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Test Ban Proposals and Agreements: The 1950s to the Present

Дата публикации: 20 сентября 2007
Публикатор: Александр Павлович Шиманский
Источник: (c) http://russia.by
Номер публикации: №1190296211 / Жалобы? Ошибка? Выделите проблемный текст и нажмите CTRL+ENTER!

Test Ban Proposals and Agreements: The 1950s to the Present

(from Part 4: Arms Control Activities Since 1945)


Beginning in the mid-1950s the banning of nuclear tests became one of the most persistent, yet elusive objects of arms control. Beginning with Dwight D. Eisenhower, a succession of U.S. presidents made a comprehensive test ban (CTB) a stated objective. They varied greatly, however, in the earnestness with which they pursued that objective and in the preconditions they specified. Eisenhower initiated technical discussions and tripartite (U.S.British-Soviet) test ban negotiations, but succeeded only in achieving an informal test moratorium. President John F. Kennedy intensified the effort to reach a CTB, but after a number of concessions in U.S. verification requirements proved insufficient to satisfy the Soviets, he settled in 1963 for the multilateral Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) which banned all tests except those underground. President Lyndon B. Johnson's support of further limitations on testing was primarily rhetorical. The main arms control emphasis during his administration was on negotiating the multilateral Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signed in 1968. In the NPT, however, the superpowers pledged to pursue disarmament negotiations in good faith. Progress toward a CTB came to be the key criterion employed by non-nuclear-weapon states for judging compliance with this undertaking. Richard M. Nixon's administration emphasized strategic-arms negotiations over test ban negotiations, but in 1974 reached agreement with the Soviet Union on the bilateral Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT) banning underground tests above 150 kilotons. In 1976, during Gerald Ford's presidency, the companion Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty (PNET), with a similar limit, was negotiated. Jimmy Carter's administration resumed CTB negotiations and made rapid progress at first, but a lack of political will on both sides prevented agreement.

Intent on augmenting and modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, Ronald Reagan's administration relegated a CTB to the status of "ultimate goal," emphasizing instead various problems in verifying the TTBT and PNET, which had not yet been ratified. They were ratified in December 1990, following some cooperative U.S.-Soviet endeavors regarding verification. Also in 1990, an international effort to amend the LTBT so as to ban underground tests was blocked by President George Bush, whose attitude toward a CTB was similar to Reagan's. In 1992, France joined Russia in declaring a moratorium on tests and in implying that continuation of the moratorium would depend on whether the United States followed suit. Both houses of Congress voted for a U.S. moratorium. While continuing to oppose a moratorium, the Bush administration announced a modification of its testing policy whereby it would limit the number of tests each year to six, of which no more than three would exceed thirty-five kilotons, and would mandate that tests be carried out only for safety and reliability.

The history of test ban proposals and agreements is considered at greater length below. Following the historical account is a summation of arguments that have been made for and against further test limitations.

Eisenhower: Negotiations Begin

The idea of banning nuclear tests first surfaced in 1954, following a huge U.S. test near Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. Because of a yield twice that expected--equivalent to fifteen megatons, the largest explosion ever detonated by the United States--and because of unfavorable wind conditions, the test contaminated wide areas of the Marshall Islands and showered a Japanese tuna trawler with radioactive debris. The crew of twenty-three suffered from severe radiation sickness and one crew member subsequently died. This event touched off a series of protests led by some of the world's most respected public figures. A month after the test, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India proposed a "standstill agreement" on nuclear testing. Similar proposals soon emanated from others.

The initial U.S. government reaction to this agitation was to insist that nuclear testing was both safe and necessary. Some American scientists took issue with these contentions, however, pointing to the hazards from radioactive fallout. A spirited controversy soon arose among scientists on both sides of the fallout issue. For their part, the Soviets began including a test ban in their panoply of arms control proposals, but they linked it to visionary general disarmament schemes that had no chance of being accepted by the United States.

In 1956 Adlai Stevenson injected the nuclear testing issue into his presidential campaign against President Eisenhower, advocating a ban on large tests. Stevenson's effort to make his proposal a major campaign issue was undercut, however, when Soviet Premier Nikolai Bulganin publicly supported it in a letter to Eisenhower. In discussions at the United Nations, the United States took the position that in the absence of any agreement to eliminate or limit nuclear weapons under proper safeguards, continued testing was essential for the national interest and for the security of the free world. Eisenhower emphasized, however, that new precautions were being taken to minimize radioactive fallout from U.S. tests.

In 1957 the scale of international protests against atmospheric tests mushroomed. A radio appeal by Albert Schweitzer was heard in fifty countries and endorsed by the pope. American scientist Linus Pauling obtained the signatures of more than nine thousand scientists from forty-three countries to an antitesting petition. Perhaps most significant to the Eisenhower administration, a Gallup poll showed that 63 percent of the American people favored a test ban, as against only 20 percent three years earlier. In response to these pressures, the United States announced that it would consider stopping or limiting testing if verification issues could be settled.

Following the first British hydrogen-bomb test in May 1957, the Soviet Union proposed a ban on further such tests. A month later, the Soviets proposed a two- to three-year moratorium on all tests, to be supervised by an international commission utilizing unmanned instrumented detection stations ("black boxes") on the soil of the nuclear powers. President Eisenhower at first indicated that he was favorably disposed toward the Soviet offer, but he changed course after Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) scientists led by Edward Teller argued that with continued testing they could develop within seven years fallout-free battlefield weapons vital to NATO's strategy in Western Europe. They warned also that the Soviet Union could evade any moratorium by clandestine tests.

Placed on the defensive by continued international and domestic pressures for an end to tests, Eisenhower offered in August 1957 to accept a twoyear moratorium on testing if it were linked to a cut-off in the further production of fissionable material. The Soviets promptly rejected this idea, perceiving it as freezing their inferiority in nuclear-weapons production.

After the Soviet Union launched Sputniks I and II in the autumn of 1957, calling into question the presumed superiority of U.S. science and technology, President Eisenhower moved to strengthen the scientific resources of his administration by establishing the President's Science Advisory Committee. This group gave Eisenhower sources of advice more disposed toward a test ban, counterbalancing negative counsel he had been getting from Lewis Strauss, who was both the AEC chairman and a presidential assistant. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, seeking to reverse the diplomatic embarrassments the testing issue was causing for the United States, also began to advocate greater flexibility. When the Soviet Union again proposed a three-year uninspected moratorium late in 1957, it was ultimately rejected by Eisenhower, but not until there had been an extended debate within the government.

A high-level internal debate on the test ban question continued into 1958, taking place principally before a Senate Disarmament Subcommittee chaired by Hubert Humphrey. The subcommittee provided a conspicuous sounding board for various peace groups and prominent individuals who perceived in a test ban the most practical means of starting the process of controlling nuclear arms.

In March 1958, Nikita Khrushchev, the new premier of the Soviet Union, pushed through a decree prohibiting further testing by his country, provided others did not test. While this move was transparently cynical--the Soviets had just completed a major test series and the United States was about to start one--it earned the Soviet Union much credit in world opinion. Notwithstanding, all three nuclear powers continued to test.

In April 1958 a panel of scientists headed by Cornell University physics professor Hans Bethe reported to President Eisenhower that the U.S. nuclear arsenal was sufficient to permit a test ban without endangering national security and that such a treaty would be to the nation's advantage. The president thereupon proposed to Khrushchev that the Soviet Union join Western nations in examination of the technical requirements for verification of a test ban. Khrushchev agreed, and on 1 July 1958 the Conference of Experts to Study the Possibility of Detecting Violations of a Possible Agreement on Suspension of Nuclear Tests convened in Geneva, Switzerland. Eight nations were represented, four from Eastern Europe and four from the West.

Late in August the Conference of Experts announced its conclusion: it was indeed technically feasible to set up a control system that would (1) have a "good probability" of detecting atmospheric explosions yielding as little as one kiloton if the explosions were detonated at a height below fifty kilometers (30 miles) and (2) be able to detect, and distinguish from earthquakes, underground explosions yielding as little as five kilotons. The system, which became known as the Geneva System, would have required ten ships and 160-170 land-based instrumented control posts, each to be manned by thirty to forty technicians and scientists. In addition, the system would have involved the possible dispatch of on-site inspection teams to investigate suspicious events.

Encouraged by the conference's optimistic findings, Eisenhower proposed that the three nuclear powers meet to negotiate a treaty based on the Geneva System. At the same time, reversing the stand he had taken only two years earlier in his election campaign against Stevenson, the president announced that the United States would suspend tests for a year while negotiations proceeded, provided that the Soviet Union did the same. Khrushchev promptly agreed.

After both sides rushed to complete a number of tests, the tripartite (U.S., U.K., USSR) Conference on the Discontinuance of Nuclear Weapons Tests (known as the Geneva Conference) opened on 31 October 1958. A large measure of agreement and certain differences were apparent at the outset. The differences related primarily to the control system. The main problem was that it was difficult to distinguish in all cases between the seismic signals of underground explosions and those of earthquakes, which were numerous in parts of the Soviet Union. In order to guard against Soviet cheating, the Western powers wanted mandatory on-site inspections to be conducted whenever ambiguous events were detected. Furthermore, they wanted all elements of the control system, including inspection teams, to be manned internationally and operated by majority rule. The Soviets resisted on-site inspections, claiming that they would be pretexts for Western espionage. They also wanted veto power in the control organization and insisted on having all control activities in their territory supervised and predominantly staffed by Soviet personnel.

Analysis of a U.S. test series late in 1958 indicated that the Conference of Experts had probably overestimated the ability of the Geneva System to detect and identify underground tests. U.S. studies also suggested that there were various ways to evade a test ban, such as by exploding a nuclear device in a large underground cavity to conceal its true magnitude. These findings cast a pall over the Geneva Conference, which soon bogged down over related verification issues. In order to break the deadlock, Eisenhower suggested in April 1959 that agreement be reached in phases, beginning with a ban on tests thought easy to verify without inspections--namely, those in the atmosphere up to a height of fifty kilometers. Khrushchev rejected Eisenhower's proposal as a "dishonest deal" on the basis that it would permit the United States to continue tests in nonprohibited environments. As an alternative, Khrushchev proposed that consideration be given to an earlier suggestion he said had been made by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan--namely, that there be a comprehensive test ban monitored in part by a fixed annual quota of on-site inspections on the territory of each nuclear power. The Soviet leader's view was that this annual quota need not be large. Both Eisenhower and Macmillan agreed to explore the idea.

To fill a remaining gap in the Geneva System's capabilities, technical talks were held in June 1959 regarding the verification of high-altitude explosions. The conferees agreed, with some reservations, that such tests could be detected from five or six satellites placed in earth orbit. Eisenhower then announced in August 1959 that he was extending the U.S. test moratorium until the end of the year. Toward the end of the year, however, another tripartite technical working group, convened to consider the criteria for dispatch of inspection teams, disbanded in disagreement so profound that no report was possible. This led to an angry statement by Eisenhower condemning "politically guided" Soviet experts who had resisted every implication that the new U.S. data argued for a greater number of on-site inspections. Eisenhower also announced that the United States would no longer be bound by the voluntary test moratorium when it expired on 31 December 1959, although the U.S. would give advance notice of any intent to resume testing. In response, the Soviets repeated their pledge not to test unless "Western nations" did so.

In February 1960 the United States and United Kingdom came forward with a new proposal. It would have banned all tests deemed verifiable by the Geneva System, namely, all tests in the atmosphere and underwater, all tests in space to an altitude (unspecified) where verification was feasible, and underground tests producing signals greater than 4.75 on the Richter earthquake-magnitude scale. A joint seismic research program was to be undertaken to lower this threshold. In addition to the seismic stations posited by the Geneva System, the treaty was to be policed by annual quotas of on-site inspections, their numbers to be related to the estimated number of seismic events on the soil of each nuclear power. The formulas suggested in the proposal would have resulted in about twenty inspections each year in the Soviet Union.

The Soviet response a month later was to agree to the Western proposal, with three exceptions: the Soviets wanted to prohibit all tests in space, whether verifiable or not; to initiate the treaty with a four- to five-year moratorium on smaller underground tests; and to determine inspection quotas on a "political" basis, unrelated to the number of seismic events. Eisenhower and Macmillan promptly agreed to accept a moratorium on smaller underground tests, though only for two years. Many expected that the remaining differences could be resolved at a Big Four (United States, United Kingdom, USSR, France) summit conference scheduled to begin in Paris on 16 May.

Into this hopeful atmosphere Khrushchev hurled his dramatic announcement of 7 May 1960 that a U.S. U-2 reconnaissance plane had been downed over Soviet territory six days earlier. The Paris summit meeting then collapsed after two hours of bitter recrimination. These developments so fouled the relationships between the superpowers and between their leaders that no further progress could be made while Eisenhower was president. Notwithstanding, Eisenhower steadfastly resisted the pressures from the Pentagon and the AEC for renewed testing until the end of his term, and handed over to his successor an ongoing negotiation during which important agreements had been reached and remaining issues clearly identified. Eisenhower later said that his greatest regret about his presidency had been his failure to achieve a test ban agreement.

On 5 December 1960 the Geneva Conference adjourned to give the incoming Kennedy administration an opportunity to examine its position.

Kennedy and the Limited Test Ban Treaty

While in the Senate, John F. Kennedy had opposed pressures for resumption of U.S. testing during the moratorium that began in 1958, and made the need for a nuclear test ban agreement a principal personal theme. Kennedy brought with him into office a top team that was in strong agreement with his own desire for a test ban. The most important new officials involved in the test ban issue were Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, AEC chairman Glenn T. Seaborg, disarmament adviser John J. McCloy, and science adviser Jerome B. Wiesner.

Having requested a delay in the resumption of the Geneva Conference, Kennedy used the time for a thorough review, spearheaded by McCloy, of U.S. policy toward the negotiations. Early in March 1961 a panel of scientists headed by Bell Laboratories president James B. Fisk generally confirmed that a fully implemented Geneva System would be adequate to deter a potential violator. In addition, a team led by Kennedy's chief negotiator, Arthur H. Dean, undertook a painstaking review of all 250 Geneva Conference negotiating sessions to determine whether concessions could be made to the Soviet position without endangering U.S. security.

When the conference resumed in March 1961, the United States and United Kingdom offered again what was basically the Western 4.75 seismic magnitude threshold proposal of February 1960, but attempted to make it more palatable by offering a number of concessions. For example, they reduced slightly the number of internationally manned inspection posts proposed for location on Soviet soil, and granted the Soviet request for East-West parity in staffing the control organization. Wide differences still remained, however. One concerned a new Soviet insistence that the control organization be headed by a three-man directorate, one from the West, one from the East, and one neutral, each with veto power. The Soviets also offered to accept only three on-site inspections per year, as against a Western formula that would have required about twenty, and only fifteen inspection posts on Soviet soil, as against a Western demand for nineteen. Notwithstanding the lack of agreement, the Western side presented its proposals on 18 April 1961 in the form of a complete draft treaty, the first to be submitted by either side. Continuing their absolutist approach, the Soviets promptly rejected the draft treaty, arguing that it allowed the United States to continue to test underground.

In light of the Soviet intransigence at Geneva, Kennedy came under increasing internal pressure to resume testing. Informed by U.S. embassies around the world that reaction to such a step would be adverse, Kennedy at first ruled against it, while indicating that his patience had limits. His attitude hardened, however, when he encountered a confident and bellicose Khrushchev at their summit meeting in Vienna in June 1961. After this sobering experience, Kennedy ordered secret preparations for resumed testing. The following month, a Gallup poll showed that the American public now favored such a step by a two-to-one margin.

A crisis over Berlin erupted during the summer of 1961, and on 13 August, East Germany closed its western border and began construction of the Berlin Wall. The Soviet Union, citing continued French tests and the international tension over Berlin, then announced on 30 August its decision to resume testing. This decision took the United States by surprise--a signal failure of U.S. intelligence. The Soviet series, which began the next day, was massive and had obviously been long in preparation. Within sixty days the Soviets conducted approximately fifty tests, exceeding in total megatonnage all preceding tests by all nations. Several of the tests were conducted high in the atmosphere and at very high yields; one of them yielded fifty-seven megatons, still the largest man-made explosion ever.

Although embittered by the Soviet action, Kennedy made one more attempt to seize the diplomatic high ground. On 2 September 1961 he and Macmillan proposed an atmospheric test ban, giving the Soviet Union a week to reply. When the Soviets rejected the offer, Kennedy announced that the United States would resume testing "in the laboratory and underground, with no fallout." The U.S. test series, a relatively modest effort, began on 15 September. Soon after, Kennedy asked the AEC to begin preparations for atmospheric testing, and on 2 November he announced that the United States intended to conduct such tests.

Kennedy committed himself to atmospheric testing with obvious reluctance, and he attempted to rein in the test series as much as possible. He directed, for example, that each test be personally approved by him, that fallout be minimized, that the test planners scale down the number of tests they were recommending, and that the series last no longer than three months. Late in November 1961 the Soviets proposed a treaty that would have banned tests in the atmosphere, in space, and underwater unconditionally and, in addition, would have banned underground tests temporarily until controls over them could be established as part of a treaty on general and complete disarmament (GCD). Considering the remoteness of any prospect for GCD, the provision on underground tests seemed tantamount to another uncontrolled moratorium. After the bitter experience with the Soviet resumption of testing in September, this was something the United States would not consider.

In January 1962 the three-power Geneva Conference, hopelessly deadlocked, terminated its work. Under the pressure of world opinion, negotiations for a test ban nevertheless resumed, being conducted after March 1962 at a newly established United Nations Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee (ENDC) composed of five Western, five Eastern, and eight nonaligned countries. (In fact, only seventeen nations participated: France, one of the designated Western participants, refused to take part.) The neutral eight, under the goading leadership of Sweden's Alva Myrdal, were to play a very active role in the ENDC, constantly pushing East and West to negotiate and coming forward with innovative proposals of their own. U.S. participation was now coordinated by a new agency, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, established by Congress in September 1961 to provide more thorough research as well as better-prepared negotiators.

At the first meeting of the ENDC, the British and U.S. representatives proposed that there be a fully comprehensive treaty; that inspections for the most part be confined to seismic areas of the Soviet Union, far from sensitive industrial areas; and that each side be permitted periodic inspections of the other's test sites to assure against secret test preparations. The Soviets rejected the new proposals, insisting that any test ban should rely solely on each side's national means of detection, without any inspections.

The U.S. atmospheric test series, Operation DOMINIC, began on 25 April 1962. The series comprised forty tests, four small ones in Nevada and the remainder in the Pacific. Pursuant to President Kennedy's instructions, the total yield of the series was held to approximately twenty megatons; the Soviet series in 1961 had yielded almost ten times as much. DOMINIC was marred by a number of mishaps. In the most serious of these, a high-altitude test called STARFISH contravened predictions by AEC scientists when it left behind a new radiation belt in space, destroying the communications capability of three satellites and leading Kennedy to cancel a more powerful succeeding test. The STARFISH incident caused Secretary Rusk and other senior officials to lose confidence in the AEC testing program and added to the pressures for an agreement that would ban such tests in the future.

DOMINIC lasted some six months, twice as long as Kennedy had first instructed. Before the series ended, the Soviets began another extensive series of their own, claiming that, since the United States had tested first, they had "the right to test last."

While the tests of both countries proceeded, the atmosphere at the ENDC in Geneva was saturated with mutual recriminations. Kennedy nevertheless persisted in what seemed an almost quixotic quest of a test ban. His principal motive, as he told his associates, was to arrest the spread of nuclear weapons to additional nations, a prospect that he regarded as "the greatest possible danger." Accordingly, on 27 August 1962 the United States and the United Kingdom unveiled two new treaty proposals at the ENDC. One was for a fully comprehensive treaty, with no threshold. The other was for a limited treaty, banning tests in the atmosphere, in outer space, and underwater. Although Kennedy and Macmillan both expressed a strong preference for the comprehensive treaty, the limited one was included in case Khrushchev persisted in his opposition to inspections.

Verification of the limited treaty was to be accomplished solely by national technical means. The comprehensive treaty was also to be policed by seismic stations and on-site inspections on the soil of the nuclear powers. While the number of stations and inspections was not specified, the United States made it clear that new data from its seismic research program would allow in both cases for a lesser number than had previously been proposed. There was no negotiation over these numbers, however, since the Soviet Union promptly rejected both treaties--the comprehensive one because of its inspection requirements and the limited one because it permitted underground testing to continue.

In October 1962 the world was shaken by the Cuban missile crisis. A paradoxical effect of this brush with catastrophe was that it seemed to draw Kennedy and Khrushchev closer together. Their correspondence quickened, each expressing a desire to make progress in arms control. The world community also stepped up its pressure. In November two resolutions favoring a test ban were adopted by the U.N. General Assembly, and the neutral eight came forward with a new proposal at the ENDC. While the Soviet Union still resisted on-site inspections, it was willing now to have international personnel set up black boxes on its territory and make readings.

Progress was set back for a while by a misunderstanding over the number of on-site inspections. On 19 December, Khrushchev, in a long letter to Kennedy, wrote that he had persuaded his Council of Ministers, as a political concession to the U.S. Senate, to accept two or three on-site inspections per year, having been informed that Ambassador Dean had told Deputy Foreign Minister V. V. Kuznetsov that this number would satisfy the United States. Kennedy wrote back that there had been a misunderstanding, that what Dean had mentioned was a minimum of eight, not three. Khrushchev later told Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins that while he accepted the explanation that there had been an honest misunderstanding, this incident had made him look foolish among his colleagues, and he would not allow that to happen again.

Further correspondence between the two leaders led to a brief negotiation in New York in January 1963 in a vain effort to resolve the differences about on-site inspections. In these talks the Soviets refused to budge on the number of inspections and refused to discuss at all the procedures the West proposed for conducting them. These proposed procedures were very rigorous and intrusive, involving, for example, helicopter flights covering up to five hundred square kilometers (two hundred square miles) in each inspection. Thus, even had agreement been reached on the number of inspections, there probably still would have been disagreement about the procedures.

Despite all discouragements, Kennedy persisted. In February 1963 he proposed a radical new approach toward a comprehensive treaty. The whole concept of an international control organization and of an elaborate international seismic detection system would be eliminated Verification would be by each side's national systems, supplemented by seven black boxes on the soil of each nuclear power and up to seven inspections per year of events that, on the basis of seismic data, could not be identified as earthquakes. He further authorized U.S. negotiators to accept an on-site inspection quota of six, having by now lowered the number successively from twenty, to twelve, to ten, to eight, to seven, and now to six. The Soviets remained unyielding, however, threatening at times even to withdraw their offer of three.

In April 1963, following a suggestion by Macmillan, Kennedy and the prime minister proposed to Khrushchev that they each send senior representatives to Moscow to talk directly and privately with him, bypassing the deadlocked public negotiations in Geneva. Khrushchev assented, though in a surly tone that offered little encouragement. (His tough public stance may well have been due to his insecurity as head of government following the setback over Cuba.) To improve the atmosphere, Kennedy directed that three scheduled tests in Nevada be postponed indefinitely. He then delivered a masterfully wrought, conciliatory speech at American University in Washington, D.C., on 10 June 1963. In it, he paid tribute to the achievements and wartime sacrifices of the Soviet people, portrayed with chilling realism the dangers of a hot war and the costs of the Cold War, and discussed the mutual interest of the two superpowers and their allies "in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race." Kennedy concluded by announcing the forthcoming negotiations in Moscow and by declaring that the United States would not test further in the atmosphere as long as other nations did not do so. The speech had an electric effect on the Soviet leadership. It was printed and broadcast in the Soviet media. Jamming of Western broadcasts, which had been going on for fifteen years, ceased overnight. Another straw in the wind, a sign that reasonable accommodation of differences was possible, was the signing on 20 June 1963 of a long-pending agreement to establish a private teletype link, the "hot line," between Washington and Moscow, for activation in critical situations.

When the Moscow negotiations began on 15 July 1963, Undersecretary of State W. Averell Harriman, heading the small American negotiating team, was instructed to seek first a comprehensive test ban treaty. By this time, however, it was all but certain that such a treaty was beyond reach. In addition to several indications Kennedy had received that the comprehensive treaty then being proposed by the West probably would not clear the U.S. Senate, there had been a speech by Khrushchev on 2 July repeating Soviet objections to its requirement of on-site inspections. The Soviet Union, Khrushchev said, would never "open its doors to NATO spies." He made clear, however, that he was quite willing to conclude a limited treaty. Accordingly, after ten days of often intense negotiations, closely monitored and supervised by President Kennedy, the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, Outer Space, and Under Water (the Limited Test Ban Treaty, or LTBT) was initialed in Moscow by the principal negotiators on 25 July 1963.

While this result was achieved in a good atmosphere and with relative speed, several contentious issues had to be resolved during the negotiations. One was an attempt by Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, chief Soviet negotiator, to link the treaty with a NATO-Warsaw Pact nonaggression agreement. Harriman indicated he had no authority to negotiate such a pact on behalf of the NATO allies. Another problem was the Soviet objection to a U.S. proposal that nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes (excavating canals, etc.) be exempted from the treaty's prohibitions. Harriman was instructed to give up on this exemption in exchange for a clause permitting withdrawal from the treaty if events occurred threatening any party's "supreme interests." (It was felt that some senators might want such a withdrawal clause in view of the uncertainties introduced by China's imminent entry into the nuclear club.) Finally, there was an informal agreement that accession to the treaty did not automatically entitle a country to diplomatic recognition by other parties that had previously not recognized it.

In a television speech to the nation, President Kennedy hailed the initialed treaty, not so much for its direct contributions, which he acknowledged to be modest, but as "a first step" along the path to peace. In order to achieve a maximum impact for the treaty, he then sought Senate assent, not by a bare two-thirds majority, but by an overwhelming margin. Kennedy had previously sought to conciliate the Senate by consulting its leaders frequently about U.S. test ban policy. He now also sought to enhance the Senate's dignity and prestige by sending six senators to the signing ceremonies in Moscow on 5 August 1963, having declined Khrushchev's invitation to sign the treaty personally at a summit meeting.

Kennedy recognized that he could not win the overwhelming Senate margin he sought without the assent of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had expressed reservations about even a limited test ban on the eve of Harriman's departure for Moscow. Kennedy therefore agreed to four national-security safeguards that the Joint Chiefs put forward as the price for their concurrence: continued vigorous underground testing; continued readiness to resume atmospheric testing; high-level maintenance of the weapons laboratories; and improved capability to detect Soviet treaty violations.

At Senate hearings, the treaty was opposed by weapons laboratory scientists. Edward Teller, for example, voiced concern that the Soviets had gained important military advantages in their 1961-1962 high-altitude high-yield weapons tests, such as in the knowledge of weapons effects and in the ability to develop an effective ballistic missile defense. The existence of such Soviet advantages was disputed by other experts. Treaty proponents pointed to its likely effects in restraining nuclear-weapons proliferation and the hope that it would lead to a further decrease in international tensions. Polls indicated that the American public generally favored the treaty, most of all for its effect in reducing radioactive fallout from atmospheric tests.

At the conclusion of eleven days of hearings, during which it received testimony or statements from forty-four individuals or organizations, the Foreign Relations Committee recommended the treaty to the Senate by a sixteen-to-one margin. The Senate Armed Services Committee's Preparedness Subcommittee, on the other hand, which held hearings confined to the treaty's military aspects, reported on it adversely. The key moments in the floor debate occurred when Everett Dirksen of Illinois, the Republican leader, and Henry Jackson, Democrat of Washington, the senator thought to be most influential on nuclear-weapons matters, both contradicted earlier indications and announced support for the treaty.

The Senate gave its consent to ratification on 24 September 1963 by a vote of eighty to nineteen. President Kennedy signed the documents of ratification for the United States on 7 October, and three days later, following similar actions in London and Moscow, the Limited Test Ban Treaty (also widely referred to as the Partial Test Ban Treaty) went into effect.

By 1992, more than 125 nations had become parties to the treaty. While the identity of nations that had not become parties, including the People's Republic of China, Cuba, France, North Korea, and Vietnam, remained of continuing concern, the two nuclear powers among the nonsignatories, France and China, had conducted no tests in the prohibited environments since 1980.

"No other accomplishment in the White House," wrote presidential assistant Theodore Sorensen, "ever gave Kennedy greater satisfaction" (Kennedy, New York, 1965, p. 740). Notwithstanding, it is fair to say that the treaty did not achieve its intended effect of slowing down the arms race. Ironically, by reducing the concern about radioactive fallout, it tended to eliminate nuclear testing as a public issue and thus made the continuation of uninhibited weapons development politically respectable. Thus, in the years after the treaty went into effect, the pace of nuclear testing, albeit underground, actually quickened.

LBJ: The Test Ban and Non-Proliferation

After the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) went into effect, international pressure for a comprehensive test ban (CTB) continued. On 27 November 1963, five days after the assassination of President Kennedy, the U.N General Assembly urged in a near-unanimous vote that negotiations for a CTB proceed at the ENDC "with a sense of urgency." While both superpowers voted for this resolution, each made it clear that they were still far apart on the matter of inspections. In fact, the Soviets took the occasion to withdraw their previous offer of three inspections per year.

Within the U.S. government, the mood turned against further limitations on testing. Although a CTB remained part of his stated agenda, President Lyndon Johnson seemed less intent on such a goal than Kennedy had been, preferring to expend his administration's arms control energies on the problem of nuclear-weapons proliferation and on beginning the SALT process. In Congress there was strong emphasis on the implementation of the safeguards Kennedy had negotiated with the Joint Chiefs, particularly of a vigorous underground testing program. U.S. underground testing continued at a high level throughout the Johnson years; in the five years 1964-1968, there were 140 announced U.S. tests, as against 25 by the Soviet Union.

On 30 July 1964, President Johnson issued a statement commemorating the first anniversary of the LTBT. After a passing mention that a year without atmospheric testing had left the air cleaner, the statement placed greatest emphasis on the fact that because of the safeguards the treaty had not impaired the nation's military strength. On 16 October 1964, the People's Republic of China conducted its first nuclear test, underscoring the dangers of further proliferation. During the same week, Nikita Khrushchev was removed from office, and there was a change of government in the United Kingdom. These three events, coming in such close succession, contributed to a general atmosphere of uncertainty about the international situation that added to the administration's wariness on the test ban issue.

Beginning in 1965, consideration of a CTB came more and more to be linked to the ongoing negotiations on a non-proliferation treaty (NPT). Non-nuclear-weapon states were in growing rebellion against what they considered the discriminatory aspects of an NPT; they were being asked to forgo nuclear weapons while the nuclear states continued to enhance their arsenals both quantitatively and qualitatively. In debates at the ENDC it became evident that a CTB was the one measure that the non-nuclears seemed most willing to accept as a quid pro quo for their sacrifice. Indeed, Sweden contended that a CTB would be a more effective non-proliferation measure than the NPT itself, arguing that only by forgoing their own nuclear arms race could the nuclear haves induce the have-nots to accept inferior status. In December 1965 the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution urging all nations to suspend tests and requesting the ENDC to continue working for a CTB.

Notwithstanding these pressures, it was decided in discussions within the government not to moderate the U.S. insistence on inspections in a CTB, knowing full well that this stand was increasingly difficult to defend on technical grounds and that it put a treaty out of reach because of the Soviet resistance to inspections. This strategy was based on a judgment by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, not counter-balanced by a strong voice from any other quarter, that continued testing was necessary for the maintenance and further development of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

The U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) attempted early in 1966 to soften domestic opposition to further test restrictions, recommending that favorable consideration be given to a proposal made by the United Arab Republic at the ENDC. This proposal called for a ban on all tests except those underground with a seismic magnitude below 4.75, the threshold of explosions thought to be detectable by remote seismic means. The ACDA suggestion was rejected within the Johnson administration, largely because it conflicted with the growing movement for development of a U.S. ABM system. An ABM warhead would be a high-yield device, requiring tests well above the 4.75 seismic magnitude threshold.

When the ENDC reconvened in January 1966, Sweden's Alva Myrdal came forward with a novel proposal designed to break the superpower deadlock over inspections in a CTB: if there was a suspected violation and if the country on whose territory the event occurred did not provide a satisfactory explanation, the other side could issue a "challenge for inspection." If the nation under suspicion would not then invite inspection, this could serve as grounds for abrogation of the treaty by the complaining party. In Myrdal's view, such a threat of withdrawal would be a decisive enforcement tool. Both superpowers rejected this proposal, the United States on the grounds that it was not politically sound, the Soviet Union on the grounds that it "pushed inspections." Although the idea of challenge inspections was dismissed on this occasion, more was to be heard of it in later years.

In 1967 two events abroad stiffened U.S. opposition to further test restrictions. One was the discovery of a Soviet ABM deployment around Moscow. This contributed to formulation of a U.S. national objective to develop a "complete new generation of weapons for the strategic offensive forces," with accompanying tests. There was also a felt need in the U.S. military to assess through tests the vulnerability of the Soviet ABMS to the effects of nuclear weapons. The second event was the first Chinese test of a thermonuclear weapon; this occurred on 17 June 1967.

In 1968 the relationship between further test restrictions and non-proliferation became more explicit. At the insistence of non-nuclear nations, the superpowers felt obliged to add to their joint draft of the NPT an Article VI pledging that they would "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date." What most non-nuclear states have regarded as the touchstone for assessing compliance with Article VI was the existence of serious negotiations on a CTB. While the superpowers succeeded in resisting any mention of such a specific undertaking in the body of the NPT, they felt constrained to add to the preamble this paragraph: "Recalling the determination expressed by the Parties to the 1963 [Limited Test Ban] Treaty ... in its Preamble to seek to achieve the discontinuance of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time and to continue negotiations to this end."

A further concession to the non-nuclear states was a provision in the NPT that a review conference be held five years after the treaty's entry into force "with a view to assuring that the purposes of the Preamble and the provisions of the Treaty are being realized." The inclusion in this context of the preamble, with its prominent mention of a CTB, was not the superpowers' preference; it was added to the U.S.-Soviet draft treaty at the insistence of the non-nuclear states. Having made this concession, the superpowers intended to provide for only a single review conference. The non-nuclear states insisted, however, that a provision be added calling for further review conferences at additional five-year intervals if so desired by a majority of parties to the treaty, and in fact, such conferences were held in 1975, 1980, 1985, and 1990.

A more critical test lay ahead. Treaty drafts by both superpowers had contemplated an NPT "of unlimited duration." But the non-nuclear nations demurred and forced adoption of a provision requiring that a conference be held twenty-five years after the treaty's entry into force (namely, in 1995) when, by majority vote, parties to the treaty must decide whether it "shall continue in force indefinitely, or shall be extended for an additional fixed period or periods." Some parties felt that if by 1995 there has been no significant progress toward a CTB, a majority of those attending the conference might be unwilling to vote for a long-term extension of the NPT.

Nixon and Ford: The Threshold and Pne Treaties

In August 1969 the ENDC was expanded from eighteen to twenty-six members and became known thereafter as the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (CD). (It was later further enlarged to forty members.) Although a CTB was considered the most urgent item on the arms control agenda by a majority of the members of the CD, it was put aside during the early Nixon years so as not to interfere with United States-Soviet negotiations on strategic arms.

The test ban issue reemerged in 1974. Early in the year, the Soviets proposed a CTB, but only on condition that both France and China join and that verification measures be limited to national technical means. These conditions were unacceptable to the United States. In March, during pre-summit consultations conducted in Moscow by National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev reportedly proposed a threshold test ban. A team of U.S. experts was then sent to Moscow for technical talks.

At the Nixon-Brezhnev summit meeting in July 1974, the Soviets again proposed a multilateral CTB. Nixon rejected this, arguing that such a treaty would not be acceptable to the Senate. The two leaders then rapidly agreed on the bilateral Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT). Under this treaty both nations undertook not to conduct any underground test yielding more than 150 kilotons; to keep the number of underground tests to a minimum; not to interfere with each other's means of verification; and, after the treaty was ratified, to facilitate verification by exchanging detailed data on all tests and test sites. The parties also repeated what had become a customary pledge: they would continue negotiations toward a CTB. To cover the contingency that tests designed for a yield near the 150 kiloton threshold might accidentally exceed it, there was a separate agreement that "one or two slight unintended breaches per year would not be considered a violation of the treaty."

Signing of the TTBT was one of Nixon's last official acts as president: he resigned a few weeks later. It has been thought that one of his motives in negotiating the treaty was to try to maintain the momentum of the détente process, which had begun to flag. Another motive may have been to divert attention from the mounting Watergate scandal.

Although signed on 3 July 1974, the TTBT specified an effective date of 31 March 1976. The delay was, in part, a concession to the military leaders on both sides; the U.S. military, for example, wanted to complete some high-yield tests of an ABM warhead. The delay was occasioned also by a need to deal with the problem of peaceful nuclear explosions (PNES), which were exempted from the prohibitions of the TTBT. Beginning in October 1974, negotiators tried for more than a year to reach an agreement whereby PNES of more than 150 kilotons, such as were needed for some ambitious Soviet earth-moving projects, might be permitted. They concluded that it would be too difficult to assure that no military benefits would flow from such explosions. Accordingly, it was decided that a separate treaty was needed to control PNES.

The Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty (PNET) was signed by Brezhnev and President Gerald Ford in May 1976. Among other provisions, it prohibited any individual PNE that exceeded the 150 kiloton limit. The verification procedures for the PNET provided for on-site inspections under certain circumstances, the first signed treaty to do so.

President Ford delayed submitting the TTBT and the PNET to the Senate, reportedly because of a nomination challenge from California governor Ronald Reagan, who was generally critical of arms control agreements with the Soviet Union. When the treaties were finally sent to the Senate, in July 1976, the TTBT at once encountered severe criticism in hearings before the Foreign Relations Committee from those who felt that the 150 kiloton threshold, more than ten times the yield of the Hiroshima bomb, had been an unnecessary concession to weapons designers. It was noted that the previous U.S. position had been to advocate banning all tests that could be adequately verified and that recent improvement in seismic techniques had made it possible to verify by national technical means tests as small as 10 kilotons. Arms control advocates further pointed out that allowing tests as large as 150 kilotons would serve only to delay a CTB and thus contravened the obligation undertaken in Article VI of the NPT. Indeed, the first NPT review conference, in 1975, focused major attention on the lack of progress toward a CTB. In view of such criticism, the Foreign Relations Committee delayed action on the TTBT, and President Ford did not push the issue.

Ford also declined to push the promised negotiations for a CTB. The main subject of his contacts with the Soviet leadership, including a summit meeting with Brezhnev in 1974, was the limitation of strategic arms. He commented later, "You can only handle so many things on your plate at one time, and a test ban was not our highest arms control priority."

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union seemed to be adopting a more forthcoming approach to verification. In 1975 it had presented to the U.N. General Assembly a draft CTB treaty that provided for verification only by national technical means. The following year, the Soviets amended the proposal to allow for a system of voluntary challenge inspections, following the suggestion made by Sweden ten years earlier.

Carter Tries for a Comprehensive Test Ban

With the presidency of Jimmy Carter, the focus shifted from the unratified Threshold Test Ban Treaty back to a comprehensive test ban (CTB). In his inaugural address Carter called for an end to nuclear weapons. In his first press conference he stated his desire "to proceed quickly and aggressively with a comprehensive test ban." He repeated this theme in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on 17 March 1977. Carter also mentioned the objective of a CTB in his early correspondence with Brezhnev, who responded positively.

When Secretary of State Cyrus Vance made his ill-fated "deep-cuts" strategic-arms reduction proposal in Moscow in late March 1977, he also proposed that the two sides open CTB discussions. This drew an affirmative response. Brezhnev hinted at the direction the discussions might take when he indicated that the Soviet Union was ready to accept "voluntary" on-site inspections in cases of doubt.

A preliminary United States-Soviet meeting on the possibility of a CTB was held in Washington in June 1977. A new round of formal tripartite (U.S., U.K., USSR) negotiations began in Geneva in October. Good progress was made in the first eighteen months, largely because of a series of Soviet concessions. It was agreed that the treaty would ban all weapons tests and that it would run for a finite period, after which there would be negotiations to determine whether it should be continued. The treaty was to be accompanied by a moratorium on PNES until ways could be found to prevent them from adding to weapons knowledge. (This was a Soviet concession in that whereas the United States had abandoned PNES, the Soviets still had a substantial program.) Also, the Soviets no longer required the participation of France and China. Verification was to be primarily by national technical means, supplemented by automatic, tamper-proof seismic monitoring stations (black boxes) on the territory of each nuclear party. In addition, there would be a system of challenge on-site inspections designed to ensure that any claim of a possible violation meriting an inspection would be based on serious information and that any rejection of such a claim would be similarly based, with recourse to the U.N. Security Council in cases of dispute. The United States accepted this proposal in place of its own request for a quota of mandatory inspections, in the belief that no nation would ever permit an inspection, whether termed voluntary or mandatory, in the case of an actual violation. Moreover, technical testimony had been introduced that cast doubt on the utility of on-site inspections to reveal a violation.

In spite of the large measure of agreement, certain differences remained. There was a question whether or not black boxes to be placed on the soil of any party were to be manufactured by the host country or, as the United States preferred, by the other nuclear side. The Soviets resisted the U.S. suggestion that data from black boxes should be transmitted the quickest way possible (i.e., by satellite), because they wanted a chance to examine the data before transmitting it. There was not yet an agreement on the number and location of the monitoring stations. Surprisingly, one of the most intractable issues concerned the number and location of stations on British territory. The Soviets contended that there should be ten, the same number as had been agreed on for U.S. and Soviet territories. The British were willing to accept only one. There were also a number of issues regarding the specifics of on-site inspections. These included how soon the inspection could take place, what information could be offered to justify an inspection, and what instruments inspectors might bring with them. Finally, there was no agreement on what constituted a "nuclear-weapons test explosion" (i.e., whether very-low-yield laboratory experiments were to be included).

As of spring 1978, there was a general impression, not shared by all observers, that these differences could be overcome relatively quickly if the political will to do so remained strong in all three capitals. A gradual erosion of will now ensued, however, particularly in the United States. The erosion began when President Carter became aware of the strength of opposition to a test ban. The opposition centered in the weapons laboratories, in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and in Secretary of Energy James Schlesinger. Their stated objection to a CTB emphasized a need to conduct periodic tests in order to assure the reliability of the nuclear-weapons stockpile. During the summer of 1978, Schlesinger brought the directors of the two leading weapons laboratories, Roger Batzel of Livermore and Harold Agnew of Los Alamos, to the White House in order to make this argument directly to the president. Agnew later claimed that their representations "turned Carter around" as to the wisdom of a CTBT. Herbert F. York, who replaced ACDA director Paul Warnke as chief U.S. negotiator in January 1979, believes their chief impact was to persuade Carter that, to placate the opposition, he needed to offer certain compromises. For example, whereas his original proposal had been for a treaty of unlimited duration, with periodic reviews, he decided in September 1978 that it should lapse and be entirely renegotiated after only three years.

Shortly afterward, the president became aware that it was going to be more difficult than previously supposed to achieve his goals in SALT II, which had a higher priority for him than a CTB. As the SALT II negotiations dragged on, lagging some six months behind schedule and not reaching fruition in the form of a signed treaty until June 1979, the CTB negotiations were deemphasized for an extended period.

The political will to reach a CTB agreement was weakened further by a series of external events. One was the publicity given in August 1979 to the presence of a brigade of Soviet troops in Cuba. Another was the taking of hostages at the American embassy in Tehran in November 1979. Still another was the accession to power in Britain of Margaret Thatcher, who took a dim view of the whole CTB idea. The most damaging of all occurred in December 1979 when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Although the test ban negotiations continued, there was little forward movement after that date.

On 31 July 1980 the three negotiating powers submitted a progress report to the U.N. Committee on Disarmament. This report provided the general public with its first indication of how close the negotiators had come to agreement. Whether what they had accomplished would be built on further, however, depended on the results of the American election. When Ronald Reagan defeated Carter on 4 November 1980, it was clear, based on Reagan's stated positions, that the negotiations had reached at least a temporary ending. They were suspended a week after the election.

Reagan, Gorbachev, and Verification

In its early days the Reagan administration took no initiative, and was generally silent, on arms control, preferring to concentrate on increasing and modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal. This was in keeping with President Reagan's claim that the Soviet Union had gained "a definite margin of superiority" during the 1970s. Silence was not possible on the testing issue, however, after the Soviet Union presented to the U.N. General Assembly in September 1981 a CTB proposal that was essentially an outline of the treaty that had been under negotiation during the Carter administration. ACDA director Eugene Rostow answered with a variant of what was to become the standard Reagan administration line: the United States government supported a CTB "as a long-term goal," but "international conditions ... are not now propitious." In May 1982, Rostow admitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that in discussing this issue within the government, he had "run into a profound stone wall" in the form of "whole phalanxes and battalions" of officials who believed that "given the uncertainties of the nuclear situation and the need for new weapons and modernization, we are going to need testing, and perhaps even testing above the 150-kiloton level, for a long time to come."

At a meeting of the National Security Council in July 1982, President Reagan decided formally to end U.S. participation in the CTB talks that had been suspended in November 1980. Claiming that the Soviet Union might be testing over the TTBT's 150-kiloton threshold, the administration stated that renegotiation of the verification provisions of the TTBT and PNET would have to precede any agreement on a CTB. (Although the two treaties had not been ratified, both sides had indicated that they would comply with them after the announced effective date of 31 March 1976.) While its public statements emphasized verification problems, the Reagan administration's internal guidance also stressed the need for continued testing to solve important problems in the modernization of U.S. nuclear weapons. Within a year, the administration was publicly acknowledging this rationale for continued testing.

Reagan's action in suspending the CTB talks could not have been a surprise; yet it caused a storm of protest. Resolutions were introduced promptly in both houses of Congress calling on the administration to resume the negotiations. The Senate resolution was sponsored by thirty-one members. A further source of criticism was the linkage the administration sought to establish between difficulties in verifying the TTBT and the likelihood of similar or greater difficulties in verifying a CTB. It was pointed out that it is much easier to determine whether a test has occurred at all than whether it has exceeded a specific magnitude.

The Reagan position on testing also fared poorly in the international arena. In December 1982 the United States was the only country to vote against a U.N. General Assembly resolution calling on the Committee on Disarmament to continue consideration of CTB issues and "to take necessary steps to initiate substantive negotiations." The Soviet Union, on the other hand, was winning international favor by introducing a succession of far-reaching test ban proposals. Late in 1982 the Soviets presented a draft test ban treaty to the U.N. that would have permitted on-site inspections and exchange of seismic data. In March 1983, Premier Yuri Andropov, and a year later his successor, Konstantin Chernenko, proposed a general nuclear freeze that included a moratorium on tests of both warheads and delivery vehicles.

The movement for a bilateral freeze was achieving considerable strength in the United States as well, largely as a reaction against Reagan's harsh rhetoric about the Soviet Union ("an evil empire") and his buildup of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, both of which aroused public anxieties. In both 1983 and 1984, resolutions calling for a bilateral freeze passed the House by large majorities, only to be voted down in the Senate. For its part, the Senate, in June 1985, adopted an amendment to the defense authorization bill urging the president to submit the TTBT and PNET for ratification and to begin negotiations for a CTB.

Notwithstanding all the pressures upon it, the Reagan administration stubbornly maintained its emphasis on verifying the TTBT and PNET, refusing to be drawn into serious discussions of more stringent test limits. In February 1983, President Reagan had proposed to the Soviets that new verification protocols be added to the two treaties. Reagan had instituted a regular series of reports to Congress on "Soviet Non-Compliance with Arms Control Agreements" and in both the January 1984 and October 1984 reports he declared that the Soviet Union was "likely to have violated" the yield limit of the TTBT. This charge was denied by the Soviets and publicly questioned by a number of U.S. scientists. Even the directors of the nation's two principal weapons laboratories acknowledged there was no clear evidence of a Soviet violation. It was pointed out that because of differences in underlying geology, tests at the Soviet site produced a larger seismic signal than tests of the same size in Nevada. In January 1986 the CIA took note of this difference when it lowered by about 20 percent the multipliers used in measuring the yield of Soviet tests, all but negating the claims of Soviet violations.

Reagan proposed in a U.N. speech in September 1984 that the United States and the Soviet Union exchange visits of experts to each other's test sites as a way to resolve questions about the calibration of instruments for measuring the yield of underground tests. He expanded this offer with an invitation for Soviet experts to come to Nevada to measure the yield of a U.S. test.

After his accession to power in March 1985, Premier Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union threw his weight behind the movement for a CTB. He began by initiating a unilateral Soviet moratorium on tests to extend from 6 August 1985, the fortieth anniversary of the attack on Hiroshima, until the end of the year. He urged that the United States join in and that the moratorium be made permanent. The U.S. response was to dismiss Gorbachev's move as "a propaganda ploy" and to repeat the invitation for the Soviets to monitor a U.S. test. In November 1985, at the conclusion of his first summit meeting with President Reagan, Gorbachev declared that if a complete test ban could be negotiated, "there will be no problems from our side regarding verification." The following month, in a letter to Reagan, Gorbachev committed the Soviet Union to accept on-site inspections as part of any CTB. Reagan answered Gorbachev's letter by interposing a set of conditions that made a CTB seem a remote, almost unattainable goal: "A comprehensive test ban," the president wrote, "is a long-standing objective of the United States, in the context of achieving broad, deep, and verifiable arms reductions; substantially improved verification capabilities; expanded confidence-building measures; greater balance in conventional forces; and at a time when a nuclear deterrent is no longer ... essential."

Congressional pressures for further test limitations continued into 1986. After both chambers had passed resolutions urging President Reagan to negotiate a CTB, the House supplemented exhortation with budgetary action. In August it passed an amendment to a defense authorization bill denying funds for tests of more than a kiloton for one year if the Soviet Union agreed to the same limit and to in-country seismic monitoring acceptable to the United States. The House rescinded this action after the administration complained that it might weaken the president's position at the upcoming Reykjavík summit. In exchange, Reagan pledged that he would submit the TTBT and PNET to the Senate after agreeable verification measures had been established and that he would then propose a step-by-step program limiting and ultimately ending nuclear testing. The House repeated its restrictive budgetary action in both 1987 and 1988. In both years similar action failed in the Senate and the House's restrictions were defeated in conference.

In March 1987 the United States again proposed to the Soviets that new verification measures be adopted as a prelude to the ratification of the TTBT and PNET, and invited Soviet scientists to observe a U.S. test scheduled for April. The Soviets rejected the invitation. In May, however, the Soviets came forward with an initiative of their own. By way of backing up previous promises to allow international inspectors into the Soviet Union, an agreement was announced between the USSR Academy of Sciences and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a private U.S. environmental group, whereby the latter was allowed temporarily to establish three monitoring stations near the Soviet testing station at Semipalatinsk. This arrangement was followed in April 1988 by establishment of a United States--Soviet seismic program under which a number of stations in each country would continue to send seismic data to the other country.

Meanwhile, Gorbachev extended the Soviet unilateral testing moratorium three times after its initial expiration at the end of 1985: first to 31 March 1986; then, in a speech after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, to 6 August 1986; then to the end of that year. In announcing the last extension, the Soviet leader stated that because the United States had conducted eighteen tests during the moratorium's first year, his military was becoming concerned about falling behind. On 18 December 1986 the Soviet Union announced that its moratorium would end with the next U.S. test. In February 1987, following a U.S. test earlier in the month, the Soviet Union conducted its first test in nineteen months.

As the Reagan administration neared its end, Gorbachev began to deemphasize his push for a CTB and to make serious efforts to resolve the Reagan administration's expressed concerns about verifying the TTBT and PNET. The Soviets doubted these concerns were genuine; early on, they had characterized them as a "sham." Indeed, administration officials, in more than one unguarded moment, acknowledged that their emphasis on verifying the TTBT had as one of its goals to stave off demands for a CTB. But Gorbachev may well have concluded that he needed to accommodate Reagan on this point in the interest of achieving other objectives, such as an agreement on strategic arms.

The process of accommodation began at the October 1986 Reykjavík summit, where the Soviets reportedly agreed to the U.S. plan to negotiate gradual reductions in the yield of permitted tests rather than seek an immediate CTB. The Soviets insisted, however, that the ultimate goal of such negotiations be characterized as an effort to achieve a CTB. Next, in April 1987, Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze proposed to Secretary of State George Shultz that each nation conduct a test on the other's territory to improve verification techniques. Then, in June 1987, at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, the Soviets announced readiness to open their test sites to mandatory inspection.

In September 1987 the superpowers agreed to initiate formal "stage-by-stage" test limitation negotiations by drafting new verification protocols for the TTBT and PNET. In keeping with the agreement at Reykjavík, it was announced that this first stage was to be followed by "intermediate" test ban negotiations and then by moves toward the ultimate goal of a CTB. Negotiations did not proceed beyond the first phase.

Bilateral technical talks on the verification protocols began in Geneva in November 1987. The results became evident at the Washington summit meeting in December when the two sides announced agreement on a joint verification experiment (JVE) in which each was to measure the yield of a test at the other's principal test site, the purpose being to calibrate instruments and to evaluate the accuracy of alternative verification systems. The JVE was carried out during the late summer of 1988.

Bush: Continued Resistance to a CTB

In January 1990, President George Bush approved a policy statement indicating that his administration had "not identified any further limitations on nuclear testing ... that would be in the United States' national security interest," that no new test negotiations would be undertaken until after a "period of implementation" of the TTBT and PNET verification protocols then being negotiated, and that the administration viewed a comprehensive test ban as a "long-term objective" possible only "when we do not need to depend on nuclear deterrence."

At their summit meeting in June 1990 in Washington, Bush and Gorbachev signed the new TTBT-PNET verification protocols. This cleared the way for ratification of the two treaties, which entered into force in December 1990 after unanimous approving votes in the U.S. Senate and the Supreme Soviet. Both bodies accompanied their actions with declarations. The Senate's statement called attention to previous U.S. treaty commitments to pursue a CTB. The Supreme Soviet declared the Soviet Union's willingness to resume talks on a CTB immediately and to place an indefinite moratorium on further testing, provided the United States did the same.

The protocol to the TTBT is 107 pages long. It provides for advance notification and on-site inspection of tests above thirty-five kilotons. In addition, for tests above fifty kilotons, the verifying side is permitted to monitor the tests at seismic stations on the testing country's territory and, if it chooses, to do so utilizing a new "hydrodynamic" yield-measurement technique that the United States considered superior to seismic measurement. It involves inserting a coaxial cable into a hole alongside the buried explosive and estimating the yield by measuring the rate at which the shock wave crushes the cable.

The Soviet Union did very little testing in its last years, conducting only seven tests in 1989, one in 1990, and none in 1991. The reduced number was due in part to a February 1989 incident in which radioactive gases vented from a test at the Semipalatinsk site in Kazakhstan, causing local illnesses and leading to popular demonstrations. Following an appeal to the Kremlin by the Kazakh SSR legislature, the Ministry of Defense recommended that all testing be moved to the Arctic islands of Novaya Zemlya. But Boris Yeltsin, the president of the Russian Republic, announced his opposition to testing there, and the Nordic countries, not far to the west, also expressed concern. On 5 October 1991, USSR president Gorbachev announced a one-year testing moratorium. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian president Yeltsin issued a decree supporting the one-year moratorium. He also stated that Novaya Zemlya would not be used for nuclear tests. This left all the republics in the former Soviet Union without an established testing site.

The U.S. testing program remained under pressure from those at home who urged more rapid progress toward a CTB. A month after the administration's negative policy statement of January 1990, seventy-six House members urged Bush to reverse his stand, noting that it was inconsistent with President Reagan's 1986 pledge to negotiate further steps "immediately" after the TTBT and PNET were ratified.

More insistent pressure came from the international community. Each year from 1985 through 1990, for example, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution urging the superpowers to make progress toward a CTB. Then, in May 1989, President François Mitterand announced that France, never before an advocate of test restrictions, was prepared to stop testing if the United States, the United Kingdom, and the USSR did so.

The strongest international intervention was based on a provision of the LTBT which states that a conference to amend the treaty must be convened if requested by one-third or more of the parties. A proposed amendment would then enter into force if approved by a majority of the parties, including all of the "Original Parties" (the United States, the United Kingdom, the USSR). On 5 August 1988 the twenty-fifth anniversary of the signing of the LTBT, 5 non-nuclear signatories of the treaty formally proposed an amendment conference for the specific purpose of converting the LTBT into a CTB. With 40 (the required one-third) of the treaty's 119 parties having requested it, an amendment conference was indeed held in New York in January 1991. No vote was taken at the conference, because the United States and the United Kingdom had signified in advance that they stood ready to exercise their vetos to prevent adoption of an amendment. The conferees merely decided to try to meet again for the same purpose at an unspecified future date. The United States then indicated that it would not participate in or pay anything toward such a venture.

Despite its lack of tangible result, the amendment conference was significant in that it demonstrated again the isolated position of the United States, joined in this instance only by the British, in opposing further test restrictions. There were many criticisms of the U.S. position, both at the conference and in media comments. It was noteworthy that the Soviet Union joined forces with those who wanted to amend the treaty, as did several Western countries that previously had stood aside from this controversy.

Pressures on the administration to call a halt to testing mounted in 1992. France announced on 8 April 1992 that it would suspend nuclear testing for the rest of 1992, stating that it would decide whether to resume in 1993 based on whether "other nuclear powers" followed its example. Under apparent pressure from his military to resume tests, President Yeltsin made clear that whether the Russian moratorium would be renewed after it expired in October 1992 depended on the attitude of the United States. He announced that the test site at Novaya Zemlya was being made ready for "two to four tests" should the moratorium end. To keep his military at bay, Yeltsin reportedly sought some sign at his June 1992 summit meeting with President Bush that the United States would agree to additional limits on testing, but received no such concession.

On 4 June 1992 the House of Representatives approved, 237 to 187, an amendment to the fiscal year 1993 defense authorization bill that would prohibit U.S. testing for one year if Russia did not test. On 3 August 1992 the Senate voted by the surprisingly large margin of 68 to 26 for a nine-month moratorium. The Senate measure allowed for a maximum of five tests in each of the three years after the moratorium's end, but specified that no further U.S. tests could be conducted after 30 September 1996 unless Russia began testing again. Taking note of the pressures on it, the Bush administration in July 1992 reiterated its "strong opposition to a legislatively-enacted nuclear test moratorium." At the same time, the administration announced that it would henceforth test only "for the safety and reliability of our deterrent forces," that it did not anticipate conducting more than six tests in any year, and that no more than three of these would yield more than thirty-five kilotons.

The Test Ban Debate: A Summary

Arguments Against a CTB

As indicated above, the anti-CTB argument most emphasized in the early years of the test ban debate was that such a treaty would not be adequately verifiable, especially if the Soviet Union continued to resist on-site inspections. The argument was reinforced by speculation about various techniques the Soviets might employ to evade detection of tests. The one taken most seriously involved detonating explosions in large cavities so that the shock wave from the explosion would be decoupled from the surrounding rock and register on seismometers as a much smaller explosion. The verification argument received less emphasis as time went on, in view of scientific evidence about the increased capabilities of national technical means of verification and the agreements already reached by both sides to open their territories for verification purposes. The congressional Office of Technology Assessment reported in 1988 a consensus of experts that, with a battery of seismometers inside the Soviet Union, even decoupled tests could be monitored adequately down to a level of about five kilotons. Later estimates lowered this detection threshold to one or two kilotons. Tests below this level would not have military significance.

During the Carter administration, the need for testing to maintain confidence in the reliability of the U.S.-nuclear weapons stockpile became the most emphasized argument against a CTB. Test ban opponents pointed out that, over time, stockpiled weapons are subject to deterioration from corrosion and chemical changes. They cited a number of instances in which nuclear tests had uncovered serious reliability problems in the stockpile and made possible their solution. They noted further that, as weapons have to be replaced, some testing is needed to assure that the replacements are dependable. To counter such claims, test ban proponents have argued that reliability can be assured by a careful program of non-nuclear testing, replacement of suspect warheads, and remanufacture of those proven to be reliable.

Beginning in the 1980s test ban opponents have emphasized the need for tests to assure that nuclear warheads are safe--that is, that in the event of an accident they will not disperse plutonium contamination or even give rise to a very small nuclear yield. A 1990 study undertaken for the House Armed Services Committee indicated that the likelihood of such contingencies was greater than had been estimated previously. A panel of three senior physicists, headed by Sidney Drell, deputy director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, recommended that completely new "safety-optimized designs ... be studied aggressively." Another report prepared for Congress, by Ray Kidder of the Livermore weapons laboratory, commented that the course recommended by the Drell panel "would be a major and protracted undertaking requiring a very large number of tests." Kidder contended that the number of tests needed to improve safety could be minimized by a careful process of retiring some older weapons, substituting safer for less safe designs, and improvement in handling procedures. He testified in July 1992 that by means of some substitutions employing the most modern warheads, the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons not already scheduled for retirement could be brought up to modern standards of safety by as few as four nuclear tests over a period of no more than three years.

A companion concern to that about safety was whether nuclear weapons were secure--that is, protected from access by unauthorized persons. Substantial achievements have been made in this field by employing various controls such as permissive action links, locking devices that prevent missiles from being armed without explicit approval from high levels. It was confidently asserted that what remained to be done in the area of weapons security could be accomplished without nuclear testing.

CTB opponents also contended that tests were needed to understand the electromagnetic and other effects of nuclear explosions on critical U.S. military systems, particularly those involved in the command and control systems for the strategic forces. CTB proponents pointed out, however, that tests useful in this regard would most likely have to be conducted in the atmosphere or in space, prohibited environments under the Limited Test Ban Treaty. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, moreover, there no longer seemed to be any danger of such a concentrated attack on the United States as would threaten vital military systems.

A further argument raised against a CTB was that it would threaten the viability of U.S. weapons laboratories in that, without the opportunity to do experimental work, our scientists might gradually drift away into other employments. By contrast, it was thought that the Soviets could use government authority to retain their key laboratory personnel. The U.S. laboratories themselves seemed to refute this argument. Very likely in anticipation that a CTB might happen some day, they began to diversify their activities by taking on more work dealing with non-nuclear weapons and with high-technology civilian matters. With the breakup of the Soviet Union, it was the former Soviet laboratories that disintegrated, causing some concern that their former employees would sell their services to third world regimes intent on acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.

Within the weapons laboratories and the military, a solid core of resistance to a CTB persisted based on the perceived need to develop and test specially designed warheads to fit new weapon systems. The Reagan administration continually emphasized that testing was needed to "modernize the stockpile." Among the objectives were the development of exotic weapons such as earth-penetrating warheads designed to destroy enemy command centers, and the directed-energy weapons (such as the X-ray laser activated by a thermonuclear explosion) planned for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The demise of the Soviet Union weakened this argument for continued testing. Without the prospect of a deadly exchange with a fully armed superpower, there was clearly less need for new kinds of nuclear weapons. While there was still a felt need for a strategic defense against accidental or random launches from other parts of the world, SDI planning began to emphasize interception with non-nuclear missiles ("brilliant pebbles"). In July 1992 the Energy Department cancelled the last scheduled test of the X-ray laser.

Arguments for a CTB

A main line of argument by CTB supporters has emphasized what such a treaty would contribute in forestalling the development of destabilizing new weapons. Agreeing, for example, with test ban foes that the space-based weapons planned for SDI could not be brought into being without testing, they have cited exactly this fact as a basis for advocating a CTB. This argument had less force after the collapse of the Soviet Union diminished the likelihood that new weapons threatening to the United States would be developed or proposed.

A second principal argument offered on behalf of a CTB is that it would have a major effect in preventing further proliferation of nuclear weapons. Although non-nuclear nations may be able to develop relatively simple weapons without testing, they would find this much more difficult to do with confidence in the case of more complex fission weapons and thermonuclear weapons. During the NPT's first twenty years, failure of the superpowers to make significant progress toward a CTB was regarded as a breach of their commitments under Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. This was a contentious issue at NPT review conferences and was regarded as a threat to the NPT's extension when that question would come up for review in 1995. As the Cold War wound down and compliance with Article VI seemed to be adequately demonstrated by negotiated reductions in specific weapons, it became more likely that the NPT would be extended. The feeling remained, however, that with a CTB there would be a much stronger consensus for a long-term extension.

While a CTB seemed less essential to the NPT's future after the end of the Cold War, it was still advocated as a centerpiece of an intensified effort to strengthen the non-proliferation regime. It was contended that a CTB would be a confidence-building measure that could help to cool regional arms races, such as those between Israel and its Mideast neighbors, India and Pakistan, Brazil and Argentina, and the two Koreas. It was also noted that, if a CTB was reached by an amendment of the LTBT, several near-nuclear nations that had not signed the NPT would be bound not to test because they did sign the LTBT. Conversely, as Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., president of the Arms Control Association, has emphasized (Arms Control Today, November 1990, p. 2), "Continued testing by the nuclear powers underscores their belief in the importance and utility of nuclear weapons," a message that can have only an adverse impact on efforts to control nuclear proliferation.

A further argument offered for a CTB is that it would improve the atmosphere for negotiating other forms of arms control.

Relative Risks

With the end of the Cold War, the final resistance line of test ban opponents was subsumed in a proposition put forward repeatedly by the Reagan and Bush administrations--namely, that as long as the United States depends on nuclear weapons for its security, it must be free to test such weapons. This is a hard argument to refute, since it is so unspecific and seems based on a fear of the unknown.

A possible answer may lie in the concept of relative risks. Without doubt a CTB or a low-threshold test ban involves a degree of risk. What policymakers need to decide, however, is how such risks compare with those that might be incurred in the absence of such an agreement. In the opinion of many, the latter risks, which could include a weakening of the non-proliferation regime, would be many times greater.



Basic contemporaneous documents involved in test-ban proposals and negotiations, such as statements by world leaders and by negotiators at the United Nations and disarmament conferences, are found in Documents on Disarmament, an annual publication issued by the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) since 1960. Admirable historical summations based on official sources are found in two other ACDA publications: Review of International Negotiations on the Cessation of Nuclear Weapons Tests: 1962-1965 (1966) and Negotiations on a Comprehensive Test Ban, 1965-1967 (1968). ACDA Annual Reports also contain some useful summations. Congressional hearings have provided valuable sources on running test ban controversies. The reader can refer with profit to Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, August 1963; and To Promote Negotiations for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on Arms Control, May 1973--important on status of verification capabilities.

Eisenhower Period

The development of arms control policy in the Eisenhower period is thoroughly reviewed in Richard G. Hewlett and Jack M. Holl, Atoms for Peace and War, 1953-1961: Eisenhower and the Atomic Energy Commission (Berkeley, Calif., 1989), chaps. 14, 17, and 20. Robert A. Divine, Blowing on the Wind: The Nuclear Test Ban Debate, 1954-1960 (New York, 1978), provides a thorough discussion of the fallout controversy during the 1950s. Harold Karan Jacobson and Eric Stein, Diplomats, Scientists, and Politicians: The United States and the Nuclear Test Ban Negotiations (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1966), offers a detailed account and balanced perspective on test ban developments during the Eisenhower and Kennedy periods.

The LTBT and the Test Ban Debate

The most complete consideration of events leading to the Limited Test Ban Treaty is found in Glenn T. Seaborg, Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Test Ban (Berkeley, Calif., 1981), which offers an up-close perspective based on the author's diaries while chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. Ronald J. Terchek, The Making of the Test Ban Treaty (The Hague, 1970), considers the ratification of the LTBT from the viewpoint of a political scientist. Arthur H. Dean, Kennedy's chief negotiator in the tripartite negotiations in Geneva, reviews his experiences in Test Ban and Disarmament: The Path of Negotiation (New York, 1966). Glenn T. Seaborg, with Benjamin S. Loeb, Stemming the Tide: Arms Control in the Johnson Years (Lexington, Mass., 1987), again based on Seaborg's diaries, is useful particularly for its account of the negotiation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the linkage between that treaty and the world community's advocacy of a comprehensive test ban. A participant's account of the CTB negotiations under Carter is found in Herbert F. York, Making Weapons, Talking Peace (New York, 1987), pp. 282-323. The dissident attitude of nuclear have-nots toward the superpower arms race, including the test ban issue, is well portrayed in Alva Myrdal, The Game of Disarmament: How the United States and Russia Run the Arms Race (New York, 1976). Betty Lall and Paul D. Brandes, Banning Nuclear Tests (New York, 1988), offers a useful summary.

The arguments on both sides in the test ban debate are reviewed and challenged at length in Steve Fetter, Toward a Comprehensive Test Ban (Cambridge, Mass., 1988). Comprehensive reviews of such arguments are found as well in Committee on International Security and Arms Control, National Academy of Sciences, Nuclear Arms Control: Background and Issues (Washington, D.C., 1985), pp. 187-223; Herbert York and G. Allen Greb, The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Discussion Paper No. 84, California Seminar on Arms Control and Foreign Policy (1979); and Alan Neidle, "Nuclear Test Bans: History and Future Prospects," in Alexander L. George, Philip J. Farley, and Alexander Dallin, U.S.-Soviet Security Cooperation: Achievements, Failures, Lessons (New York, 1988).

Discussions, often quite technical, of individual issues in the test ban debate have appeared through the years. Notable references that influenced the debate on verification were Lynn R. Sykes and Jack F. EVERNDEN, "The Verification of a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban," Scientific American (October 1982): 47-55; W. J. Hanson, "Seismic Verification of a Comprehensive Test Ban," Science, January 1985, pp. 251-257; and U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, Seismic Verification of Nuclear Testing Treaties (1988). An authoritative review of the safety issue appears in "Nuclear Warhead Safety and Nuclear Testing," Science and Global Security (Spring 1991): 1-14.

To follow the evolution of the test ban debate, as well as historical events, the reader is well advised to consult contemporaneous issues of Arms Control Today (ACT) and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Particularly useful is the November 1990 ACT, an entire issue devoted to the comprehensive test ban; it contains articles on both technical and political aspects, as well as a definitive chronology.

Опубликовано 20 сентября 2007 года

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