Accessibility links

Breaking News

U.S.: High-level Task Force On Nuclear Debate Established

The United States last night (Wednesday) announced the establishment of a high-level administration task force to work closely with the U.S. Senate on addressing issues raised during recent debate on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). As RFE/RL's Lisa McAdams reports, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright unveiled the initiative during a speech before the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.

Washington, 11 November 1999 (RFE/RL) -- In the days following the U.S. Senate's recent defeat of the nuclear test ban treaty, the Clinton administration said it would not give up the fight.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright underscored that pledge yesterday (Wednesday), telling members of the diplomatic corps and officers and members of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations that the U.S. would not only keep up the charge, but would now seek to invite ordinary Americans into the debate.

Albright likened the nuclear task force initiative to similar efforts undertaken with NATO enlargement. And she said the challenge now is to overcome the scars left by past partisan arguments and come together around concrete measures to keep Americans secure.

An advance copy of Albright's remarks shed little light on specific details of the task force. But she said the body would be open to a variety of possible approaches for bridging differences in its discussions with the U.S. Senate. She said the approaches could include additional conditions and understandings, as she noted was the case with negotiations on the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Albright said the case for ratifying the CTBT is "strong." As she put it, "It asks nothing of us that we cannot safely do and it requires of others a standard we very much want the world to meet."

Opponents argue the treaty is too risky because some countries might cheat or choose to pursue their own interests regardless of treaty obligations.

Albright said those tempted to cheat would face a higher risk of being caught, and would pay a higher price if and when they are. And even if the worst case unfolds, Albright said the U.S. could always withdraw and would.

Albright added that finding the way forward on CTBT is "necessary, but not sufficient" to crafting a bipartisan strategy for reducing nuclear danger. She said it is equally important for the United States to establish common ground on the question of national missile defense and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM).

At present, she said, there are two "extremes" between the one side demanding the treaty be scrapped, and the other side opposing any adjustments to the treaty at all.

Albright said the United States believes both views are "dangerous." She said the first risks reviving old threats to U.S. security, while she said the second fails to respond to new ones.

Albright reiterated the U.S. view that abandoning the ABM Treaty would generate fears in Moscow that the U.S. also is abandoning the goal of stability. She said sending such a message would squander an opportunity for negotiating further mutual reductions in nuclear arsenals, as well as run the risk of transforming Russia into a most powerfully armed adversary.

To date, Russian leaders have expressed strong opposition to any treaty modifications and accused the U.S. of undermining the entire system of international arms control.

Albright again countered that opposition by saying the changes the United States is contemplating in the ABM Treaty are "limited."

She also reiterated that the U.S. is prepared to cooperate with Russia on missile defense.

In response, Albright added, "Russia must do more than just say "Nyet."

In defending against nuclear dangers, Albright said the U.S. must rely on a combination of force and diplomacy. With regard to the former, she again called on Congress to bring the adequate resources to bear to support America's foreign policy goals, including paying U.S. arrears to the United Nations.

Earlier this year, Congress voted to cut the president's request for international programs by more than $2 billion. The administration won much of that back, but Albright and others argue that more funding must still be made available.