The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: A global response to today's global challenges

Ambassador Alexander Zmeyevskiy, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the International Organizations in Vienna, and Tibor Tóth, CTBTO Executive Secretary

Russian Ambassador to Vienna, Alexander Zmeyevskiy, writes about the importance of the CTBT:

An effective response to the threats and challenges of the twenty-first century — which unquestionably include the proliferation of nuclear weapons — can only be achieved through the coordinated efforts of the international community, coupled with the armoury of the United Nations and international law.

In striving towards that worthy objective, the role and significance of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) cannot be overestimated. In fact, its place in the international security system as a whole should be determined in the context of the critical task of preventing the proliferation and further development of nuclear weapons.

Since the CTBT was opened for signature in 1996, the world has been awaiting the Treaty’s entry into force as a great step forward in efforts to counter and reduce the nuclear threat. Unfortunately, the wait has already lasted almost 14 years and the Treaty has yet to take effect as an instrument of international law. However, the encouraging new trends of recent times inspire hope that the situation regarding the Treaty is about to undergo a dramatic change. There is indeed every possibility that it will.

AS REGARDS THE FUTURE, THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT THAT IF THE DELAY IN THE ENTRY INTO FORCE OF THE CTBT CONTINUES FOR ANY LENGTHY PERIOD, THE NPT REGIME WILL BE SUBSTANTIALLY WEAKENED.

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the CTBT: fundamental and complementary components of the non-proliferation regime

A multilateral, integrated and comprehensive approach is needed in order to address the problems posed by nuclear weapons. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which is the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, has, since the day it was launched, served continually to underscore the direct link between prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the prohibition of nuclear testing. This means that both treaties — the CTBT and the NPT — are built on the same, common basis.

How does this close link manifest itself? The answer is that the CTBT is critically important in ensuring broad political support for the NPT. In particular, it was to a large extent the commencement of negotiations for the CTBT that helped to make it possible, in 1995, to extend the effect of the NPT indefinitely. This was a milestone achievement by the international community in the area of
non-proliferation.

In today’s world, ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons persist, along with attempts to undermine the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Without a legally enforceable and universal CTBT to bring an end to nuclear explosions, the structure of the non-proliferation regime cannot be impregnable. Only the presence of two indissociable components — the NPT and the CTBT — will make that structure sound and reliable.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty — myths and reality

The further we are in time from the beginning of the nuclear age, the clearer it becomes that there are no compelling arguments, nor can there be, against an absolute and legally binding international ban on nuclear testing. Any remaining concerns that the Treaty may be detrimental to the national interests of States are gradually being allayed. There is growing recognition that the world will be safer with the Treaty than without it, and that, in conjunction with other political and diplomatic measures, the Treaty will become a reliable barrier to the creation and development of nuclear weapons.

THE TREATY’S DETERRENT EFFECT IS ALREADY EVIDENT, EVEN THOUGH IT HAS NOT YET ENTERED INTO FORCE.

When it finally does, the development of nuclear weapons will face an altogether different kind of barrier that will be extremely difficult to overcome. The same applies to the development of nuclear explosives using the latest technologies, which will become virtually impossible, since the testing of such weapons will be prohibited.

The myth that compliance with the CTBT is unverifiable is also baseless. The mechanism established for implementation of the Treaty is complex and comprehensive, and its practical application will prove its effectiveness. Moreover, verification technologies are constantly evolving and can be updated. As was highlighted by the International Scientific Studies Conference held in Vienna in 2009, innovative thinking is contributing to such developments and continually opening up new possibilities. With the help of continually improved verification instrumentation, it will be possible to detect even small nuclear explosions.

The CTBT monitoring mechanism, including the International Monitoring System (IMS), which is not yet fully operational, proved its capabilities when the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) conducted nuclear tests in October 2006 and May 2009. Those events were located by IMS facilities and the corresponding data were transferred to headquarters of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna, where they were processed within the time frame provided for in the Treaty.

The events in the DPRK underscored the need to step up the development of the on-site inspection regime, which is tasked with determining the nature of events on the ground and is recognized by the States Parties as one of the key elements of verification of compliance with the CTBT.

 

 

Is there any alternative to the CTBT? Clearly not. The current moratorium on nuclear testing is undoubtedly important. However, compliance with the moratorium is no more than the political obligation of any State that has undertaken voluntarily to observe it. The moratorium is a temporary, interim measure and can in no way take the place of the legal obligations of States under existing international law, nor can it give any greater weight to concerted actions by the international community in the event of violation of the Treaty.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND CLEARLY THAT WITH THE HELP OF A LEGALLY ENFORCEABLE TREATY, IT IS MUCH EASIER TO MOBILIZE GLOBAL PUBLIC OPINION AGAINST NUCLEAR TESTING, WHATEVER THE MOTIVES COUNTRIES MAY HAVE IN CARRYING OUT SUCH TESTING.

Even in extraordinary cases, as a working instrument, the Treaty serves as an interim source of support for concerted international efforts in the event that, in accordance with Article IX of the CTBT, a Member State wishes to withdraw from the Treaty on the grounds of protection of its supreme interests. In such cases, the rule requiring formal notice of withdrawal to be given at least six months in advance comes into play, which provides an opportunity to discourage such withdrawal.

The CTBT — one of the foreign policy priorities of the Russian Federation

The Russian Federation was among the first to sign the Treaty and thus to open the first page in its history. Having ratified the Treaty in 2000, it has steadfastly demonstrated its adherence to it, rigorously complying with its spirit and letter. In 1991, the Russian Federation introduced a moratorium on nuclear testing which is still in place today, as a result of which it has not carried out a single explosion of a nuclear device since that time.

THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION IS UNDERTAKING CONSISTENT EFFORTS TO FACILITATE THE EARLIEST POSSIBLE ENTRY INTO FORCE OF THE CTBT AND ENSURING THAT THE TREATY ACQUIRES UNIVERSAL STATUS. THIS IS INDEED ONE OF THE OBJECTIVES SET OUT IN THE FOREIGN POLICY CONCEPT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION THAT WAS ADOPTED IN 2008.

The Russian Federation unswervingly supports all multilateral international efforts relating to the Treaty. It has participated in all six conferences on facilitating the Treaty’s entry into force and all four “Friends of the CTBT” foreign ministers’ meetings held to date, and was co-author of General Assembly resolution 62/59, entitled “Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty”. It was largely as a result of the efforts of the Russian Federation that the importance of the CTBT was reflected in a number of political statements made at the highest level in 2009.

Principled support for the CTBT is an integral part of Russian foreign policy that is aimed at strengthening international security and achieving strategic stability. The steps taken by the Russian Federation to ban nuclear testing are being reinforced by concrete measures in the area of disarmament. The agreement by the Russian Federation and the United States of America to replace the treaty between them on the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms is a major contribution to nuclear disarmament. In that regard, the Russian Federation considers that the achievement of such an ambitious objective as the full elimination of nuclear arms is possible only if the principle of equal security for all is observed and if viable key disarmament and non-proliferation instruments are in place, including the CTBT.

The contribution of the Russian Federation to the establishment of a mechanism for monitoring compliance with the CTBT

The Russian Federation is undertaking every effort to assist in the establishment of a mechanism for verification of compliance with the CTBT that should be ready for operation by the time the Treaty enters into force.

The Russian segment of the IMS is the second largest after the United States’ segment in terms of the number of monitoring stations constructed, and accounts for more than 10 percent of the entire monitoring network. The Russian Federation is cooperating closely with the CTBTO in addressing the construction and certification of Russian stations, many of which are located in areas that are difficult to reach.

The Russian Federation is using the considerable experience it inherited from the Soviet Union in the area of nuclear testing and compliance with obligations under bilateral agreements with the United States of America in its work to contribute to the development of all aspects of the CTBT monitoring mechanism, including the development of practical guides on the various types of monitoring, the creation of an on-site inspection mechanism and support for the operation of the International Data Centre. Russian experts are actively involved in the pilot implementation of those aspects and the selection and certification of instrumentation. Various training courses to qualify personnel for CTBT-related activities are held regularly in the Russian Federation.

ACTIVITIES RELATING TO THE CTBT HAVE CLEARLY ACQUIRED A POSITIVE DYNAMIC IN RECENT TIMES. THIS TREND HAS EMERGED AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF CONDITIONS THAT ARE GENERALLY FAVOURABLE TO THE STRENGTHENING OF THE CURRENT INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ARCHITECTURE, OF WHICH THE CTBT SHOULD BE ONE OF THE KEY ELEMENTS.

The CTBT — today and tomorrow

An increasingly broad international consensus is emerging with regard to the CTBT. This also is attributable in no small measure to the growing understanding that without the Treaty, it is impossible to ensure true success in the area of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.

IN THE PAST YEAR, A NUMBER OF CONCRETE STEPS HAVE BEEN TAKEN IN SUPPORT OF THE TREATY. ONE NOTABLE LANDMARK WAS THE ADOPTION OF SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION 1887 (2009), WHICH CALLS ON ALL STATES TO SIGN AND/OR RATIFY THE CTBT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

At almost the same time as the Security Council meeting in New York at which that resolution was adopted, the sixth Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT was concluded successfully. The Conference and the Security Council summit on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament simultaneously and resoundingly stressed the Treaty’s importance within the broader framework of efforts to strengthen international security. In April 2009, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) adopted a detailed resolution on non-proliferation and disarmament — the second such resolution, the first having been adopted by the IPU ten years previously — in which the CTBT was accorded special attention.

The statements made by President Obama of the United States of America indicating his intention to secure the U.S. Senate’s ratification of the Treaty are encouraging. The intention of the Obama Administration to ratify the Treaty was expressed in a joint statement issued by the President Medvedev of the Russian Federation and the President Obama of the United States of America on 1 April 2009.

Together, these developments provide the assurance that progress will continue to be made with respect to the Treaty.

It is sometimes said that the entry into force of the CTBT depends chiefly on the nuclear powers. Those States undeniably play a major role in the matter. However, it is important to understand, by following the Treaty to the letter, that the Treaty’s fate depends equally on all 44 of the Annex 2 States  in and particularly on those that have yet to sign and ratify it. It is for that reason that the Russian Federation continues to appeal to those States to demonstrate serious political responsibility and take the necessary action as soon as possible.

The agenda for 2010 as regards non-proliferation and disarmament promises to be full and intensive. Important events that will leave their mark on history lie ahead. Of particular note among them is the NPT Review Conference, which is to examine the effectiveness of the NPT regime over the past five years and adopt a package of measures to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The platform provided by this forum must be used in the most effective possible way to mobilize international efforts in support of the CTBT. It is important that the Treaty’s earliest possible entry into force be included among the issues to be addressed as a matter of urgency by the Review Conference.

Efforts to achieve the universalization of the Treaty must not slacken. Only universal adherence to the ban on nuclear testing can be a true guarantee of the irreversibility of that process. The Russian Federation continually emphasizes that point in its discussions with countries that have not yet signed and/or ratified the CTBT.

The new window of opportunity now available to the Treaty inspires full confidence. The international community stands at the crossroads of momentous decisions, and the historic opportunity that is presenting itself must not be missed.