Nuclear Weapons Testing: History, Progress, Challenges: Verification and Entry Into Force of the CTBT

Rose Gottemoeller
Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security 
Washington, DC
September 15, 2014

As Prepared

Thank you, Daryl. Thank you also to my esteemed colleague, General Klotz. I think this might be the first time we have been on a panel together in our current positions, but I hope it won’t be the last. On this subject in particular, it is great to have the opportunity for us to communicate why the entire Administration sees this Treaty as effective, verifiable and absolutely beneficial to our national security.

Thank you also to the Embassy of Kazakhstan, Deputy Chief of Mission Yerkin Akhinzhanov, the Embassy of Canada, the Arms Control Association, Global Green and partners for hosting us here at USIP. Finally, thank you to my former boss, Secretary Moniz for his remarks earlier.

Secretary Kerry was actually right here just a year ago, speaking about nuclear security and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). He quoted a line from President Kennedy’s American University speech that talked about a total ban on nuclear explosive test being “so near and yet so far.” We remain somewhat in this place today, fifty years later – “so near and yet so far.” We know the goal remains worthy and we know that it is still the right one for American national security. The difference today is that we know we have the tools to make it a reality.

General Klotz has just covered some stockpile and verification issues, so I would like to focus on the national security benefits of the Treaty and the process of moving the United States towards entry into force. I will also give you a little readout on how I’ve used my time this year to advance the case for the Treaty.

First and foremost, it is clear that CTBT is a key part of leading nuclear weapons states toward a world of diminished reliance on nuclear weapons, reduced nuclear competition, and eventual nuclear disarmament.

An in-force CTBT will hinder states that do not have nuclear weapons from developing advanced nuclear weapons capabilities.

States interested in pursuing or advancing a nuclear weapons program would have to either risk deploying weapons without the confidence that they would work properly, or accept the international condemnation and reprisals that would follow a nuclear explosive test.

An in-force Treaty would also impede states with more established nuclear weapon capabilities from confirming the performance of advanced nuclear weapon designs that they have not tested successfully in the past.

Because of this, an in-force CTBT will also constrain regional arms races. These constraints will be particularly important in Asia, where states are building up and modernizing nuclear forces.

For our part, ratification will help enhance our leadership role in nonproliferation and strengthen our hand in pursuing tough actions against suspected proliferators. That is more important than ever, in our current global environment. Nuclear security is a preeminent goal for President Obama and this Administration.

All told, it is in our interest to close the door on nuclear explosive testing forever.

As many of you know, I was invited to speak in the Marshall Islands on the 60th anniversary of the Castle Bravo nuclear test. It was quite an honor and while there, I was able to meet with government and community leaders, as well as displaced communities. I told them that it is the United States’ deep understanding of the consequences of nuclear weapons – including the devastating health effects– that has guided and motivated our efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate these most hazardous of weapons.

About a month after visiting the Marshall Islands, I travelled to Hiroshima. Upon arriving, I visited the Cenotaph and the Peace Museum and spoke with an atomic survivor. The day was a somber, but critically important reminder that all nations should avoid the horrors of nuclear war.

We have made great strides over the past forty years, achieving an 85 percent reduction in the U.S. nuclear stockpile since 1967 and creating agreements such as the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, START, New START and more. But, we still have far to go.

It was President Ronald Reagan who, speaking before the Japanese Diet, pronounced clearly and with conviction that “there can be only one policy for preserving our precious civilization in this modern age. A nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought.”

Those words had great resonance for the students that I spoke with at Hiroshima University last April. My conversation with them focused on the CTBT and how it could contribute to reducing global nuclear threats.

Bright, engaged and motivated, the students were eager to know what they could do to help in the push towards entry into force. I told them, as I tell all the students I meet, that the most important thing that supporters of the Treaty can do is to educate their friends, their family and their communities.

That is something that I will be continuing to do throughout the year, with trips to various U.S. states to speak with students, faith and community groups, as well as expert audiences. In fact, I will be at Stanford on Wednesday to do just that.

Now, I will pivot to the question that is asked each and every time this Treaty is discussed: “What is the plan for Senate ratification?”

The answer is simple. First comes education, and then comes discussion and last and most importantly, comes debate. It is only through that process that you get to a place where a vote could happen.

We are reintroducing this Treaty to the American public, since it has been quite some time it has been discussed outside the Capital Beltway. We are and will continue to outline the clear and convincing facts about our ability to maintain the nuclear stockpile without explosive testing and our ability to effectively monitor and verify Treaty compliance. Both Secretary Moniz and General Klotz have spoken about these two issues this afternoon and they are strong allies in this effort.

We are and will continue to make it clear that a global ban on nuclear explosive testing will hinder regional arms races and impede advancements in nuclear stockpiles around the world.

With an emphasis on a healthy, open dialogue, rather than a timeline, we are working with the Senate to re-familiarize Members with the Treaty. A lot of CTBT-related issues have changed since 1999, but the Senate has changed a lot since then, too. It is up to us, as policymakers and experts before the American people, to practice due diligence in consideration of this Treaty – that means briefings, hearings at the appropriate time, more briefings, trips to Labs, trips to Vienna and the CTBTO, more briefings, etc., etc.. The Senators should have every opportunity to ask questions, many questions, until they are satisfied.

I want to make one thing very clear: this Administration has no intention of rushing this or demanding premature action before we have had a thorough and rigorous discussion and debate.

I know that it is the official sport of Washington, but I would ask people to refrain from counting votes right now. Our first priority is education and our focus should be on the hard work that goes into any Senate consideration of a Treaty. The New START process can serve as our touchstone. I realize that is less fun than reading tea leaves. I realize that it’s unglamorous and deliberate, but that is how good policy is made and that is how treaties get across the finish line.

Of course, as we have said many times, there is no reason for the remaining Annex 2 states to wait for the United States before completing their own ratification processes. We have been pleased to hear some positive statements coming from Annex 2 states in recent months, and we hope that positive vibe turns into action. I would also like to congratulate Congo, which very recently ratified the CTBT.

Finally, we urge States to provide adequate financial and political support for the completion of the CTBT verification regime and its provisional operations between now and the entry into force of the treaty. The CTBTO, now under the able guidance of Dr. Zerbo, has and will continue to do a fantastic job of readying the Treaty’s verification regime for eventual entry into force. For those of you who have the chance to visit the CTBTO headquarters in Vienna, I recommend the tour of the radionuclide detection equipment on the roof. It’s really impressive!

In closing, I will reiterate that we have a lot of work to do, but the goal is worthy. An in-force CTBT will benefit the United States and indeed, the whole world.

Let’s get to work on it together. Thank you.