White House Not Rushing Forward on Test Ban Treaty
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration does not have a schedule in place for when it will seek ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, a White House official said yesterday (see GSN, April 2).
“While I’m optimistic that we will gain ratification, we don’t have a time line right now,” Jon Wolfsthal, the U.S. National Security Council’s nonproliferation director, said during an event at the Brookings Institution.
The delay is due in part to the White House preparations for submitting the newly minted U.S.-Russian “New START” nuclear arms control pact to the Senate for approval, according to Wolfsthal, who also serves as special adviser for nonproliferation to Vice President Joseph Biden.
Administration officials are also readying themselves for what many experts believe will be a difficult task in obtaining approval of the test ban treaty and waiting to see “what the political dynamics of the Senate are,” he added. It remains questionable whether the Senate would support the pact, which it previously rejected more than a decade ago.
The United Nations in 1996 adopted the treaty, which now has 182 member nations. The United States is one of 44 “Annex 2″ countries that must ratify the pact before it can enter into force. It is also among nine holdouts; the others are China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan
Indonesia recently announced it would ratify the document and encouraged other nations to do the same (see GSN, May 5).
Obama Lashed on Concessions in “New START”
A nuclear arms control deal signed by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last month threatens to undercut Washington’s interests, experts said at panel discussion yesterday at the Nixon Center in Washington (see GSN, May 3).
The successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty would obligate the two former Cold War adversaries to lower their respective strategic arsenals to 1,550 fielded warheads and to limit their deployed nuclear delivery vehicles — missiles, submarines and bombers — to 700, with another 100 permitted in reserve. Under a 2002 pact, Moscow and Washington had until 2012 to reduce their deployed strategic stockpiles to a maximum of 2,200 weapons each.
The Obama administration made significant compromises to seal the agreement, the Associated Press quoted former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger as saying. Schlesinger, who headed the Pentagon during the Nixon and Ford administrations, said he would endorse the pact only if senators advanced weapons proposals it would not ban.
Although the agreement has a good chance of being ratified by the Senate, members of the body should “ask questions” about Moscow’s work on new military technology, said former Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Rademaker.
“The treaty obligates the U.S. to reduce (its arsenal). The Russians don’t have to do anything. They are there already,” said Rademaker,who served under former President George W. Bush. “Every hard issue in the treaty is favorable to the Russians.”
The deal would not mandate reductions to Russia’s nonstrategic arsenal or shorter-range weapons, which play key roles in the nation’s defenses, Nixon Center head Dimitri Simes added.
“While the treaty has addressed Russian concerns about U.S. missile defenses, there are no references in the treaty to major U.S. concerns about many thousands of Russian tactical weapons, particularly in Europe,” he said (see GSN, May 5; Barry Schweid, Associated Press/Google News, May 5).