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Archive for June 18, 2011

Iowa Get Ready for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

Iowa Get Ready for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

by Paul Deaton

If most Iowans don’t know that the U.S. Senate may consider ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) again, the signs from Washington, DC are unmistakable.

On April 5, 2009, in the Czech Republic, President Obama pledged to work toward a global ban on nuclear testing, to “immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.” Some believed that ratifying the treaty would be a slam dunk with 60 of 67 votes needed assured after the Democratic win in the 2008 Presidential election. The balance of power changed, and a less controversial treaty, New START, was a center of attention during the 2010 lame duck session of the Senate.  In his closing remarks during the debate on New START, Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) expressed his opposition to the CTBT. Opposition notwithstanding, a ratification effort for the CTBT is emerging as a significant “what’s next” for the federal government in curbing nuclear proliferation.

On Tuesday, Assistant Secretary for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller delivered the United States’ statement at the meeting of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna, Austria. She said, “Our recent experience working with the U.S. Senate to gain their advice and consent to ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty – New START – with the Russian Federation has prepared us for what is expected to be an equally thorough and robust debate over the CTBT. We do not expect it will be easy or happen quickly, but we will work hard to make it happen.” Gottemoeller was the chief US negotiator of New START and has standing to make such a statement.

As the State Department has begun speaking about the CTBT, they have also begun engaging the non-governmental organizations in Washington that work on nuclear non-proliferation. Evidence of this was when Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher spoke to the Arms Control Association’s Annual Meeting on May 10, 2011. She framed the case for CTBT, “One, the United States no longer needs to conduct nuclear explosive tests, plain and simple. Two, a CTBT that has entered into force will obligate other states not to test and provide a disincentive for states to conduct such tests. And three, we now have a greater ability to catch those who cheat.” Her audience was a group of people who already knew these arguments and were ready to begin making the case with Senators and in the public arena.

It seems doubtful that President Obama will make ratification of the CTBT a top priority, near term. There are other pressing issues: reaching a budget agreement with the Congress, our wars and dealing with lackluster economic growth. But the wheels are in motion, and Iowans can expect to hear more of the reasons for banning nuclear test explosions in the near future.

~Paul Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend editor of Blog for Iowa. E-mail Paul Deaton