USIS Washington 

October 6, 1999


                             THE WHITE HOUSE
                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
October 6, 1999

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                                 East Room
3:43 P.M. EDT

          THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  
          There's a reason that President Eisenhower said we ought to do
this, and a reason that President Kennedy agreed.  They saw World War II
from slightly different angles and different ranks, but they experienced
the horror of the atomic era's onset in much the same way.  I think you
could make a compelling argument that this treaty is more needed now than
it was when they advocated it; when there were only two nuclear powers.  I
think you could make a compelling argument that, given the events of the
last couple of years, this treaty is more needed than it was when I signed
it at the United Nations three years ago.  Nuclear technology and know-how
continue to spread.  The risk that more and more countries will obtain
weapons that are nuclear is more serious than ever.
          I said yesterday -- I'd like to just stop here and go off the
script.  I am very worried that the 21st century will see the proliferation
of nuclear and chemical and biological weapons; that those systems will
undergo a process of miniaturization, just as almost all other
technological events have led us to, in good ways and bad; and that we will
continue to see the mixing and blending of misconduct in the new century by
rogue states, angry countries and terrorist groups.  It is, therefore,
essential that the United States stay in the nonproliferation lead in a
comprehensive way.
          Now, if you look at what we're trying to do with the Biological
Weapons Convention, for example, in putting teeth in that while increasing
our own ability to protect our own people and protect our friends who want
to work with us from biological weaponry, you see a good direction.  If you
look at what we did with the Chemical Weapons Convention, working in good
faith for months with the Congress to ask the same question we're asking
here -- are we better off with this, or without it -- and how we added
safeguard after safeguard after safeguard, both generated out of the
administration and generated from leaders of both parties in the Congress,
that's how we ought to look at this.
          But we have to ask ourselves just the same question they all
presented, because the nuclear threat is still the largest one, and are we
better off or not if we adopt this treaty?
          I think we start with the fact that the best way to constrain the
danger of nuclear proliferation and, God forbid, the use of a nuclear
weapon, is to stop other countries from testing nuclear weapons.  That's
what this test ban treaty will do.  A vote, therefore, to ratify is a vote
to increase the protections of our people and the world from nuclear war.
By contrast, a vote against it risks a much more dangerous future.
          One of the interesting things -- I'll bet you that people in
other parts of the world, particularly those that have nuclear technology,
are watching the current debate with some measure of bewilderment.  I mean,
today we enjoy unmatched influence, with peace and freedom ascendant in the
world, with enormous prosperity, enormous technical advances.  And by and
large, on a bipartisan basis, we've done a pretty good job of dealing with
this unique moment in history.
          We've seen the end of the Cold War making possible agreements to
cut U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals by more than 60 percent.  We have
offered the Russians the opportunity of further cuts if they will ratify
START II.  But we know the nuclear peril persists, and that there's growing
danger that these weapons could spread in the Middle East, in the Persian
Gulf, in Asia, to areas where our troops are deployed.
          We know that they can be present in areas where there are intense
rivalries and, unlike at least the latter years of the Cold War, still very
much the possibility of misunderstanding between countries with this
          Now, let me say the reason I say that I think other countries
will be looking at this, one of the concerns that I have had all along is
that the countries we need to get involved in this -- India, Pakistan, all
the other countries will say, well, gosh, when we all get in this
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Americans have a big advantage because
they're spending $4.5 billion maintaining the integrity of their nuclear
stockpile.  And I always thought that, too.  And I think that's a good
thing because people around the world know we're not going to abuse this
responsibility we have.
          But it is strange to me -- and I'm sure strange for people in
foreign capitals analyzing the debate going on in Washington -- there are
people against this treaty who somehow think we will be disadvantaged by
it.  So instead, they propose to say, well, we -- they don't, any of them,
say we should start testing again.  So the message of not ratifying this
treaty is, okay, we're not going to test, but you guys have a green light.
          Now, forgive my less than elevated language, but I think we've
got to put this down where everybody can get it.  And I don't think we
ought to give a green light to our friends in India and Pakistan, to the
Chinese or the Russians or to people who would be nuclear powers.  I think
that would be a mistake.
          I think we ought to give them an outstretched hand and say, let
us show common restraint.  And see this in the framework of our continuing
work with the Russians to secure their own nuclear materials, to destroy
nuclear weapons that are scheduled for destruction, and to continue our
effort to reduce the nuclear threat.
          The argument, it seems to me, doesn't hold water, this argument
that somehow we would be better off, even though we're not going to start
testing again, to walk away from this treaty and give a green light to all
these other countries in the world.
           Now, I sent this test ban treaty up to the Senate over two years
ago.  For two years, the opponents of the treaty refused to hold any
hearings.  Suddenly, they say, okay, you've got to vote up or down in a
week.  Now, this is a tough fight without much time, and there are -- lots
of technical arguments can be made to confuse the issue.  But I would like
to just reiterate what has already been said by previous speakers and make
one other point.
          There are basically three categories of arguments against the
treaty.  Two have been dealt with.  One is, well, this won't detect every
test that anybody could do at every level.  And General Shalikashvili
addressed that.  We will have censors all over the world that will detect
far more tests than will be detected if this treaty is not ratified and
does not enter into force.  And our military have repeatedly said that any
test of a size that would present any kind of credible threat to what we
have to do to protect the American people we would know about and we could
respond in an appropriate and timely fashion.
          The second argument is no matter what all these guys say, they
can find three scientists somewhere who will say -- or maybe 300, I don't
know -- that they just don't agree and maybe there is some scenario under
which the security and reliability of the nuclear deterrent in America can
be eroded.  Well, I think that at some point, with all these Nobel
laureates and our laboratory heads and the others that have endorsed this
-- say what they say, you have to say, what is the likelihood that America
can maintain the security and reliability of its nuclear deterrent, as
compared with every other country, if they come under the umbrella of this
and the treaty enters into force?
          The same people say that we ought to build a national missile
defense, notwithstanding the technological uncertainties, because our skill
is so much greater, we can always find a technological answer to
everything.  And I would argue that our relative advantage in security --
even if you have some smidgen of a doubt about the security and reliability
issue -- will be far greater if we get everybody under this tent and we're
all living under the same rules, than it will be if we're all outside the
          Now, there's a third sort of grab-bag set of arguments against it
-- and I don't mean to deprecate them.  Some of them are actually quite
serious and substantial questions that have been raised about various
countries' activities in particular places, and other things.  The point I
want to make about them is, go back and look at the process we adopted in
the Chemical Weapons Convention.  Every single other objection that has
been raised, or question that has been raised, can be dealt with by adding
an appropriately-worded safeguard to this treaty.  It either falls within
the six we've already offered and asked for, or could be crafted in a
careful negotiation as a result of a serious process.  So I do not believe
that any of these things are serious stumbling blocks to the profound
argument that this is in our interest.
          Look, 154 countries have signed this treaty.  Russia, China,
Japan, South Korea, Israel, Iran, all our NATO allies --  51 have already
ratified, 11 of our NATO allies, including nuclear powers Britain and
France.  But it can't go into effect unless the U.S. and the other
designated nations ratify it.  And, once again, we need American leadership
to protect American interests and to advance the peace of the world.
          I say again, we're spending $4.5 billion a year to protect the
security and reliability of the nuclear stockpile.  There is a reason that
Secretary Cohen and Secretary Richardson and our laboratory heads believe
that we can do this.  Once again I say the U.S. stopped testing in 1992.
What in the world would prevent us from trying to have a regime where we
want other people to join us in stopping testing?
          Let me just give one example.  Last year, the nuclear tests by
India and Pakistan shook the world.  After those tests occurred, they had a
serious confrontation along the line of control in Kashmir.  I spent our
Independence Day, the 4th of July, meeting with the Pakistani Prime
Minister and his senior government officials in an intense effort to try to
help defuse the situation.
          Now, both of these countries have indicated they will sign this
treaty.  If our Senate defeats it, do you think they'll sign it?  Do you
think they'll ratify it?  Do you think for a minute that they will forgo
further tests if they believe that the leading force in the world for
nuclear nonproliferation has taken a u-turn?       If our Senate defeats
the treaty, will it encourage the Russians, the Chinese and others to
refrain from trying to find and test new, more sophisticated, more
destructive nuclear weapons?  Or will it give them a green light?
          Now, I said earlier we've been working with Congress on missile
defense to protect us from a nuclear attack should one ever come.  I
support that work.  And if we can develop a system we think will work, we
owe it to the American people to work with the Russians and others to
figure out a way to give our people the maximum protection.  But our first
line of defense should be preventing countries from having those weapons in
the first place.
          It would be the height of irresponsibility to rely on the last
line of defense; to say, we're not going to test, you guys test, and we're
in a race to get up a missile defense, and we sure hope it will work if the
wheels run off 30 or 40 years from now.  This argument doesn't hold water.
          People say, well, but somebody might cheat.  Well, that's true,
somebody might cheat.  Happens all the time, in all regimes.  Question is,
are we more likely to catch them with the treaty, or without?
          You all know -- and I am confident that people on the Hill have
to know -- that this test ban treaty will strengthen our ability to
determine whether or not nations are involved in weapons activities.
You've heard the 300 sensors mentioned.  Let me tell you what that means in
practical terms.  If this treaty goes into effect, there will be 31 sensors
in Russia, 11 in China, 17 in the Middle East alone, and the remainder of
the 300-plus in other critical places around the world.  If we can find
cheating, because it's there, then we'll do what's necessary to stop or
counter it.
          Let me again say I want to thank the former chairs of the Joint
Chiefs who have endorsed this.  I want to thank the current Chair, and all
the Joint Chiefs, and the previous service chiefs who have been with us in
this:  Lawrence Eagleburger, the Secretary of State under President Bush;
Paul Nitze, a top presidential advisor from Presidents Truman to Reagan;
former Senator Nancy Kassebaum-Baker     , many Republicans and Democrats
who have dealt with this issue for years have stayed with us.  John Glenn,
from Mercury to Discovery -- are you going up again, John? -- has always
been at the cutting edge of technology's promise.  But he's also flown
fighter planes and seen war.
          The Nobel laureates who are here -- Dr. Ramsey, Dr. Fitch, both
part of the Manhattan Project; Dr. Ramsey a young scientist, Dr. Fitch a
teenage soldier, witnessed the very first nuclear test 54 years ago in the
New Mexico desert.  Their letter says, it is imperative -- underline
"imperative" -- that the test ban treaty be ratified.
          Let me just say one other thing.  There may be a suggestion here
that our heart is overcoming our head and all that.  I'd like to give you
one example that I think refutes that on another topic.  One of the biggest
disappointments I've had as President, a bitter disappointment for me, is
that I could not sign in good conscience the treaty banning land mines,
because we have done more since I've been President to get rid of land
mines than any country in the world by far.  We spend half the money the
world spends on de-mining.  We have destroyed over a million of our own
          I couldn't do it because the way the treaty was worded was unfair
to the United States and to our Korean allies in meeting our
responsibilities along the DMZ in South Korea, and because it outlawed our
anti-tank mines while leaving every other country intact.  And I thought it
was unfair.
          But it just killed me.  But all of us who are in charge of the
nation's security engage our heads, as well as our hearts.  Thinking and
feeling lead you to the conclusion that this treaty should be ratified.
          Every single serious question that can be raised about this kind
of bomb, that kind of bomb, what this country has, what's going on here and
yonder -- every single one of them can be dealt with in the safeguard
structure that is normally a product of every serious treaty deliberation
in the United States Senate.  And I say again, from the time of President
Eisenhower, the United States has led the world in the cause of
nonproliferation.  We have new, serious proliferation threats that our
predecessors have not faced.  And it is all the more imperative that we do
everything we possibly can to minimize the risks our children will face.
          That is what you were trying to do.  I thank the senators who are
here with us today and pray that they can swell their ranks by next week.
          Thank you very much.  (Applause.)
                END                          4:03 P.M. EDT