Last Friday, the United States circulated a draft resolution on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament to the UN Security Council. The draft was submitted in anticipation of the September 24 special meeting of the Security Council to be chaired by President Obama.
The draft resolution strongly endorses the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), calling “upon all States to refrain from conducting a nuclear test explosion and to join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), thereby bringing the treaty into force” (emphasis mine).
If finalized in its draft form, the resolution will be only the second Security Council resolution to call on all states to join the CTBT. The first was Resolution 1172, which the Security Council adopted in the wake of India’s and Pakistan’s 1998 nuclear tests. The new draft resolution is Obama’s first official action to encourage those nations that have not yet ratified the Treaty to do so.
The United States and China are the only Security Council members to have not ratified the CTBT; thus, only China would seem to stand in the way of the draft resolution’s adoption. Yet China signed off on Resolution 1172 and has indicated that it would likely ratify the Treaty following U.S. ratification.
Obama’s draft resolution is a bold move and a clear sign of progress. Not surprisingly, U.S.-proposed Security Council resolutions during the Bush administration never mentioned the CTBT. Together with the decision to send Secretary Clinton to lead a U.S. delegation and deliver a statement to the biennial CTBT “Entry Into Force” conference occurring at the same time as the Security Council’s special meeting, the new draft resolution sends yet another signal to the international community and the U.S. Senate that the Treaty is a key administration priority.
Nonetheless, Obama will not achieve his goal simply through atmospherics in the Security Council. Although the Treaty has strong support on the international stage – 149 states have ratified it – Obama must also mount a major diplomatic effort to convince additional states to ratify. Besides the United States and China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan are the remaining hold-out countries whose ratification is necessary for the agreement to enter into force.
An encouraging sign came in October 2008, when China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, and Pakistan all voted in favor of a UN General Assembly draft resolution supporting the CTBT. The United States was the only country to vote against the resolution. India abstained and North Korea did not participate.
Getting the U.S. Senate to approve the CTBT, of course, is a completely different beast that will require a completely different political strategy. Yet if these initial forays into international diplomacy show that the CTBT will both improve America’s global political position (aka leverage on other issues) and reduce the threat of nuclear weapons, the Obama administration will gain compelling evidence that can be used to convince Republicans that they should support the Treaty because it makes the United States safer.