Obama Official: Scant Hope of Congress Weighing Test-Ban Anytime Soon

Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire
Sept. 13, 2013, 11:02 a.m.

WASH­ING­TON — Des­pite Pres­id­ent Obama’s hopes of see­ing a nuc­le­ar-test-ban treaty rat­i­fied dur­ing his second term, a seni­or ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial on Thursday was not op­tim­ist­ic about the near-term pro­spects for put­ting the ac­cord be­fore the Sen­ate for rat­i­fic­a­tion, say­ing it was a “del­ic­ate” mat­ter be­cause of par­tis­an ten­sions in Con­gress.

An­ita Friedt, the State De­part­ment’s prin­cip­al deputy as­sist­ant sec­ret­ary for nuc­le­ar and stra­tegic policy, said “there really are no timelines set” for nam­ing a White House co­ordin­at­or to take charge of the ef­fort to se­cure Sen­ate ap­prov­al of the Com­pre­hens­ive Test Ban Treaty.

Mem­bers of the arms-con­trol com­munity have been ur­ging the White House to name an of­fi­cial who would be in charge of ral­ly­ing pub­lic and con­gres­sion­al sup­port for the CT­BT ac­cord in pre­par­a­tion for the treaty’s even­tu­al Sen­ate in­tro­duc­tion.

“I think there are good reas­ons for no timelines set for nam­ing a co­ordin­at­or,” Friedt told an audi­ence at a Wash­ing­ton event or­gan­ized by the Arms Con­trol As­so­ci­ation, Green Cross In­ter­na­tion­al and the Kaza­kh­stan em­bassy — en­tit­ies that sup­port CT­BT rat­i­fic­a­tion. “Polit­ic­ally, we just have to test the wa­ters and see where we are.”

Obama views CT­BT rat­i­fic­a­tion as a core com­pon­ent of his arms-con­trol agenda. In a high-pro­file June speech in Ber­lin on his second-term nuc­le­ar policy goals, the pres­id­ent said, “We will work to build sup­port in the United States to rat­i­fy” the CT­BT ac­cord.

Giv­en that a two-thirds ma­jor­ity in the Sen­ate would be re­quired for ap­prov­al of any treaty, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is seen as hav­ing a dif­fi­cult time win­ning enough Re­pub­lic­an sup­port to se­cure the test-ban’s rat­i­fic­a­tion in today’s sharply di­vided polit­ic­al cli­mate.

Lin­ton Brooks, a former head of the Na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion un­der Pres­id­ent George W. Bush, was pess­im­ist­ic about the CT­BT ac­cord’s pro­spects for be­ing ap­proved dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“It will be rat­i­fied in the United States when there is a Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­ent who sup­ports it,” Brooks told at­tendees.

Brooks noted that the New START pact, which sets new lim­its for Rus­sia and the United States’ re­spect­ive de­ployed stra­tegic nuc­le­ar ar­sen­als, was the first arms-con­trol ac­cord to be ap­proved un­der a Demo­crat­ic pres­id­ent since Pres­id­ent Kennedy se­cured rat­i­fic­a­tion of the Lim­ited Test Ban Treaty in 1963.

“I think in this par­tis­an en­vir­on­ment it is go­ing to take a Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­ent to bring this off,” he said. “I wish that wer­en’t true, but it prob­ably is.”

Still, Brooks, who served on a Na­tion­al Academy of Sci­ences pan­el that stud­ied tech­nic­al is­sues re­lated to a glob­al test-ban, said there is “no chance” of the United States re­sum­ing nuc­le­ar-weapons test­ing.

The Com­pre­hens­ive Test Ban Treaty has already been rat­i­fied by 159 coun­tries. However, for it to go in­to ef­fect, it still needs rat­i­fic­a­tion by eight ad­vanced nuc­le­ar na­tions: China, Egypt, In­dia, Ir­an, Is­rael, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States.

Re­it­er­at­ing past U.S. state­ments, Friedt said “the fact that the United States has not rat­i­fied should not hold oth­er coun­tries back from rat­i­fy­ing.”

The Kaza­kh­stani am­bas­sad­or to the United States, Kair­at Umarov, pushed back on that state­ment, say­ing that if Wash­ing­ton were to rat­i­fy, “I think the oth­er coun­tries will fol­low.”

As home to the former So­viet Uni­on’s now-shuttered test site at Semi­p­al­at­insk, which saw 456 atom­ic tri­als, Kaza­kh­stan has taken on a pub­lic role in call­ing for the glob­al ab­ol­i­tion of nuc­le­ar ex­plo­sions.

Ro­man Vassi­len­ko, am­bas­sad­or-at-large for the Kaza­kh­stani For­eign Af­fairs Min­istry, told at­tendees that get­ting to the point of treaty im­ple­ment­a­tion “is in­deed a mat­ter of trust … which the world un­for­tu­nately is lack­ing.”

What We're Following See More »
Lawmakers Express Reservations About Gov’t Hacking Powers
21 minutes ago

Twenty-three members of Congress "on Thursday asked the Justice Department to clarify how a looming rule change to the government's hacking powers could impact privacy rights of innocent Americans. The change, due to take place on December 1, would let judges issue search warrants for remote access to computers located in any jurisdiction, potentially including foreign countries. Magistrate judges can normally only order searches within the jurisdiction of their court, which is typically limited to a few counties."

Clinton Has Raised $101 Million in October
21 minutes ago

"Hillary Clinton’s campaign announced that her campaign and joint fundraising committees raised $101 million in the first 19 days of October, giving her committees $153 million in cash on hand." Her campaign itself has about $62 million on hand. The campaign said the average donation was $50.

Clinton, FLOTUS Campaign Together for First Time
22 minutes ago

Hillary Clinton appeared on the campaign trail for the first time with Michelle Obama on Thursday night. At the joint appearance in North Carolina, Mrs. Obama said, “When you hear folks talking about a global conspiracy and saying that this election is rigged, understand that they are trying to get you to stay home. They are trying to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter, that the outcome has already been determined and that you shouldn’t even bother to make your voice heard.”

Clinton Up 9 in USA Today Poll; Up 3 According to Fox
20 hours ago

A new USA Today/Suffolk University poll finds Clinton leads Trump by 9 points nationwide, 47% to 38%. A Fox News national poll has Clinton up just three points, 44% to 41% over Trump.

Cruz: Eight Justices Could Be an Ongoing Situation
22 hours ago

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that "there was “precedent” for a Supreme Court with fewer than nine justices—appearing to suggest that the blockade on nominee Merrick Garland could last past the election." Speaking to reporters in Colorado, Cruz said: "I would note, just recently, that Justice Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have.”


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.