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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal  
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Statement Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
On the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
Washington, DC, October 7, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Blue Line

(As Prepared for Delivery)

Mr. Chairman and Senators, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on behalf of a Treaty that will make the world safer and America more secure.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, or CTBT, is not a panacea. It will not guarantee that nuclear weapons spread no further. No pact or policy can ensure that. But the Treaty will make it more difficult and dangerous for countries to develop and modernize nuclear weapons. That is, without question, in the national security interests of the United States.

Under the Treaty, America would retain a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent. But by preventing testing, the Treaty will inhibit the development of more advanced weapons by other nuclear weapons states, and make it harder for countries that do not now have such weapons to build them.

Our nation has the world's most advanced nuclear capabilities. In the past, we conducted more than 1,000 nuclear explosive tests. Our most experienced and eminent nuclear scientists, and the heads of our testing labs, agree that we do not need to continue these tests in order to maintain an effective deterrent. We can keep our weapons fully safe and reliable under the provisions of the Treaty and the special safeguards President Clinton has proposed.

This view is echoed by our senior military leaders, including General Hugh Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and four of his predecessors, and has been supported consistently by the chiefs of all our armed services.

America's ability to protect its security without testing is not new. We stopped conducting nuclear explosive tests in 1992. In recent years, such a moratorium has been broadly observed around the world, but--as the exceptions in South Asia last year indicate--restraint depends now almost entirely upon good will.

Since America has no need and does not plan to conduct nuclear explosive tests, the essence of the debate over CTBT should be clear. It is not about preventing America from conducting tests; it is about preventing and dissuading others from doing so. It is about establishing the principle on a global basis that it is not smart, not safe, not right and not legal to conduct explosive tests in order to develop or modernize nuclear weapons.

By banning such tests, the Treaty removes a key tool that a modernizer or a proliferator would need to develop with confidence small, advanced nuclear warheads. These are the weapons that can most readily be concealed; and that can be delivered by ballistic missiles. They are the most threatening to others and to us. No country could be confident of developing them under the CTBT.

Some say the Treaty is too risky because countries might cheat. But by approving the Treaty, what exactly would we be risking? With no treaty, other countries can test without cheating, and without limit.

The CTBT would improve our ability to deter and detect clandestine nuclear weapons activity in three ways.

First, every signatory would be required to accept intrusive monitoring.

Second, the Treaty establishes a comprehensive international verification regime, with more than 320 data gathering stations of four different types that can register nuclear explosions anywhere in the world. A great deal of the information collected by these sensor stations would not otherwise be available to our intelligence community.

And third, the Treaty would give us the right to call for on-site inspections when we have evidence a test has occurred.

Obviously, we will continue to make full use of our own national technical means. But we will have more extensive access in more countries of interest under the Treaty than we would ever have without it. And the more countries that support and participate in the Treaty, the harder it will be for others to cheat, and the higher the price they will pay if they do.

Mr. Chairman, some have suggested that the Treaty is not verifiable because we cannot be absolutely certain of detecting very low-yield tests. Strictly speaking, that is true with or without the Treaty. But by improving our capacity to monitor, we are much more likely under the Treaty to detect such tests and consequently to deter them.

The CTBT prohibits all explosive tests; and we would take any sign of cheating very seriously.

But our citizens should know that low-yield explosions would be of little use in developing new or more advanced weapons systems. And we are confident that we could detect and deter any tests that could damage U.S. security interests.

Another criticism I have heard of the Treaty is that it is premature. We should wait, some say, both until our ability to detect even the smallest tests is 100 percent, which may never happen; or until every country about which we are concerned has ratified the Treaty first. I can only reply that this is a recipe for followership, not leadership.

The purpose of our national security policy should be to help shape events, not simply observe them. We want other countries, including Russia, China, India and Pakistan to ratify this Treaty and undertake a binding commitment to refrain from nuclear explosive tests.

But how can we convince them to do so if we will not? If we wait, why shouldn't they? Waiting is not a strategy; waiting is the absence of a strategy. If we believe nuclear restraint is the right approach, we should ratify this Treaty and mark a path for others to follow.

After all, we heard the same arguments during the debate on the Chemical Weapons Convention. Opponents said we should wait.

But once we decided to move ahead, five countries, including China, chose to submit their ratifications on the same day we did. Cuba ratified a week later, and Iran, Pakistan and Russia followed within eight months.

Over the past two days, I have been asked whether I would prefer to see a vote on this Treaty delayed, rather than have it voted down. I have only one preference, and that is to see the Treaty approved as soon as possible. The reason is not sentiment, but sense. This Treaty would help America.

And I hope that Senators who now oppose the CTBT, or who are undecided, will think very carefully about what the consequences would be if the Treaty were not approved. Because it would be a national security tragedy if the world's greatest deliberative body killed a Treaty that our nation has sought for forty years by failing properly to deliberate on and appreciate its merits.

Under those circumstances, we would have preserved the right to do something we have no need and no intention of doing, while giving a free pass to those who may want to conduct nuclear explosive tests and could one day do us harm.

We would have ignored the best national security advice of our top military leaders.

We would have missed a priceless chance to improve our ability to detect and deter nuclear tests.

We would have denied the vision and betrayed the dream of the two Presidents who first proposed and pursued the comprehensive test ban--Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy.

And we would have done damage to American interests in every region.

In Asia, by throwing away a valuable tool for slowing the modernization of China's nuclear arsenal; and by sending a very confusing signal to North Korea.

In South Asia, by cutting the legs out from under our efforts to persuade India and Pakistan to sign and ratify the CTBT.

In Russia, by reducing our credibility on nonproliferation issues with a government we have continually urged to take proliferation seriously.

In the Gulf, by easing worldwide pressure on Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions.

And in Europe, the Americas and around the globe, by disappointing our allies and friends, many of whom have ratified the Treaty and are--without exception--urging us to do the same.

Senators, in recent years, I have traveled to every corner of the world. I have met with senior officials from most nations. In that time, I have not heard a single expression of doubt about the overwhelming power and reliability of our nuclear deterrent, or about our ability and resolve to defend America's vital interests.

What I have heard are questions about whether America would continue to lead in reducing the threat that nuclear proliferation poses to citizens in every country. I have heard the concern that we would insist on reserving the right to conduct nuclear explosive tests, and thereby give every country with the potential to develop nuclear weapons a green light to do so.

Let us be clear. It is potential proliferators who need to test; we do not. It is those who might wish to modernize; we set the standard for modernization. By approving the CTBT, we can go far to lock in a technological status quo that protects us without threatening others. At the same time, we would strike an historic blow against the spread of nuclear weapons.

But if we send this Treaty down to defeat, we will fuel ambitions and fears that could multiply the number and danger of nuclear weapons even as the new century dawns.

Mr. Chairman, it just so happens that about three weeks ago, I was blessed with my fourth grandchild, and first granddaughter. Her name is Madeleine.

I hope I am not being selfish when I say that I want Madeleine and others her age to grow up like those of us on both sides of this table in one respect could not. I want her to grow up free from the fear of nuclear attack. I believe that the CTBT will give her and her generation a better chance. I fear that without the Treaty, the spread of nuclear dangers could create risks even graver than those we faced.

In recent days, I have heard opponents refer to this Treaty to ban nuclear explosive tests as dangerous. Call me illogical, but I believe that, given where the United States now stands in the world, it is unrestrained nuclear explosive tests that are dangerous.

I know this Treaty can't eliminate all the risks that we and our families will face. But like President Clinton, Secretary Cohen, American military leaders past and present, and our nation's allies from Ottawa to Paris and London to Tokyo, I am convinced this landmark agreement will reduce those risks.

I urge each Senator to think carefully before voting, to put partisan considerations aside; and to cast your vote in support of American leadership, on behalf of a safer world, and in favor of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Thank you.

[End of Document]

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