The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test- Ban Treaty (CTBT) opened for signature 14 years ago today on 24 September 1996. Signed by 182 of the UN’s 192 Member States, the Treaty is designed to constrain the research and development of nuclear weapons by banning all nuclear test explosions in all environments, indefinitely. Given the undeniable security and non-proliferation benefits of the CTBT, it should come as no surprise that state parties to the NPT reaffirmed the vital importance of the treaty’s entry into force at the recent May 2010 NPT Review Conference in New York. But after fourteen years, how much longer will the world have to wait?
For the CTBT to enter into force, 44 “Annex 2” states are required to ratify it (i.e the states that participated in CTBT negotiations from 1994-1996 that possessed nuclear power reactors or research reactors at that time). After Indonesia recently announced its intention to ratify the CTBT soon, there remain just eight “Annex 2” states left to ratify the treaty before it can enter into force: China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States of America. With some states linking their ratification process to that of the U.S and others hindered for alleged geopolitical reasons, achieving entry into force is a daunting challenge – a challenge that Jeffrey Lewis investigated recently for Vertic. The following state-by-state analysis of the main dynamics influencing ratification in the “Annex 2” explains why:
USA: The U.S. Senate took up the CTBT in 1999, where it was defeated by a wide margin. Opponents suggested the treaty is unverifiable and the U.S. nuclear deterrent cannot be maintained without testing. The George W. Bush administration made little effort to promote CTBT ratification, so it was good to hear Obama state in Prague that “my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty”. Nevertheless, U.S ratification of the CTBT will not happen this year. This is because in May the Obama administration made it clear that it would hold off on pushing the CTBT until it secured START follow on ratification, which has yet to occur. In any event, securing the necessary 67 votes for CTBT ratification in the U.S. Senate will be difficult, but the case for the treaty has never been stronger.
China: China is very likely to ratify the CTBT after the U.S does. Consequently, the prospects for any prompt Chinese ratification are directly tied to progress on the U.S front.
India and Pakistan: Both states need to sign the CTBT before they can consider it for ratification. The failure of the U.S ratification process in 1999 has given both countries justification for not signing the treaty to date. However, at the end of 2009 Indian president Manmohan Singh stated that U.S ratification of the CTBT would likely get the gears turning on a subsequent Indian ratification. Other observers have suggested that Chinese ratification of the CTBT would also enable India to fulfill a pledge it made to the United Nations 11 years ago- namely, that it would not be one of a handful of states to stand in the way of final entry into force. Pakistan has already said that it will sign the treaty once India does.
Egypt and Israel: Like Israel, Egypt has linked its approval of CTBT to securing a comprehensive Mideast peace, but as a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement — the members of which have overwhelmingly approved the treaty — it could face it pressure to ratify soon. U.S ratification would also increase pressure on Egypt to ratify, given Egyptian reliance on U.S economic aid. While Egyptian and Israeli ratification is unlikely in the near term, the progress made at the 2010 NPT Review Conference on a WMD Free Zone in the Middle East was a necessary perquisite.
Iran: While Iran did sign the treaty in September 1996, it has outlined its objection to ratification as being based on the fact that it “considers that the Treaty does not meet nuclear disarmament criteria as originally intended.” As is the case with Egypt and Israel, Iran’s ratification will largely be determined by the security situation in the Middle East.
DPRK: With the DPRK pulling out of the NPT in 2003, testing nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009, and quitting the Six Party Talks in 2009, it is hard to see when or even if the country is likely to sign and ratify the CTBT. A comprehensive peace treaty with the U.S and South Korea would likely contribute towards the impetus for DPRK ratification, but this seems a long way off.
In sum, it seems clear that U.S ratification of the CTBT could spur other states to sign and ratify the treaty. As such it should be pursued with great vigor by the Obama administration after New START is finally ratified. At the same time, there is no excuse for states like China and India to wait for U.S ratification. CTBT should be judged and ratified by each state on its merits. Indeed, it is in the interests of all states to ensure CTBT comes into force sooner rather than later, especially given the boost it would give to the NPT’s credibility and the non-proliferation regime in general. Furthermore, as has been pointed out by Acronym.org, the more states that ratify it now (both inside and outside of the Annex 2 list), the easier it will be to secure U.S. ratification when the treaty finally comes up again for Senate approval.
Although it seems unlikely that states such as Iran and North Korea will ratify the treaty any time soon, their incalcitrance should not prevent the U.S. from moving forward, particularly since it is already U.S. policy not to conduct nuclear explosive tests. As Kingston noted last year, “if nothing else, China is likely to ratify if the United States does, a development that would result in all five original nuclear powers becoming parties to the test ban. This would further strengthen the global norm against nuclear testing, encourage other holdouts to ratify, and could activate a provisional entry into force of the treaty (along with the valuable verification and on-site inspection provisions that go with it).”
In short, it is critical that the CTBT enter into force – and soon.