The Case Against the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
Michaela Dodge /
On Friday, The Heritage Foundation, the National Institute for Public Policy, and the Center for Security Policy co-hosted an event “The Flawed Case for Reconsidering the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.”
The event is a response to the recently released National Academy of Sciences report purporting having resolved all of the technical issues surrounding the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). It is clear that such descriptions of the study are inflated and that technical and policy questions related to CTBT remain.
Ambassador Robert Joseph, senior scholar at the National Institute for Public Policy and former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, noted that the CTBT remains structurally and conceptually flawed. The Administration is seeking the Senate’s advice and consent to the very same treaty that it refused to support in 1999 without a single change in wording. Most astonishingly, the treaty does not define what constitutes a nuclear weapons test—the very thing it seeks to ban.
The National Institute of Public Policy report, “The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: An Assessment of the Benefits, Costs, and Risks,” is a testament that people with great technical expertise in the nuclear weapons field can conclude that “U.S. ratification is unlikely to yield an effective rally against proliferation as is argued by CTBT proponents, and why the prospective regrets attending U.S. ratifications could be serious indeed.”
The importance of the credibility of U.S. nuclear weapons was emphasized by Frank Gaffney, president and CEO of the Center for Security Policy. By pursuing “nuclear zero,” a world without nuclear weapons toward which the CTBT is a stepping stone, the Administration is operating on the premise that when the U.S. gets rid of its nuclear weapons, others will follow. The problem is that despite the U.S. reducing over 80 percent of its nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War, nobody is following the lead. North Korea, Pakistan, and India emerged as nuclear weapons players, and Iran is knocking on the door of the nuclear club. In addition, if allies do not trust that they will be protected by U.S. nuclear weapons, they could develop their own capabilities.
Vice Admiral Robert Monroe (retired), former director of the Defense Nuclear Agency, noted that the existing nuclear weapons arsenal is irrelevant for today’s principal adversaries. As new threats emerge, the U.S. should be able to freely determine and test new types of nuclear weapons suited to address these threats, especially low yield, reduced residual radiation weapons and weapons capable of mitigating the effects of biological or chemical weapons attacks. He notes that due to a lack of nuclear weapons testing, the U.S. lost its experienced human resources and undermined the U.S. science base. The CTBT would make this problem only worse by making it more difficult to test U.S. nuclear weapons ever again.
Heritage’s Baker Spring closely examined an array of narrower technical questions surrounding the debate over the value of the CTBT. According to some experts, the CTBT will only exacerbate problems that the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile already faces, especially regarding the effects of aging of U.S. nuclear weapons.
As the U.S. is the only country without a substantial nuclear weapons modernization program, it is not the time to push for a treaty that will make achieving the goal of safe, secure, effective, and reliable nuclear weapons arsenal more difficult.