The Denver Post |
January 22, 1998
END NUCLEAR TESTING
Colorado's U.S. Sens. Wayne Allard and Ben Nighthorse Campbell should support
the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, both because it's the right thing to
do and because most Colorado voters appear to favor the pact.
Achieving a nuclear weapons test ban has been a bipartisan priority since
President Dwight Eisenhower's administration.
While a 1964 international pact already bars nuclear explosions above ground,
the new Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would prohibit all atomic explosions,
including those conducted underground. The pact also sets up procedures to
monitor for violations by allowing international teams to look for non-natural
seismic activity and for telltale gases released during atomic explosions.
The test-ban pact has been signed by more than 148 nations, including Russia
What the treaty does not do, however, is end nuclear weapons experiments in
laboratories. How much lab testing is needed to maintain the safety of the
existing atomic arsenal, and how much money the federal government must spend
doing so, are enormous issues that will be debated soon.
For now, though, the most crucial goal is to get the Senate to approve the
pact. Unlike an earlier compact outlawing chemical weapons, the nuclear test ban
doesn't require ratification by a set deadline - so the Senate may be tempted to
delay taking action. But any foot-dragging would be a terrible mistake, because
it would undermine U.S. efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons worldwide.
It's thus crucial for moderate Republicans such as Allard and Campbell to
back the treaty. Neither senator has taken a stand on this accord; both say they
want more information before making a decision. However, in the past Campbell
has supported enforceable non-proliferation policies.
That position appears to reflect the view of his constituents. A December
survey by a national polling firm found 77 percent of Colorado voters support
the treaty, while only 14 percent oppose it and 9 percent don't know. The high
approval ratings cut across every demographic group and geographic sector. Even
65 percent of voters who call themselves conservative support the pact.
The Colorado results are consistent with national polls that also show the
accord has overwhelming public backing.
Voters should encourage both Colorado senators to support the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty. By itself, the pact won't solve the entire riddle of how to
cope with atomic arms in the modern world, but it certainly represents an
important step toward crafting workable long-term solutions.