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

Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire
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 »
STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Source:
×