New START ratified, time for the CTBT
December 24, 2010
Things have not been easy for the START’s successor treaty. After one year without mutual verification between the two actors, the United States and Russia, this key step to reduce nuclear arsenals around the world has been finally put forward. The START successor treaty, also called the New START, was finally approved on December 22 at the United States’ Senate. Fortunately reason prevailed, but not without any cost.
The significance of the ratification is beyond any doubt. The original START treaty expired in December 2009, and after that any possibilities of mutual control vanished. This means that the two greatest nuclear arsenals in the world remained our of any official and mutual verification. These arsenals represent together approximately 96% of the worldwide nuclear weapons.
The New START into force represents a confidence measure for a safer world. The Senate voted for 71 to 26, which implies that both parties, democrats and republicans, were jointly involved in the approval. The chances of approval became in doubt after the mid-term congressional elections in the United States, last November, with a significant increase of the hard liners against the US disarmament in general and the treaty, in particular.
The cost the Obama administration had to pay for the ratification was the inclusion in the text of an interpretative declaration which has been toughly resisted by the Russians, as was expressed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov. This statement indicates that the dispositions in the foreword of the treaty do not create a legal biding, neither for the United States nor for Russia. In the foreword the link between the START and the anti-missile defenses is stated as well as the influence of the START on the non nuclear armament and the strategic stability, all of them matters of a deep Russian concern.
As external observers of the bilateral process (external up to some point since its result affects all countries) we can only applaud everybody that succeeded in getting the treaty finally ratified in the United States, in spite of difficulties and exceptions mentioned. This action can contribute to a strengthened retaking of the path towards nuclear disarmament. To go forward will not be an easy task, but if we imagine a world without mutual control of nuclear arsenals between United States and Russia, we will be easily able to see the benefits derived from this ratification step.
To President Obama and his disarmament and nonproliferation team; to the both parties' congress people, who were conscious of the importance of achieving nowadays the fact of enhancing confidence, and not reducing it; to the American society which has given an example of democracy uniting towards a common national goal, without tying themselves to ideological or party intersts and most especially to non-governmental organizations, many of them partners of the NPSGlobal Foundation, which have worked tirelessly so as to enlighten and influence the achievement of this positive result.
Now we hope that the United States’ Senate can give to the world a great example with the ratification of the CTBT – Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty – though we are conscious that it is an even more resisted and difficult step. The CTBT is fundamental to achieve a progressive nuclear disarmament, and ultimately, a world without nuclear weapons. Opened for signature in 1966, it is still lacking the ratification of 9 nations out of 44 needed for its entry into force. The remaining nations are the United States, China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and Indonesia.
If the United States ratifies it, this fact will be seen as a very example of leadership and, probably, other nations will follow it. It is clear that even though nuclear tests, thanks to the new technology, can nowadays be simulated in a more precise way, the commitment of not conducting them in a physical way is a clear signal to the international community of the relevance for a nation of its own progressive disarmament.