The Washington Post|
September 23, 1997
Clinton Tells U.N. He's Ready To Forward Test Ban to Senate
BYLINE: John F. Harris
One year after he came here to sign a global treaty banning nuclear weapons
testing, President Clinton today told the General Assembly that he is ready to
send the treaty to the Senate for ratification, beginning what senior
administration officials said could be a hard-fought, months-long debate with
arms control skeptics.
Clinton last year signed the treaty with a flourish, boasting that his
administration brought to fruition an idea that had eluded arms control
negotiators for nearly four decades. But other priorities, including the need to
lobby the Senate to approve a chemical weapons treaty, delayed action on the
test ban treaty.
At his annual appearance here, Clinton told the 52nd session of the General
Assembly that "our common goal" should be for the testing ban to enter "into
force as soon as possible." The United States and the four other major nuclear
powers -- Russia, China, Britain and France -- have pledged to abide by the
terms of the treaty, although seismic readings recorded last month have raised
questions about whether Russia conducted a secret test.
In today's address, Clinton also said pending legislation in Congress makes
him more confident than ever that the United States will soon repay its long
overdue bill to the United Nations, but warned the money will come with strings
attached. He and U.S. lawmakers want other nations to pay a larger share of U.N.
costs in the future.
But Clinton's linkage of back dues -- the United States pays the largest
share of U.N. costs but is in arrears by more than $ 1 billion -- to an
agreement on a "more equitable" funding formula and other reforms put him at
odds with Secretary General Kofi Annan. Moments before Clinton spoke, Annan
delivered a barbed message to nations that are behind in payments, lecturing
them to "do what your legal obligations require: to liquidate your arrears, and
to pay your future assessments in full, on time, and without conditions."
The Clinton administration's pledge to get out of debt is not new, but
Clinton said that "for the first time since I have been president, we have an
opportunity to put the questions of debts and dues behind us once and for all,
and to put the United Nations on a sounder financial footing."
White House national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger said the
optimism is fueled by legislation recently passed in the Senate with the support
of Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C), a critic of the
U.N. The bill would pay about $ 819 million of the money the United States owes,
but would require that the U.S. share of U.N. funding drop from its current
level of 25 percent to 22 percent this year, and to 20 percent by 2000.
A total of 146 nations have signed the nuclear anti-testing treaty, although
only Japan and three others have ratified it. Two prominent holdouts from the
signatories are India, which has said it does not envision signing soon, and
Pakistan, which has said it cannot sign as long as India abstains. Both nations
are among the 44 actual or potential nuclear powers that, under the treaty's
rules, can block it from taking effect.
A more immediate concern for the administration is opposition to the treaty
at home. Hoping to answer objections that a ban on testing would erode the
potency and deterrent effect of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, Robert Bell, the
National Security Council's senior director for arms control, said the
administration has arrived at a plan, with a projected annual cost of $ 4.5
billion, to use nuclear labs and supercomputers to ensure the effectiveness of
the arsenal without setting off bombs.
Many Republican lawmakers have said they feel no urgency about taking up the
test ban treaty, which they say has lesser priority than a package of United
Nations reforms and legislation supporting the expansion of NATO, according to
Marc A. Thiessen, a spokesman for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He
said some lawmakers "have a lot of concern" about a test ban and predicted that
the treaty likely would not be considered by the committee before the middle of
next year, at the earliest.
In his address today, Clinton offered a robust endorsement of the United
Nations, and more broadly of the notion that many modern security problems must
be addressed, not by the United States alone, but by international
Early in his first term, Clinton preached the virtues of "multilateralism,"
but he backed off after the failures by U.N.-led peacekeeping efforts in Somalia
and Bosnia, and charges by Republicans that his faith in international
institutions was eroding U.S. sovereignty. "The forces of global integration are
a great tide, inexorably wearing away the established order of things," Clinton