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Russia and the future of the CTBT in the Post-Primaries Perspective


Nov 17, 2009
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Russia, Moscow
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Fifteen years have passed since Russia and the United States approved the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), but experts have shown little interest in the anniversary. Banning nuclear explosions is seen by analysts as a set of technical issues, beyond the reach of politics. But the CTBT is a political issue.
The Russian Federation is the only nuclear power that is fully engaged in test ban regime. Britain and France have ratified the CTBT but have not declared a moratorium on nuclear testing. By contrast, the United States and China have declared moratoria on nuclear testing but have not ratified the treaty. India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea – who are operating outside the international non-proliferation regime – have neither declared moratoria on nuclear testing nor signed the CTBT.
Fifteen years after it was adopted, the treaty’s future remains uncertain, as does Russia’s participation in the test ban regime. Russia’s successful test of the Bulava sea-based ballistic missile on October 29 made it clear that Moscow intends to continue modernizing its strategic nuclear forces.

If the Republicans win control of the House of Representatives on November 2, they may solve these problems, as they are likely to postpone ratification of the CTBT once again. But Russia cannot remain the only nuclear power to have both ratified the CTBT and imposed a moratorium on nuclear testing. The United States and China have great latitude with respect to nuclear experiments. Like Britain and France, they have not imposed a moratorium on nuclear tests and, theoretically, are free to carry out a program of subcritical and hydronuclear testing. In fact, Britain could do this under a joint program with Washington.

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