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.”
- 1 Only the Margin Seems in Doubt in the Presidential Race
- 2 The Late-Breaking Democratic House Targets
- 3 Great Democratic Hopes Energize Quiet Faithful in Missouri
- 4 Will Congress Try to Rein in Obamacare Premiums?
- 5 Smart Ideas: Ken Bone Revealed a Serious Policy Divide, and Elizabeth Warren Seeks a Co-Presidency
What We're Following See More »
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."
"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.
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.”
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.”