Friday, August 30, 2013

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Must Be Unconditional

On August 20, 2013 the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, issued the CELAC Declaration on Nuclear Disarmament.  This declaration will be distributed as an official document at the September 26 High-Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament and covers numerous aspects of nuclear disarmament.  Among the most notable aspects of the CELAC Declaration is its treatment of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

In three simple resolutions within the declaration, CELAC expressed their steadfast rejection of the enhancement of existing nuclear weapons and the development of new types of nuclear weapons and called on all states to cease nuclear weapon testing, nuclear explosions, and relevant non-explosive experiments for the purpose of nuclear weapons development.  They also reiterated demands for a true comprehensive nuclear test ban.  Alternative methods of nuclear testing were described as “contrary to the object and purpose of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), its spirit, if not the letter, undermining its desired impact as a nuclear disarmament measure.”

One particular phrase within the CELAC Declaration stuck out to me: that failure to properly adhere to the CTBT is “inconsistent with the obligation of complete nuclear disarmament.”  Worldwide treatment of the CTBT continues to undermine its intended role as a measure towards complete disarmament.  As of 2013, China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the United States have signed but not ratified the Treaty. India, North Korea and Pakistan have not signed it.  A variety of nuclear tests and a huge range of nuclear development continue to plague our world, compromising even further the fragile line that we tread between calm and calamity.

The CTBT around the world
As a country with one of the largest stockpiles and continuing nuclear weapons programs in the world, the United States’s treatment of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is particularly deplorable.  We have signed but not ratified this document on the grounds that we wish to continue experimenting with our stockpile in the name of “safety and reliability.”  

A recently updated page regarding the CTBT found on the U.S. Department of State website states that the primary rationale behind any possible ratification of the treaty by the United States is that “the CTBT will hinder states that do not have nuclear weapons expertise and experience from advancing their nuclear weapons capabilities, while not affecting the ability of the United States to maintain its own nuclear deterrent force.”  As a young person who has only recently realized how much power the United States holds in terms of worldwide disarmament, I cannot help but feel despair at the U.S. failure to ratify and adhere to the CTBT.  Even the continuing and maintenance and updates to our current nuclear stockpile are unnecessary and only serve to perpetuate the myth of nuclear deterrence.

This, as described by CELAC, is precisely the sort of backwards thinking that is leading us away from full nuclear disarmament.  The purpose of the CTBT is by no means to make it possible for a nuclear deterrent to be maintained and the U.S. delay in ratifying the treaty should not come at the cost of the safety of billions of innocent people.  The United States has made it clear that in order for the treaty to be ratified, certain conditions must be met.  Only then, it seems, will the U.S. be willing to move towards cooperating with the treaty.  These conditions exist in complete disagreement of the very nature of the CTBT: stockpile security, subcritical and laser testing, and further development of nuclear technology go against all that the CTBT intends to bring about.

The CELAC Declaration is definitely a step in the right direction towards revealing the discrepancies in CTBT adherence.  It is my hope that this declaration’s thought-provoking presence as an official document at the upcoming UN General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament could hold the key to further negotiations on not only the test-ban but on the eradication of nuclear weapons as a whole.  In the meantime, the struggle for nuclear disarmament will continue at all levels.

Louisa (Lulu) Dewey is an incoming undergraduate student at UC Berkeley and an intern at NAPF.


CELAC Declaration on Nuclear Disarmament, Buenos Aires, Argentina, August 20, 2013


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