(Washington, D.C.): Traditionally, the history of great battles has been written by the
In the case of the Senate’s rejection last week of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the
losers — aided and abetted by a sympathetic media — have been at pains to put forward their
“spin” on this momentous defeat for the proponents of ineffectual and unverifiable arms control
agreements. It is high time that a man who can speak authoritatively about the motivations of
the majority of Senators who voted to reject the CTBT (a prime example of such defective
accords) and the implications of their courageous action be given a chance to do so.
In an op.ed. article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on 18 October 1999, the
of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) wrote perhaps the
single finest and most accurate depiction of the Senate’s action published to date. It clearly
demonstrates that, far from being an exercise in isolationism and partisan politics, the Senate
was simply performing its constitutional duty when it rejected a defective, unverifiable and
dangerous zero-yield, permanent Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
This Treaty Was Dangerously Irresponsible
By Jesse Helms
Since last week, when the Senate voted overwhelmingly to reject the Comprehensive Test
Treaty, condemnation bordering on hysteria has rung out from the capitals of the world.
Italy’s foreign minister accused the Senate of “halting the process . . . of achieving complete
global nuclear disarmament” (to which I plead nolo contendere). German Foreign Minister
Joschka Fischer declared the vote “a serious setback for nuclear nonproliferation.” And French
President Jacques Chirac (who, with his German and British counterparts, penned a New York
Times op-ed before the vote lecturing the Senate on its responsibility to ratify the test ban),
declared that by rejecting his advice, the Senate had launched “an attack on the process of
nonproliferation and disarmament, which is one of the priorities of the European Union.”
With all due respect to Mr. Chirac, the last time I checked, no nation was counting on the
and reliability of the French nuclear arsenal to guarantee its security. Many do,
on the U.S. for nuclear guarantees.
The Senate rejected the CTBT not to score political points against a lame-duck
and certainly not because we are in the grip of “neoisolationism,” as President Clinton deliriously
suggested. The Senate rejected the CTBT because it was a dangerous and unverifiable treaty that
would have endangered the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and undermined U.S.
security and the security of our allies.
Our European friends fail to understand that the U.S. has unique responsibilities in the world.
Unlike smaller powers, America is not free to ratify fanciful treaties like the CTBT (or, for that
matter, the Ottawa Land Mines Convention or the International Criminal Court), which do no
good, but restrict our ability to meet our international commitments.
That is why treaty supporters’ Chicken Little arguments swayed few if any senators. The
was warned that if we voted down the CTBT, India and Pakistan may well proceed with nuclear
tests. Well, I have news for them: India and Pakistan have already tested. Why? Because of the
Clinton administration’s failed nuclear nonproliferation polices.
For years, India’s leaders watched as China transferred M-11 missiles to Pakistan and the
administration refused to impose sanctions on China that are required by law. India
understandably concluded that the president of the United States is not serious about
nonproliferation, and that this White House is unwilling to impose a real cost on proliferating
This administration, in its shameful effort to curry favor with Silicon Valley executives, has
loosened export controls on supercomputers, putting them in Russian nuclear weapons factories.
The administration has decontrolled satellite launches, helping China improve its nuclear missile
force. The administration has looked the other way as Russia has been repeatedly caught
assisting both Iran and Iraq in their drive to build weapons of mass destruction.
As long as such negligence continues, rogue nations will continue to develop those weapons.
Russia and China will continue clandestine nuclear testing, North Korea will continue to
blackmail the West with its nuclear program, and India and Pakistan will probably test again.
They will do it not because the Senate rejected the CTBT but because the administration is
unwilling to impose any real costs.
By defeating this treaty, the Senate did not, as Mr. Clinton angrily suggests, give a “green
for nuclear testing. Tests by nonnuclear states are already a violation of the international norm
established by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Only by showing a willingness to impose
real penalties on such violations will we ever prevent the expansion of the nuclear club. Papering
over the problem with a worthless treaty would have accomplished nothing.
Let me suggest one good thing that will happen now that the CTBT has been defeated: This
administration, and future administrations, will think twice before signing bad treaties that
cannot pass muster in the Senate. Mr. Clinton clearly wants the Senate’s “consent” on its treaties,
but he is unwilling to take our “advice.” If he had sought our advice before signing the CTBT, it
would have been clear well in advance that an unverifiable, permanent, zero-yield ban on all
nuclear tests would be defeated.
The Senate had no choice but to reject the CTBT explicitly and unquestionably. Had we
postponed the vote, under customary international law the U.S., as a signatory nation, would
have been bound by the CTBT’s terms. We had to vote to make clear that the U.S. will not be not
legally bound by the terms of this treaty.
We had to vote for another reason as well: to make certain that the next administration will
left free to establish its own nuclear non-proliferation policies, unencumbered by the failed
policies of its predecessor. The new president must have a free hand to re-establish American
credibility on non-proliferation matters–credibility not based on scraps of paper, but on clear
resolve, a credible nuclear deterrent and real defenses against ballistic missile attack.
The Senate had a solemn responsibility to vote–and to reject–the Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty. We did it not for politics, but for our national security. If that does not please Mr. Chirac
& Co., c’est la vie.
Jesse Helms is a North Carolina Republican. He is chairman of the Senate Foreign
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