Why Ratify the CTBT?

Fact Sheet released by the Bureau of Arms Control,
U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, October 8, 1999

The CTBT strengthens U.S. national security. It is a powerful tool against nuclear proliferation and advances U.S. arms control objectives. It will constrain the development of more advanced nuclear weapons while allowing us to retain a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent. The CTBT's verification regime will improve our ability to detect and deter nuclear explosions, a top national security priority.

I. The CTBT strengthens U.S. national security.

By making all nuclear explosive testing illegal, the CTBT removes an important tool that a nuclear proliferating state would use to develop -- over time -- advanced or fundamentally new nuclear weapon capabilities.
CTBT will constrain states that have already carried out nuclear tests from improving existing types or developing advanced new types of nuclear weapons.  Hence, CTBT can limit the nuclear threat facing the U.S., its NATO allies, and their deployed military forces.

II. The CTBT advances U.S. non-proliferation and arms control objectives, as well as U.S. leadership worldwide.

The CTBT is essential to preserving the current non-proliferation regime. In 1995, states parties to the NPT extended that treaty indefinitely, in large part based on the commitment of the declared nuclear weapon states to conclude a CTBT. Failure to ratify would put at risk U.S. non-proliferation and arms control leadership:

A major tool in our efforts to halt Chinese modernization would be lost.  It would be much more difficult to achieve U.S. objectives in South Asia, in particular Indian and Pakistani CTBT signature and ratification.  It would send the wrong signal in the run-up to the NPT 2000 Review Conference.  It would seriously undercut our ability to advance other arms control and non-proliferation objectives.

III. The CTBT's international monitoring system (IMS), which will consist of over 300 monitoring stations as well as a regime for on-site inspections, will help the U.S. monitor global nuclear testing activities. The U.S. should not be deprived of this important asset.

With or without CTBT, the U.S. has a critical national security requirement to monitor global testing activities.
The CTBT verification regime will provide the U.S. with access to additional monitoring stations we would not otherwise have. For example, the CTBT requires the installation of 31 stations in Russia, 11 in China, and 17 in the Middle East.  In addition, many existing stations will be upgraded.  Recent events in Russia and elsewhere underscore, rather than diminish, the value of putting into place the International Monitoring System.

Six IMS stations detected the 1997 Kara Sea event near the Russian Novaya Zemlya test site.
More than 60 IMS stations, located across the Pacific and as far away as Africa, reported data on India's May 11, 1998, and Pakistan's May 28, 1998, tests. Over 50 stations reported data on Pakistan's May 30, 1998 test.
In short, our ability to detect and deter nuclear explosive testing will be improved by the installation of new seismic stations as mandated by the treaty, as will the potential for an on-site inspection.

IV. The CTBT is effectively verifiable.

There is a significant probability of detection using the treaty's monitoring network and other national and international means; this same verification regime, including short-notice on-site inspections, provides a powerful deterrent, ensuring a high cost to a potential evader.  Perfect verifiability is a standard which no treaty's verification regime can realistically meet.  In the case of the Russian test site at Novaya Zemlya, we are able to monitor nuclear
explosions to very low yield levels.  We have no data to indicate that a nuclear explosion has taken place in Russia. Russia has said that, consistent with the treaty, its activities at this site do not involve nuclear
explosions.  It is no secret that monitoring for small nuclear tests the size of a conventional explosion is a difficult challenge. That does not change our judgment that the Treaty works effectively to constrain the development of advanced and more dangerous nuclear weapons.  In the future, if we face these kinds of uncertainties, the Treaty includes provisions that will help resolve them, but the Senate needs to ratify the Treaty first.  The United States is far better off with this Treaty than without it.

V. The U.S. does not need to test and should preserve the current balance of capabilities.

The CTBT was carefully negotiated to ensure that it would not prohibit activities we need to maintain the U.S. nuclear deterrent.  Through the science-based Stockpile Stewardship program, we are confident that we can maintain a safe and reliable nuclear stockpile without nuclear testing.  Numerous experts, including the prestigious JASON group of nuclear scientists, support this conclusion.  The Stockpile Stewardship program is working today. It is contributing, for example, to the B-61 modification, as well as the life extension of the W87 warhead, in order to maintain its reliability well into the next century.  In the past 3 years, the Secretaries of Defense and Energy, supported by the Directors of the National Weapons Laboratories, the Commander in Chief, U.S. Strategic Command, and the Nuclear Weapons Council, have certified the safety and reliability of U.S. nuclear
warheads without nuclear tests.  The CTBT's "supreme national interest" clause provides extra protection. While we do not think that the U.S. would need to invoke that clause, every President will have that option available. Given these considerations, it only makes sense that the U.S. "lock in" a no-testing regime for Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and others. The U.S. has conducted more tests than all other states combined. We have not tested since 1992 and we do not plan to resume doing so.   Ratifying CTBT as a step toward its entry into force will go a long way toward making sure that others will be similarly constrained.