Joseph Cirincione, Director, Non-Proliferation Project

Presentation to the German-American Conference on Preventing the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Bonn, Germany, 28 June 1999

Status of the Two Treaties

Negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament for over two and one-half years and now signed by 152 nations (including all five nuclear-weapon states), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) awaits ratification by 44 specific nations before it can enter into force.

"Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of thread, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us…The logical place to begin is a treaty assuring the end of nuclear tests of all kinds."

President John F. Kennedy
September 25, 1961


The treaty would ban all nuclear explosions everywhere for all time. By June 1999, 38 nations had ratified the agreement, including 18 of those 44 nations identified under Article XIV of the treaty, most notably, the nuclear-weapon states France and the United Kingdom. Three of the 44—India, Pakistan, and North Korea—have not yet signed. Whether these states will ever sign, or if the treaty can be effectively observed without their signing, depends in large part on the political will of the nations that do ratify the treaty. Here, the early ratification by the Unites States could be decisive.

The U.S. Senate is unlikely to consider the treaty this year or next, unless the Clinton Administration mounts a much more determined effort then it has thus far demonstrated, and if those nations that have ratified help convince it to do so. Though facing strong opposition from key Senators, the treaty enjoys such strong domestic support and is so vital to international non-proliferation efforts, it is likely to win approval if it can overcome several procedural hurdles and reach the Senate floor.

Entry into force of the CTBT is critical to the continued viability of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, or NPT. This treaty is the sole, global, legal and diplomatic barrier to the spread of nuclear weapons. It remains the only multilateral treaty to explicitly set the goal of the elimination of these weapons. It entered into force in 1970 with over 100 nations as original signatures. With the ascension of Brazil last year, every nation in the world is now a state party to the treaty except for Israel, India, Pakistan and Cuba. The treaty was strengthened and extended indefinitely at the NPT Review and Extension Conference in 1995, but it has had a difficult five years since then, and the 2000 Review Conference is likely to be a contentious affair.

The third and final Preparatory Committee for the 2000 Conference completed its work on 21 May of this year and was generally viewed as a successful effort. The states arrived at consensus solutions (with a bit of generalization and procrastination) for all the essential decisions needed to prepare and plan for the four-week review conference in April and May 2000. The PrepCom deliberations indicate that the slow progress in nuclear disarmament and differing views of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East are likely to be the principal areas of substantive contention at next year’s session. Much will depend on whether the START process is able to get back on track and whether the CTBT, long a principal objective of the entire NPT process, has entered into force, or appears likely to enter into force soon.

CTBT Ratification Prospects

Ratification by the five recognized nuclear-weapon states and the two new, self-declared nuclear-weapon nations of India and Pakistan are key to the CTBT’s entry into force.

The European nuclear-weapon states are the only two nuclear powers to have ratified the treaty thus far. (In all, of the 44 nations that must ratify, 19 are European and 11 have ratified to-date.) France and the United Kingdom both signed the treaty on 24 September 1996 and both ratified the treaty on the same day, 6 April 1998. (Japan, by the way, was the first nation to ratify the treaty, doing so on 8 July 1997.)

The People’s Republic of China has not yet ratified the treaty, but may do so soon, if recent official pronouncements are to be believed. Chinese President Jiang Zemin authored an interesting opinion piece in the International Herald Tribune on 16 June 1999. He reiterated many of China’s longstanding positions on US-Russian arms reductions, the no first use of nuclear weapons, and on missile defense and the ABM treaty. He also said:

"Efforts should be made for early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Recent nuclear tests [in India and Pakistan] have made this task more pressing. One of the first to sign the treaty, the Chinese government will continue to work for it and will soon submit the treaty to the National People’s Congress for ratification."

This raises the possibility that China will ratify the treaty in 1999. However, tensions between China and the United States remain high and China may withhold its submission of the treaty as a sign of its displeasure and mistrust in US policies. President Jiang summarized in his article the official view of how the United States (and the West in general) manipulate the arms control process:

"Disarmament should not become a tool for stronger nations to control weaker ones. Still less should it be an instrument for a handful of countries to optimize their armaments in order to seek unilateral superiority. To reduce the armaments of others while keeping one’s own intact, to reduce the obsolete while developing the state-of-the-art, to sacrifice the security of others for one’s own, and to require other countries to scrupulously abide by treaties while giving oneself freedom of action by placing domestic laws above international law–all these acts apply double standards. They make a mockery of international efforts and run counter to the fundamental objectives of disarmament."

The Russian Federation has not yet submitted the CTBT to the State Duma for consideration and is unlikely to do so before the Duma ratifies the START II treaty. The START II logjam has delayed arms control efforts across the board, both bilaterally and multilaterally. Twice, in December 1998 and March 1999, the Duma had the treaty on its schedule for ratification, only to pull it when the US bombing of first Iraq and then Yugoslavia made it impossible to gain approval. At the June 1999 Cologne summit of the G-8, the US and Russia pledged to move the START process forward again and Duma leaders indicated that the START II treaty could be considered in October before the assembly adjourns for elections. In an interview with the author in June 1999, Chairman of the Duma Committee on International Affairs Vladimir Lukin said, "We will try to dust off the agreement if the US doesn’t bomb any more countries." Even with START approval, however, it is unlikely that the CTBT could be considered by the Duma before 2000.

India and Pakistan had both indicated before the conflict in Kashmir intensified and before the BPL government in India suffered a vote of no confidence, that both would sign the CTBT before October. Now, Indian elections may make it impossible for the government to adhere to that pledge, and, although Pakistan had indicated that its position on CTBT was independent of Indian ratification, it is impossible under current circumstances to predict with any certainty what the government will do.

The United States, of all the nuclear-weapon states, remains the most influential in the ratification process. If the US ratifies the agreement, it is much more likely that other nations will soon follow suit. If, however, the United States does not ratify, not only is the treaty doomed, but it becomes much more likely that nations will resume testing nuclear weapons. The remainder of this discussion of the CTBT will explore the difficult ratification process in the United States.

The Ratification Process in the United States

Article two, section two of the U.S. Constitution empowers the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, providing two thirds of the Senators agree. At least 67 of the present 100 Senators must vote in favor of the treaty. Accordingly, President Clinton transmitted the CTB treaty to the Senate for its consideration on September 23, 1997, with a section-by-section analysis. He noted:

"The Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty is of singular significance to the continuing efforts to stem nuclear proliferation and strengthen regional and global stability. Its conclusion marks the achievement of the highest priority item on the international arms control and nonproliferation agenda. Its effective implementation will provide a foundation on which further efforts to control and limit nuclear weapons can be soundly based. By responding to the call for a CTBT by the end of 1996, the Signatory States, and most importantly the nuclear weapon states, have demonstrated the bona fides of their commitment to meaningful arms control measures."

Since then, the President has spoken out strongly and often in support of the treaty, using opportunities including his State of the Union address, speeches before the UN General Assembly and a February 1998 visit to Los Alamos National Laboratory. So, too, have Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Secretaries of Energy Frederico Peña and Bill Richardson and others. The treaty has the support of all of the Joint Chiefs and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Hugh Shelton.

In addition, the directors of the three national nuclear weapons laboratories—John Browne (Los Alamos National Laboratory), Bruce Tarter (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) and Paul Robinson (Sandia National Laboratory)—have all publicly expressed their confidence that the safety and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile can be ensured within a test ban treaty regime. In January 1998, four former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—Gen. John Shalikashvili, Gen. Colin Powell, Adm. William Crowe, and Gen. David Jones—supported Senate approval of the treaty.

The laboratory directors and the military leaders conditioned their support on the implementation of six "safeguards" the President has established and noted in his submission to the Senate with the treaty. The safeguards are detailed in an appendix to this paper.

Most recently, National Security Advisor Sandy Berger told the experts and officials assembled in January 1999 at the Carnegie International Non-Proliferation Conference:

"With respect to strengthening the regime, let me say that President Clinton will make one of his top priorities for 1999 obtaining advice and consent to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in the United States Senate…We must not let this extraordinary opportunity slip away…If the Senate rejected or failed to act on the Test Ban Treaty, we would throw open the door to regional nuclear arms races and a much more dangerous world. Ratification will take a serious effort from all of us. But it would be a terrible tragedy if our Senate failed to ratify the CTBT this year.

Senate Opposition

There remains, however, strong opposition to the treaty from conservative leaders in the Senate. The most important of these is Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is, in effect, the "gatekeeper" of the treaty: it must pass through the Foreign Relations Committee in order to get to a full Senate vote.

Senator Helms opposed the other two arms control treaty President Clinton submitted to the Senate, the START II treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention. Both were negotiated by and signed by President George Bush, but derided by conservative Senators. The Senate overwhelmingly approved START II, 87 to 4, on January 26, 1996. After several missteps by the Administration, Senator Helms was finally persuaded to allow the CWC to come to the Senate floor, where it was approved by a vote of 74 to 26 on April 24, 1997. Roughly the same number of Senators (26) who voted against the CWC, a popular treaty backed by a strong lobbying effort from the chemical industry, are likely to vote also against a CTB.

Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss) represents the skeptical attitude these Senators have about arms control treaties in general and the CTB in particular:

"We have to be assured before we approve this treaty that it is clearly going to help protect security rather than the other way around. If it creates a more dangerous environment and is an incentive for others to cheat and steal a march on the rest of the world, and puts us at risk, then we would make a bad mistake to approve the treaty.''

Senatorial concerns are fueled by a steady barrage of faxes, mail and visits from far-right advocates such as Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy. He writes in one of his numerous "Decision Briefs," against what he calls, "a prescription for the further, complete ‘denuclearization’ of the United States." Gaffney warns:

"Without nuclear weapons tests to assure the reliability and effectiveness of the existing nuclear deterrent- to say nothing of introducing continuous improvements that will enhance its safety and credibility- the U.S. arsenal will, in not too many years, become unsustainable and ineffectual as a means of deterring aggression and other grievous threats."

This view reflects the position held my several Senators, key staff and some mid-level officials in the Department of Defense that the nation will have a continuing need for militarily useful nuclear weapons. That is, in addition to the role many believe nuclear weapons play in deterring a nuclear attack on the United States, its troops or allies, these individuals see a role for using nuclear weapons in combat against non-nuclear targets, in particular, chemical and biological weapons and facilities. To do so, however, it may be necessary to make the warheads smaller or adapt them to different delivery vehicles. This would necessitate new designs and testing. Thus, a test ban is seen as an unnecessary impediment to improving the military capabilities of the United States against the current and developing proliferation threats.

There are many Senators, perhaps a majority, who strongly support a test ban. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) believes:

"This treaty represents another useful and important step toward reducing the spread of nuclear weapons…The CTBT is an important step down the path toward a safer world. In simple terms, the United States, the country with one of the largest and certainly the most sophisticated nuclear weapons arsenals in the world, has the most to gain from freezing the competition in place."

In the middle are Senators such as Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) who says he is "leaning strongly in support" of the treaty, but warns the treaty has no chance of passing unless the Senate can be assured that funding and programs are in place to sustain the safety and reliability of the nuclear stockpile.

The question remains: Will additional Senators join the 20-26 likely opponents to defeat the treaty?

Senator Helms would prefer to delay the answer to that question. Days before the President’s State of the Union address in 1998, the Senator wrote the President a letter insisting that the President submit several other treaties, including the protocols to the ABM Treaty negotiated by Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin, before he would allow the Senate to consider the CTBT He continued his efforts throughout 1999 to force a vote on the ABM agreements (believing the agreements would be defeated and thus kill the ABM treaty once and for all) and to block consideration of the CTBT.


During the first part of 1998, the Clinton Administration conducted a well-orchestrated campaign to win Senate approval. Inter-agency cooperation was well coordinated and included a steady stream of faxed fact sheets produced by the White House Working Group on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Cabinet secretaries and key Senators have regularly and repeatedly voiced their support for the treaty and urged the beginning of Senate hearings. The President appears to have assembled the military and scientific support for the treaty that is normally sufficient to ensure passage.

In addition, there is strong public and editorial support for the test ban. Recent surveys of public opinion reveals that an overwhelming 70 percent of the American public support a treaty banning all nuclear explosions, while only 13 percent oppose it (17 percent are undecided). With 26 out of 100 Senators likely to oppose the treaty, the Senate is twice as negative on the treaty as is the American public.

Moreover, these latest results are consistent with the high level of public approval for banning nuclear test over the past three decades. Polling data collected by the Roper Center for Opinion Research show strong public support ranging from 61 percent to 85 percent in favor of a limit or a ban on nuclear weapons tests since the question was first asked in 1957. As President Kennedy noted while savoring the popular approval garnered with the signing of the Limited Test Ban Treaty, "If I had known it was so popular, I would have done it along time ago."

The editors of The Salt Lake City Tribune reflect the logic many editors see behind the treaty when they opine:

"The theory of the treaty is simple. Without test explosions, it is difficult to develop reliable nuclear weapons, especially for newcomers to the nuclear club. That is less true for the five acknowledged nuclear weapons states -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- which have conducted extensive tests and can improve their weapons using computer simulations based on knowledge gained from prior detonations.

"However, the inability to conduct test explosions should retard the proliferation of nuclear weapons to wannabe nations such as Iraq, Libya, Iran and North Korea. Without tests, it would be difficult for them to develop advanced nuclear warheads that are deliverable by ballistic missiles."

Significantly, the Tribune editors also sympathize with Senator Helms’ concerns over the ABM Treaty and favor deployment of a national missile defense system. Nonetheless, the editors conclude, "Helms should not hold up action on a test ban treaty that would advance U.S. security." Dozens of editors around the country have expressed similar sentiments, from the big-city New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Denver Post, to the St. Petersburg Times, Lexington Herald-Leader, Dayton Daily News and The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina,

Strong public and editorial support are particularly import for this president, whose initiatives are often fueled by popular opinion, as well as their intrinsic merits. While the Administration secured the indefinite extension and strengthening of the NPT and officials have been involved in dozens of arms control negotiations, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty remains the only arms control treaty bearing the personal signature of President Clinton. Whereas President George Bush, in his four years, signed two strategic arms reduction treaties, a treaty prohibiting chemical weapons, unilaterally eliminated thousands of tactical nuclear weapons and took all strategic nuclear bombers and many intercontinental ballistic missile off alert, the CTBT is the sole Clinton nuclear legacy. It would undoubtedly be a personal as well as a political defeat if the treaty were to fail.

However, this treaty campaign faltered in the later half of 1998 and has yet to be substantially revived in 1999. The President was distracted by the intense impeachment proceedings against him and then by other international issues, most notably the allegations of Chinese espionage at the US nuclear laboratories and the NATO campaign to stop the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo.

As a result, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) the ranking Democrat on two key Senate committees with jurisdiction over the test-ban treaty, is forced to conclude, "I don’t think the prospects for us getting it ratified this Congress are good. They are slim…I don’t know if we have the votes given the current political climate" This seems true even though some of the harshest critics of China, such as California Republican Christopher Cox, believe, "The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, if it were enforced, would be a means of preventing the more rapid weaponization and deployment of the new PLA (People’s Liberation Army) nuclear weapons."

If the Clinton Administration does not immediately mount a determined effort to obtain Senate approval by the end of 1999, it is highly unlikely that the Senate could ratify the treaty in 2000. The Senate has only once (with START II) approved a major arms control treaty in a presidential election year. This history was lost on the Administration when it tried to win ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1996, only to see the treaty succumb to campaign politics as presidential candidate Senator Bob Dole withdrew his support in order to shore up his base of support on the right.

Impact of CTBT Entry-into-Force on the NPT

Even without US and Russian ratification of the CTBT, some are optimistic that the arms control momentum can be maintained until new elections bring new leaders to power in both nations.

The CTBT provides that three years after the treaty opened for signature, there could be a conference by all those who have ratified to evaluate and confer on steps for bringing the treaty into force. This conference is now scheduled for October 1999. Ambassador Wolfgang Hoffman, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the CTBTO, had suggested that, if the US had ratified by then, this conference could certainly bring pressure on those who have not yet ratified, and might also be able to bring the treaty into force provisionally, as allowed by Article 14 of the treaty. He now believes that even without key ratifications, the treaty will not be fundamentally harmed by waiting until 2001 for final approval by the key nuclear-weapon states and other nations. As long as the moratorium on testing remains the international norm, some believe, (and the longer this norm continues, the more difficult it will be to break) the final entry into force of the treaty can afford to slip a few years beyond the ideal date.

However, the CTBT conference will come shortly before the first of the new review conferences for the Non-Proliferation Treaty convenes in April 2000. A questionable or collapsing CTB process could ignite bitter debate at the 2000 Review, weakening the entire international non-proliferation regime.

The NPT remains the centerpiece of the non-proliferation regime, a regime that until last year had successfully stopped or significantly slowed the spread of nuclear weapons for thirty years. Rather than the twenty or thirty nuclear nations that President John Kennedy feared would emerge by the end of the 1960s, there remained only the five, plus the "threshold states" of India, Pakistan and Israel. The treaty established the international inspection regime that helps prevent the diversion of nuclear reactor fuel to bombs. It provided the diplomatic framework that allowed Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to give up the thousands of nuclear weapons they inherited from the former Soviet Union and to join the treaty as non-nuclear-weapon states. It encouraged first Sweden, and most recently South Africa, Argentina, and Brazil, to abandon their nuclear programs and become members of either the treaty or regional non-proliferation pacts. It is the main reason the 1994 crisis over suspected North Korean nuclear activities could be resolved through inspection and negotiation rather than war.

Still, the regime has failed to match the expectations of many nations that it would more effectively stop the spread of nuclear weapons and reduce existing arsenals. There were approximately 38,000 nuclear weapons in the world in 1970, primarily in the arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union. Today, there are still 35,600 weapons worldwide, although that number has declined substantially from the Cold War peak. Even if all the arms control treaties currently under consideration are implemented (START I, II, and III) the United States still plans to maintain 10,000 nuclear warheads indefinitely (with about 2,500 strategic warheads deployed and the remainder in reserve, stockpile or for tactical use). This is a mountain of nuclear weapons from the perspective of a country that has none. The stagnation of the reduction process strengthens arguments, advanced by India among others, that the posture of the nuclear-weapon states is steeped in hypocrisy.

The non-nuclear-weapon states cannot be happy with the lack of progress on any of the "Principles and Objectives for Non-Proliferation" adopted as an integral part of the 1995 indefinite extension decision:

    • The arms reduction process is stagnant and may be breaking down;
    • Negotiations to stop the production of fissile materials are still-borne in the Conference on Disarmament;
    • Two new nuclear weapon states have emerged in South Asia;
    • US efforts to develop and deploy national and theater missile defense systems threaten to trigger additional nuclear deployments and modernization efforts;
    • Russia has announced a new reliance on tactical nuclear weapons for its defense and may begin developing new weapons for this purpose;
    • The UNSCOM inspection regime in Iraq has collapsed;
    • Pakistan, India, Iran and North Korea have all tested new missiles; and
    • North Korea’s nuclear program remains contentious and mysterious.

Several of the diplomats who played key roles in the 1995 NPT decisions strive to maintain their balance even as the proliferation challenges mount. Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala noted at the Carnegie International Non-Proliferation Conference in January 1999:

"Viewed globally, compliance with the NPT has been commendable, despite certain significant instances where various state parties have engaged in- or are still engaging in- activities that are inconsistent with their treaty obligations. The general norms of the regime- including those with respect to export controls and the basic requirement for full-scope IAEA safeguards as a condition for nuclear commerce- are increasingly being integrated into the domestic laws and regulations of NPT parties, which now number 187."

However, Ambassador Dhanapala went on to say:

"In my closing remarks as President of the NPT Review and Extension Conference in 1995, I cautioned that the ‘permanence of the Treaty does not represent a permanence of unbalanced obligations, nor does it represent the permanence of nuclear apartheid between nuclear haves and have nots.’ I also noted that ‘non-proliferation and disarmament can be pursued only jointly, not at each other’s expense.’…Ultimately, I believe that the indefinite perpetuation of this deadlock on nuclear disarmament will jeopardize the regime far more than even last year’s nuclear detonations."


The international effort to end nuclear testing, the longest marathon in nuclear arms control history, may well have several more years to go and several more significant hurdles to leap. It may be some time before there is a clear finish line.

There is a unique opportunity for the nations of the European Union to assert their growing influence. As noted above, the only two nuclear-weapon states to have ratified the treaty are European states. Eleven of the key ratifications needed have already come from European nations and 7 more are likely to follow soon (that is, all but Russia). With this substantial bloc of committed nations, the European Union could exert a positive influence to encourage Russian and US ratification, and could consult more closely as a grouping during the 2000 NPT Review Conference to both bridge the gap between the nuclear haves and have-nots and to enhance prospects for a positive outcome.

Then-Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright noted after the September 1996 UN vote on the CTBT, that is was "a treaty sought by ordinary people everywhere. And today, that universal wish could not be denied." Entry into force of the test ban treaty, by itself, is not sufficient to maintain the momentum of the international non-proliferation regime or the near-universal adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But if it should falter, if, in conjunction with missile defense deployments and a collapse of the bilateral reduction process, nations renew testing of nuclear weapons, not only will the universal wish be denied, it will turn into it’s opposite: a world of proliferants and increased nuclear danger.


Joseph Cirincione is Director and Senior Associate at the Non-Proliferation Project of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C. He served for nine years on the professional staff of the Committee on Armed Services and Committee on Government Operations in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was Executive Director of the Campaign for the Non-Proliferation Treaty (1993-1995) and of the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers (1995-1997).

The Project maintains substantial resources on the CTBT, NPT and other issues of proliferation concern on the Internet at:


A Brief History of the Comprehensive Test Ban

Efforts to ban nuclear test began almost as soon as the dust from the first nuclear explosion had settled back onto the New Mexico desert in 1945. Scientists responsible for the development of America’s nuclear weapons urged various restraining measures, including a test ban. In June 1946, the United States representative to the newly formed Atomic Energy Commission, Bernard Baruch, presented an American plan to stop the manufacture of all atomic bombs and to eliminate all bombs in the US arsenal. But rising US-Soviet rivalry and false hopes that the United States could maintain a nuclear monopoly thwarted these early proposals.

President Dwight Eisenhower’s interest in a test ban stemmed from his military appreciation of the disproportionate destructive power of nuclear weapons. In a December 8, 1953 speech to the United Nations he noted, "A single air group, whether afloat of land-based, can now deliver to any reachable target a destructive cargo exceeding in power all the bombs that fell on Britain in all of World War II." By that time, the United States had already conducted 42 nuclear tests and had developed hydrogen bombs with the explosive power of several million tons of TNT. The United Kingdom and the Soviet Union had also acquired their own nuclear weapons. This meant two things, Eisenhower feared. "First, the knowledge now possessed by several nations will eventually be shared by others—possibly all others. Second, even a vast superiority in numbers of weapons…is no prevention, of itself, against the fearful material damage and toll of human lives that would be inflicted by surprise aggression."

In early 1958, the Soviet Union announced that it would stop testing if the United States would do likewise. Eisenhower responded by proposing that scientists from the two countries jointly assess the verifiability of a test ban. On the basis of the scientists’ findings, the president in October 1958 initiated formal negotiations for a comprehensive test ban and declared a moratorium on testing that lasted almost three years, until France tested in 1960 and the Soviet Union in 1961.

By 1963, President Kennedy argued that a test ban "would check the spiraling arms race in one of its most deadly areas. It would place the nuclear powers in a position to deal with one of the greatest hazards which man faces in 1963, the further spread of nuclear arms." But the United States and the Soviet Union could not agree on the number of on-site inspections and Kennedy settled for the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere, underwater and in outer space. The signatories vowed in the treaty’s preamble that they would seek "to achieve the discontinuance of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time."

On many occasions during the next 30 years, the nuclear weapons states repeated their intention to end all testing, but never completed a treaty. However, President Lyndon Johnson negotiated, and in 1970 President Richard Nixon signed, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The treaty entered into force in 1970 with almost 100 nation as signatories. It now has 185 members—almost every nation in the world. The NPT remains the sole global, legal, and diplomatic barrier to the spread of nuclear weapons. Key to the promise by non-nuclear-weapon states not to acquire nuclear weapons is the pledge by the nuclear-weapon states, enshrined in Article VI of the treaty, to undertake good-faith negotiations on "effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament…" Three of these measures are explicitly cited in the treaty’s preamble: a comprehensive nuclear test ban; an end to the manufacture of nuclear weapons; and the elimination of existing nuclear weapons. A fourth is implied: refraining from the threat or use of nuclear weapons.

President Jimmy Carter came close to fulfilling the test ban pledge in 1979, only to have the negotiations lose their momentum after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Negotiations were not resumed during the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan or George Bush.

Congress, in September 1992, moved into this presidential vacuum and mandated a September 1996 deadline for ending all U.S. nuclear tests. The "Hatfield Amendment," supported by Senators Mark O. Hatfield, George Mitchell, and James Exon, specified that:

    • The United States would begin a nine-month nuclear testing moratorium;
    • The President must submit to Congress, at least 90 days before any resumption of testing, a report that provides a plan for achieving a multilateral comprehensive test ban no later than September 30, 1996;
    • Any tests performed by the United States before the test ban target date would be limited to 15 and conducted for the purpose of weapon safety and reliability; and
    • The United States would not be the first nation to conduct a nuclear test after September 30, 1996.

President Bush reluctantly signed the law in October of that year, ending a 47-year testing program that included 215 atmospheric and 815 underground tests. Neither President Bush nor President Clinton used the 15 tests allowed under the moratorium to verify weapon safety or reliability.

The Soviet Union had observed its own testing moratorium since 1990. President Clinton extended the moratorium in July 1993, and at the Moscow Summit in January 1994, he and Russian President Boris Yelstin declared their intention to work to achieve a test ban treaty as quickly as possible and urged other nuclear weapons states to refrain from nuclear testing while test ban talks were underway. On January 25, 1994, the 61-nation Conference on Disarmament (CD) convened in Geneva, Switzerland to begin multilateral talks on a CTB treaty. The Conference is the only multilateral disarmament negotiating forum linked to the United Nations. A test ban had been at the top of the forum’s agenda since its inception in 1959.

Many nations participating in the CD are also members of the NPT and identified a test ban as a key indicator of whether the nuclear-weapon states took the treaty’s disarmament commitments seriously. Steady progress in the negotiations was a major factor influencing the decision by these nations to make the NPT permanent at the NPT Review and Extension Conference in April 1995. The states also strengthened the NPT by implementing a regular review process and adopting "Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament" as a yardstick for determining progress in realizing the treaty's purposes. The first specific measures cited in the document is the completion by the CD of "a universal and internationally and effectively verifiable Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty no later than 1996."

After two and one-half years of arduous negotiations, debate, and a last minute effort by India to block transmittal of the treaty to the United Nations, the treaty was approved by the UN General Assembly by a vote of 158 in favor, 3 against and 5 abstentions on September 10, 1996. On September 24, President Clinton became the first world leader to sign the treaty, using the pen President Kennedy had used to sign the Limited Test Ban Treaty 33 years earlier. His remarks to the General Assembly on that occasion outline the basic Administration position on the international security benefits of the treaty:

"By overwhelming global consensus, we will make a solemn vow to end all nuclear tests for all time…. This Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty will help to prevent the nuclear powers from developing more advanced and more dangerous weapons. It will limit the ability of other states to acquire such devices themselves. It points us toward a century in which the roles and risks of nuclear weapons can be further reduced, and ultimately eliminated.

"The signature of the world's declared nuclear power -- the United States, China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom—along with those of the vast majority of its nations—will immediately create an international norm against nuclear testing, even before the treaty formally enters into force. Some have complained that it does not mandate total nuclear disarmament by a date certain. I would say to them, do not forsake the benefits of this achievement by ignoring the tremendous progress we have already made toward that goal."

All the nuclear-weapon states have now ended their test programs. India and Pakistan, after completing their test series in 1998, have both pledged to stop testing and to sign the CTBT. China was the last nation of the five recognized nuclear-weapon states to test, exploding two devices in 1996, for a total of 45 Chinese tests. France conducted the last of its 210 tests in 1996 as well. The United Kingdom, which had used the US test site in Nevada for its 24 underground tests, ended its 45-test series in 1991. Russia/Soviet Union conducted 715 tests from 1949 to 1990 (219 atmospheric). Including the Indian underground test in 1974 and the five Indian and six Pakistani underground test explosions in 1998, there have been 2057 known nuclear tests conducted from 1945 until 1999.

Treaty Components

The treaty has 17 articles, two annexes, and a three-part protocol complete with its own two annexes. A summary of the treaty follows:

  • Basic obligations

The Treaty creates an absolute prohibition against the conduct of nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosion anywhere. Specifically, each State Party undertakes not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion; to prohibit and prevent any nuclear explosions at any place under its jurisdiction or control; and to refrain from causing, encouraging, or in any way participating in the carrying out of any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.

  • Organization

The Treaty establishes an organization to ensure the implementation of its provisions, including those for international verification measures. The organization includes a Conference of States Parties, an Executive Council and a Technical Secretariat, which includes an International Data Center.

  • Structure

The Treaty includes a Protocol in three parts: Part I details the International Monitoring System (IMS); Part II on On-Site Inspections (OSI); and Part III on Confidence Building Measures. There are two Annexes: Annex 1 details the location of treaty monitoring assets associated with the IMS; and Annex 2 details the parameters for screening events.

  • Verification and inspections

The Treaty's verification regime includes an international monitoring system composed of seismological, radionuclide, hydroacoustic and infrasound monitoring; consultation and clarification; on-site inspections; and confidence building measures. The use of national technical means, vital for the Treaty's verification regime, is explicitly provided for. Requests for on-site inspections must be approved by at least 30 affirmative votes of members of the Treaty's 51-member Executive Council. The Executive Council must act within 96 hours of receiving a request for an inspection.

  • Treaty compliance and sanctions

The Treaty provides for measures to redress a situation and to ensure compliance, including sanctions, and for settlement of disputes. If the Conference or Executive Council determines that a case is of particular gravity, it can bring the issue to the attention of the United Nations.

  • Amendments

Any state party to the Treaty may propose an amendment to the Treaty, the Protocol, or the Annexes to the Protocol. Amendments shall be considered by an Amendment Conference and shall be adopted by a positive vote of a majority of the States parties with no State party casting a negative vote.

  • Entry into force

The Treaty will enter into force 180 days after the date of deposit of the instruments of ratification by all States listed in Annex 2 to the Treaty, but in no case earlier than two years after its opening for signature. Annex 2 includes 44 States members of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) with nuclear power and/or research reactors. If the Treaty has not entered into force three years after the date of the anniversary of its opening for signature, a conference of the States that have already deposited their instruments of ratification may convene annually to consider and decide by consensus what measures consistent with international law may be undertaken to accelerate the ratification process in order to facilitate the early entry into force of this Treaty.

  • Review

Ten years after entry into force, a Conference of the States Parties will be held to review the operation and effectiveness of this Treaty.

  • Duration

The Treaty is of unlimited duration. Each State Party has the right to withdraw from the CTBT if it decides that extraordinary events related to its subject matter have jeopardized its supreme national interests.

  • Depository

The Secretary General of the United Nations is the Depository of the Treaty and receives signatures, instruments of ratification and instruments of accession.

The United States Stockpile Stewardship Program

The United States conducts 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.

  • The maintenance of modern nuclear laboratory facilities and programs in theoretical and exploratory nuclear technology to attract and retain highly qualified scientists and technical experts.
  • The maintenance of the basic capability to resume nuclear test activities prohibited by the CTBT should the United States cease to be bound by the treaty.
  • The continuation of a comprehensive research and development program to improve treaty monitoring capabilities and operations.
  • 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.
  • 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 that the two Secretaries consider to be critical to our nuclear deterrent could no longer be certified, the President, in consultation with the 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.

To implement the last safeguard, the President has established a new, annual certification procedure for the nuclear weapons stockpile. On February 12, 1998, the president provided his second annual certification to Congress, including the following report from the secretaries of defense and energy:

"In response to your direction to conduct an annual certification of the nuclear weapons stockpile, we have thoroughly reviewed the safety and reliability of the stockpile under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The nuclear stockpile has no safety or reliability concerns that require underground testing at this time. Problems that have arisen in the stockpile are being addressed and resolved without underground nuclear testing to ensure the stockpile remains safe and reliable. In reaching this conclusion, we have obtained the advice of the Directors of the National Weapons Laboratories, the Commander in Chief, United States Strategic Command, and the Nuclear Weapons Council. We will continue to inform you annually on the safety and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile in the absence of underground nuclear testing, and in the context of the DOE's Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan."

The Stockpile Stewardship Program is, according to the Department of Energy, "a single, highly integrated technical program for maintaining the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile in an era without nuclear testing and without new weapons development and production." Most recently, the directors of the three nuclear weapons laboratories—John C. Browne at Los Alamos, Paul Robinson at Sandia and Bruce Tarter at Lawrence Livermore—assured the President: "We remain confident that the US stockpile stewardship program, as conceived and as being executed, is able to perform this task under the Comprehensive Test Ban Traty and its safeguards…Recent concerns over loses of US nuclear stockpile information have not changed this assessment in any way."

The program consists of a wide variety of new facilities, programs, experiments and activities. The total cost of facilities now planned or under construction is $2.6 billion, according to DOE. Annual expenditures for the program are expected to total $4.5 billion, or more than the department normally spent on nuclear weapons maintenance and production during the test years.