.
We have the technical capability we need to monitor other nations' nuclear programs. The treaty would give us means for new intrusive monitoring around the world. And it will ensure a strong global response if tests ever do take place.
We have everything we ought to need to make this a simple, non-partisan, non-controversial vote. The treaty has the support of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his distinguished predecessors John Shalikashvili, Colin Powell, William Crowe and David Jones. The heads of America's nuclear weapons laboratories support it, as do many of the physicists who developed our nuclear deterrent.
And almost as long as there have been nuclear explosions, a test-ban treaty has been popular with Americans and sought by ordinary people everywhere.
People around the world do not want to live in a world in which nuclear testing is business as usual. They do not care for the threat of radiation in their air and water or in their children's bones. They do not want to make it easy or acceptable for nuclear weapons to spread further.
I urge the Senate to recognize that this universal wish is a sensible safeguard for our security.
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