UN "Unofficial" Disarmament and Nonproliferation Week

September 11, 2009

The United Nations will be hosting an "unofficial" disarmament and nonproliferation week from September 22 through 25 to discuss the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which provides the mechanisms for the 1996 treaty to go into effect. www.ctbto.org At the same time, President Obama will preside over a special United Nations Security Council session devoted to disarmament and nonproliferation, which will work to create a broad consensus on preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

This is the first of four nuclear-related events, which could be called the four cornerstones for disarmament and nonproliferation for the United States. These are the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which President Obama promised to bring to the Senate for ratification this year; the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START II, which expires in early December; the Nuclear Posture Review, which is scheduled for release in January; and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Conference in early May.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was negotiated in the 1990s and recognizes that ceasing all nuclear weapons test explosions "constitutes an effective measure of nuclear disarmament and non proliferation." www.ctbto.org/fileadmin/content/treaty/treaty_text.pdf

Because all the States did not ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty within three years after it was open for signatures, those States meet every other year in order to facilitate concrete steps to promote its entry into force.

Eight countries besides the United States have yet to ratify the treaty. These include: China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan. In a contentious process in October 1999, with all but three Republicans voting against it, the U.S. Senate rejected Treaty ratification by a vote of 51 to 48.

Some of the lessons learned from that experience are documented in a December 1999 article, entitled, "What Went Wrong: Repairing Damage to the [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty]," by Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association. He wrote, "By rejecting the [Treaty], the Senate deprived the United States of the moral and legal authority to encourage other nations not to conduct nuclear test explosions, and it denied the United States the benefits of the treaty's extensive nuclear test monitoring and on-site inspection provisions.... The Senate vote has also put Russia and China on guard and has shaken U.S. allies' confidence in the United States' ability to deliver on its arms control commitments." www.armscontrol.org/act/1999_12/dkde99

In April, President Obama spoke before a huge crowd in Prague about our country's commitment to phase out nuclear weapons. He said, "My administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification [of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty]." www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-By-President-Barack-Obama-In-Prague-As-Delivered

The Obama administration says it is working to build congressional support for the Treaty. But supporters do not see evidence of such work. Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, which advocates the elimination of nuclear weapons, said, "If this pace continues, there is little chance he will achieve the goals he outlined."

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