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 »
Perhaps Donald Trump can take a plebiscite to solve this whole messy immigration thing. At a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity last night, Trump essentially admitted he's "stumped," turning to the audience and asking: “Can we go through a process or do you think they have to get out? Tell me, I mean, I don’t know, you tell me.”
Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.
Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.
Donald Trump's Fox News brain trust keeps growing. After it was revealed that former Fox chief Roger Ailes is informally advising Trump on debate preparation, host Sean Hannity admitted over the weekend that he's also advising Trump on "strategy and messaging." He told the New York Times: “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. I never claimed to be a journalist.”