20 July 1999
(Specter calls treaty "a matter of survival") (720) By Susan Ellis USIA Staff Writer Washington -- A bipartisan group of senators held a news conference July 20 to urge that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty be ratified at once. Senate Minority (Democratic) Leader Thomas Daschle pointed out that on September 24, 1996, "President Clinton became the first of 152 world leaders to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty," which bans all testing of nuclear weapons. It was submitted to the Senate for ratification where it has languished since, unratified. "It is especially important that the Senate act before the September 1999 deadline for ratification by 44 countries," Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, said in a written statement distributed at the news conference. "If the United States fails to ratify the CTBT, then we will not have a voice in the special international conference which will negotiate how to accelerate the treaty into force. Yet, as a signatory, we will still be bound by its provisions." Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania epitomized the view of supporters in his party when he said CBTB ratification is "really, basically, a matter of survival." He said the issue of ratification was "brought into very sharp focus the spring of last year when we had nuclear tests by India and Pakistan; and since the spring of 1998 there has been a very tenuous situation with war about to break out, fighting on the India-Pakistan border, and with the capability for those warring nations to (use) nuclear weapons," which he called "a threat to the world's stability." Specter pointed out how difficult it is for the United States "to step in and advocate a peaceful resolution, to arbitrate or negotiate those differences, when the United States has not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty." Senator Joseph Biden, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that arguments against ratification which center on the threat posed to the United States from nations that still do testing, dissolve since "We don't test anyway ... (and haven't) since 1992." He continued "We're the only country in the world which, with a high degree of certainty, does not need to test in order to be certain that our nuclear arsenal ... is in fact reliable. So this is overwhelmingly in the interests of the United States of America." The CTBT "is important in the fight against weapons of mass destruction (WMD)," said Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan. In order to create WMD, he said, "it is central that they be tested.... And so the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is an anti-proliferation weapon at its core." The CBTB also makes it possible for the U.S. to have on-site inspection capabilities that it does not have today, he added. Levin also related the CTBT to recent allegations of Chinese espionage. In order to use the weapons they have "supposedly stolen," he said, "they need to test them. They signed the (CTBT) but if we do not ratify that treaty, it seems to me we give them the chance to get off the hook." A July 1999 poll by Wirthlin Worldwide shows that Americans support a ban on nuclear testing by an 82-14 percent margin, with 4 percent not expressing an opinion. The Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers says the issue crosses party lines, with CTBT approval at 86 percent for Democrats, 81 percent for Republicans, and 71 percent for independents. Asked by a reporter what Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi gives as the reason for his opposition to CTBT ratification, Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, responded: "The public description is that they will not allow this treaty to come to the floor of the Senate until certain changes are sent to the Senate (by President Clinton) that have been negotiated with Russia with respect to the ABM (anti-ballistic missile) treaty. "So this treaty is leverage.... But in my judgement this injures our country's interests. Our country's interest is to lead. China is waiting for us; Russia is waiting for us ... and holding this hostage for that in my judgement hurts our ability to provide the leadership on the world stage that we ought to be required to provide at this point."