Statement on the CTBT

Statement of the Pugwash Council

Nuclear Weapons and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
12 November 1999

SINCE its inception in 1957, Pugwash has worked assiduously to end nuclear testing; we have seen this as an essential step towards the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons. All of the first five nuclear weapon states (NWS) undertook to forgo further nuclear tests by signing the CTBT, and to date, 150 other states have signed it. According to the agreement, the Treaty will come into force after being ratified by 44 specified states. Two nuclear weapon states, France and the UK, ratified the CTBT in April 1998. Ratification by the United States would have been a strong inducement to Russia, China and other states to follow suit.

The U.S. Senate voted, however, against ratification of the Treaty last month, and this should be a matter of great concern because it is evidence of serious dissension between President Clinton and important elements in the Congress: dissension so serious that the United States may be unable to act coherently and constructively on important issues of foreign policy, even when public opinion is strongly supportive of its doing so, as was the case in the instance of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. This is especially worrisome at this time considering that relations between Russia and the West have, in important respects, taken a turn for the worse in the last several years, because the nuclear weapons states have made it clear that they continue to see nuclear weapons as critical components of their military postures and policies, with, in the case of Russia, there being evidence of even increasing emphasis on them, and because of continuing, and perhaps even increasing, risks of the spread of nuclear weapons and fissionable materials.

For the sake of humanity we must avoid a return to the dark age of the Cold War. Accordingly, we appeal to governments to take action to prevent such a catastrophe. In particular:

  1. We call on the states that have signed the CTBT to affirm that they will not resume testing.
  2. We call on the states whose ratification is necessary for the CTBT to come into force, i.e. Algeria, Bangladesh, Chile, China, Columbia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, the United States, Ukraine and Vietnam (three of these, India, North Korea and Pakistan have also yet to sign) to ratify the Treaty at the earliest opportunity.
  3. We remind those nuclear weapon states, parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, that have not yet ratified the CTBT that they are legally bound by Article VI of the NPT to proceed in good faith to nuclear disarmament.
  4. We call on the Russian government to ratify START 2 so that the bilateral disarmament process can proceed under the terms of START 2 and subsequently START 3.
  5. We call on members of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva to conclude quickly a treaty to halt the production of fissile materials.
  6. We appeal to the first five NWS and NATO to stop blocking discussion on nuclear disarmament at the CD.

Finally, we appeal to people of goodwill everywhere to awaken to the perilous situation in which we find ourselves, and which may even be worsening. The abatement of the immediate danger, after the end of the Cold War, produced the perception that the nuclear issue could be taken off the agenda of problems affecting world security. The nuclear tests by India and Pakistan in May 1998, and now the inability, because of domestic political considerations, of the United States to play as constructive a role in respect of nuclear weapons issues-and, more generally, international affairs- as it otherwise might, as evidenced by the debacle in the US Senate over the CTBT, have demonstrated that this complacency was misguided. There is an urgent need to bring the nuclear problem back to the forefront of attention.