The Blog

Senator Kyl: Kill the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

12:42 PM, Oct 22, 2009 • By JOHN NOONAN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Common sense dictates that if you have a nuclear deterrent, you need to verify that it works. If your enemies suspect that it doesn't (or won't) work, deterrence fails and nuclear war evolves from a distant threat to a frightening possibility. The United States hasn't tested a nuclear device since the end of the Cold War. We haven't designed a new weapon since the introduction of the Peacekeeper missile and it's powerful Mk-21 warheads during the Reagan administration. And our much-touted alternative to actual nuclear tests, the Reliable Replacement Warhead, was recently cut by the Obama administration, which is plunging ahead with its quest to dismantle the U.S. nuclear arsenal without considering how destabilizing swift, unilateral disarmament would be to the global balance of power.

Senator Kyl has been a staunch opponent of President Obama's myopic, ideologically centered nuclear policy from the get-go. In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Kyl offered a pragmatic, reasonable justification for sustaining a safe, reliable, and credible nuclear deterrent. On the issue of restricting nuclear testing with the poorly worded Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (which would have the same chilling effect on U.S. military power as the Kyoto Agreement would have had on our economic power), Kyl nails it:

The CTBT relies on 30 of 51 nations on its executive council -- most of whom are not friendly to the U.S. -- to agree that an illegal test has been conducted, and then to agree to inspect the facilities of the offending country (which can still be declared off-limits by that country). This enforcement mechanism is obviously unworkable.

But there's another defect in the CTBT. There were concerns a decade ago that the U.S. might be unable to safely and reliably maintain its own nuclear deterrent -- and the nuclear umbrella that protects our allies such as Japan, Australia and South Korea -- if it forever surrendered the right to test its weapons. Those concerns over aging and reliability have only grown. Last year, Paul Robinson, chairman emeritus of Sandia National Laboratory, testified before Congress that the reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons still cannot be guaranteed without testing them, despite more than a decade of investments in technological advancements.

Further, we're the only nuclear power that isn't currently upgrading its nuclear arsenal -- and that list includes countries like Russia, China, and North Korea. Our Minuteman III ICBMs were first fielded during the Nixon administration. Our nuclear capable B-52s were designed in the 1950s. And we're equipped with a nuclear inventory that might work should the unthinkable happen.

Remember that we're dealing with a White House that honestly believes unilaterally slashing our nuclear arsenal will somehow "inspire" other nations, particularly Iran and North Korea, to follow suit. It's an administration that believes it would be hypocritical of the United States to advocate nuclear disarmament when we have an inventory of nuclear weapons of our own, as if the United States with its flawless record of nuclear custody and restraint is on the same playing field as Tehran and Pyongyang. That's an executive which clearly does not understand deterrence and does not understand nuclear stabilization.

The Obama administration must decide if it wants to be a nuclear power, or not. If their ideology hasn't completely blinded them to the obvious wisdom in maintaining a safe, credible deterrent, then they need to ensure that it's reliable. That means killing the CTBT, properly funding our strategic forces, and knocking off the lofty lip service to end-of-the-rainbow fantasies like total nuclear disarmament.