1999-2002: The United States and the CTBT

1999-2002: The United States and the CTBT

1999: The Clinton Administration pushes for ratification

The South Asian nuclear tests led to intense efforts by the US Administration under President Bill Clinton to persuade India to join the CTBT now that it had successfully conducted nuclear weapon tests. In 1996, Pakistan announced it would sign the CTBT if India did, thus India’s signature would effectively bring both countries into the fold.

In the fall of 1997, President Clinton presented a ratification package to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Jesse Helms (Republican-North Carolina), Chairman of the Committee, opposed the Treaty and demanded that President Clinton send forth the Kyoto Protocol and amendments to the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty to the Committee before agreeing to hold hearings on the CTBT. Aware that the Kyoto Protocol and the ABM Treaty amendments would likely face defeat if sent to the Committee, President Clinton delayed presenting the CTBT to the Committee until 1999.

The 1998 South Asian nuclear tests led to intense efforts by
the US Administration under President Bill Clinton to
persuade India to join the CTBT. Pakistan announced it
would sign the CTBT if India did.

Senate Democrats wanted to ensure that the deliberations on the Treaty allowed for proper consideration and adequate debate, and proposed scheduling a vote in March 2000. However, Senators Trent Lott (Republican-Tennessee) and Helms instead pressed for an earlier vote that would in effect constrain debate on the issue, predicting that a truncated period of deliberations would favour opponents of the Treaty.

1999: The US Senate rejects the Treaty

After attempts to negotiate more time for consideration of the Treaty failed, Senate Democrats finally agreed to Senator Lott’s “take it or leave it” offer to hold 14 hours of debate and vote as early as 12 October 1999. This decision was partially motivated by concerns that the Treaty would suffer defeat due to continued inaction.

Prior to the hearings, President Clinton assembled a team of advisors, cabinet members, nuclear weapons scientists, seismological experts and public interest organizations to rally support for the Treaty.

Treaty proponents sought to underscore the wide-ranging national security benefits to the United States by emphasizing the Treaty’s broad support amongst the military leadership and its top nuclear weapons scientists.

On 13 October 1999, the US Senate voted 51-48 against
the Treaty with one senator registering only “present”.

Opponents raised arguments against the Treaty pertaining to the possibility of monitoring a zero-yield test ban and the US ability to maintain its nuclear arsenal under the Stockpile Stewardship Program without testing. In the end, the limited deliberations precluded any opportunity to address these concerns sufficiently and it became clear that the Republicans would in fact vote against the Treaty. There were efforts to delay the vote, but Treaty proponents did not have the support needed to postpone it.

1999: The US Senate votes against the CTBT

On 13 October 1999, the US Senate voted 51-48 against the Treaty with one senator voting “present”. The Clinton Administration not only failed to achieve the necessary 67 votes (or two-thirds majority) for Treaty ratification, but also fell short of a simple majority. Only four Republican Senators voted in favour of the Treaty, Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island, Jim Jeffords of Vermont, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Gordon Smith of Oregon. The CTBT remains in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee awaiting reconsideration.

1999: The US Senate votes against the CTBT cont.

The Senate’s failure to ratify the CTBT marked the first time that a national legislature had rejected the CTBT. Speaking on CNN Television, Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated, “What we've lost for the time being is the real international leadership in terms of trying to make others live up to the CTBT”.

 

2001: The Bush Administration opposes the CTBT

George W. Bush had opposed Senate ratification of the Treaty in 1999 and, soon after his election to the Presidency in 2000, declared that the CTBT was not in the interests of US national security and therefore off the agenda. However, he pledged to uphold the moratorium on nuclear testing.

Although the US Administration under George W. Bush
opposed ratification of the CTBT, it adhered to the
unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing.

Furthermore, the Administration agreed to remain involved in most CTBTOactivities, particularly the buildup of the IMS. The United States continued paying over 90% of its annual assessment to the CTBTO while also coordinating with the PTS on the installation, operation and maintenance of several IMS stations. Nevertheless, the United States boycotted the 2001 Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (Article XIV Conference), refusing to participate in any activities revolving around EIF. The Bush Administration also cut all funding that would support preparations for on-site inspections.

Next chapter:
1999-2004: CTBT's expanding role