Los Angeles Times|
February 9, 1998
TEST BAN TREATY HELD HOSTAGE
In 1996 President Clinton became the first world leader to sign the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits all nuclear weapon tests and
other nuclear explosions. But the long-sought pact, which has since been signed
by 147 other countries, still awaits U.S. Senate consideration. Responsibility
for the holdup falls on Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), chairman of the Foreign
Relations Committee, who has yet to schedule hearings on the treaty. His
inaction threatens to prevent the United States from having a seat at the table
next year when a special conference of nations that have ratified the treaty
meets to consider how the accord can be more quickly put into force. The
possibility that the world's leading nuclear power will be without a voice at
that important meeting is as embarrassing as it is absurd.
Helms in effect is holding the test ban treaty hostage until, as he put it
in a recent letter to Clinton, "the Senate has had the opportunity to consider
and vote on the Kyoto Protocol and the amendments to the ABM Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty." The Kyoto Protocol deals with global warming and includes a
U.S. promise to reduce its emissions of hydrocarbon gases, which some
conservatives oppose. Helms and other Republicans want to amend the ABM treaty
signed with Moscow to allow a national ballistic missile defense system to be
built. The case for such an expensive and dubiously effective system has by no
means been made, and the political costs of unilaterally insisting on
reinterpreting a major treaty have been all but ignored by its proponents. In
any case, both the ballistic missile defense system issue and the global warming
problem are utterly unrelated to the aims of the test ban treaty.
Presidents of both parties have always recognized the urgency of limiting
access to nuclear weapon technology; the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty is among
the chief accomplishments of that effort. It makes no sense now to deny the
United States and the rest of the world the chance to further control the spread
of nuclear arms.
A few weeks ago four former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who
together have served Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton, endorsed
Senate ratification of the test ban treaty. They recognize that its
implementation would not diminish national security or the integrity of the U.S.
nuclear arsenal. Surely their expertise ought to count for more in the Senate
than the transparently ideological agenda of Jesse Helms.