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 »
"A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 34% of registered voters think the three presidential debates would be extremely or quite important in helping them decide whom to support for president. About 11% of voters are considered 'debate persuadables'—that is, they think the debates are important and are either third-party voters or only loosely committed to either major-party candidate."
Will he or won't he? That's the question surrounding Donald Trump and his on-again, off-again threats to bring onetime Bill Clinton paramour Gennifer Flowers to the debate as his guest. An assistant to flowers initially said she'd be there, but Trump campaign chief Kellyanne Conway "said on ABC’s 'This Week' that the Trump campaign had not invited Flowers to the debate, but she didn’t rule out the possibility of Flowers being in the audience."
NBC's Lester Holt hasn't hosted the "Nightly News" since Tuesday, as he's prepped for moderating the first presidential debate tonight—and the first of his career. He's called on a host of NBC talent to help him, namely NBC News and MSNBC chairman Andy Lack; NBC News president Deborah Turness; the news division's senior vice president of editorial, Janelle Rodriguez; "Nightly News" producer Sam Singal, "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd, senior political editor Mark Murray and political editor Carrie Dann. But during the debate itself, the only person in Holt's earpiece will be longtime debate producer Marty Slutsky.
"The House passed legislation late Thursday that would prohibit the federal government from making any cash payments to Iran, in protest of President Obama's recently discovered decision to pay Iran $1.7 billion in cash in January. And while the White House has said Obama would veto the bill, 16 Democrats joined with Republicans to pass the measure, 254-163."
In contrast to Hillary Clinton's meticulous debate practice sessions, Donald Trump "is largely shunning traditional debate preparations, but has been watching video of…Clinton’s best and worst debate moments, looking for her vulnerabilities.” Trump “has paid only cursory attention to briefing materials. He has refused to use lecterns in mock debate sessions despite the urging of his advisers. He prefers spitballing ideas with his team rather than honing them into crisp, two-minute answers.”