Category Archives: nuclear weapons

Starting a Peace Race with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

Fears of a nuclear-armed Iran may provoke a Middle East arms race, one that would place even more burdens on an impoverished region.

We see a similar scenario in Asia with India and Pakistan, where malnutrition rates are high while spending on nuclear weapons continues. The World Food Programme’s relief operation for flood-ravaged Pakistan has faced severe funding shortages.

At the same time, costly nuclear missile tests by Pakistan and India have gone forward; and in North Korea there have been famine conditions as the country has developed its nukes.

We need to challenge all these countries. But not to an arms race; rather to what President Kennedy called a “peace race.” This is our best hope for unifying the world in eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons and lifting this burden off all peoples.

This unity must first begin at home between Democrats and Republicans. A starting point should be ratifying a pact eliminating all nuclear weapons testing, finally finishing a job started long ago by Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.

Back in 1963 when Kennedy put before the Senate a treaty with the Soviet Union limiting nuclear weapons testing, he gained strong support from the other side of the aisle. Republican Senator Everett Dirksen met with President Kennedy to help him win over key votes for treaty approval.

Former President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican who actually started the road toward the treaty during his administration, lent his support in the form of a letter to the Senate. Eisenhower urged the treaty be passed as “people are frightened… world fears and tensions are intensified. There is placed upon too much of mankind the costly burdens of an all out arms race.”

Expensive and dangerous nuclear weapons: Dwight Eisenhower talking about pursuit of a nuclear test ban treaty in March of 1960 (audio and photo courtesy of the Eisenhower Library)

The Limited Test Ban Treaty won approval from the Senate one year after the Cuban Missile Crisis when the US and Soviets almost went to nuclear war. The 1963 treaty was a first step towards arms control in the fast-escalating nuclear age.

President Kennedy signs the Limited Test Ban Treaty in October, 1963 in the Treaty Room at the White House (courtesy Kennedy Library)

But decades later, what Ike and Kennedy started is not yet finished. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty(CTBT) still needs to be ratified. This treaty goes a step further than the limited one of 1963 and bans all nuclear test explosions, including underground. The United States and seven other nations have yet to approve this treaty for it to take effect. Russia has already ratified it.

The U.S. Senate rejected the treaty in 1999 and the bipartisan cooperation of 1963 was absent, with almost all Republicans voting together against it. Now, in 2012, is the time to reconsider ratification for the sake of America’s national security.

Resuming nuclear weapons testing places additional costs on an arsenal that already costs Americans at least $52 billion a year. Progress toward nuclear disarmament is needed to reduce this burden which drains our treasury. But costs alone are not the only issue.

What would Russia and China’s reaction be should we resume nuclear weapons tests? As the Russian deputy foreign minister said, his country intends to fully comply with its CTBT commitment, “if other nuclear states do likewise.” But if we resume nuclear testing, will Russia follow? What will China do? Would a new arms race come next?

The CTBT is an important step toward nuclear disarmament, because you reach a wall in arms reductions if you are leaving the door open to new nuclear testing and development.

A CTBT would increase momentum toward gaining a disarmament agreement with Russia on tactical nuclear weapons, and offer hope of arms reductions in Asia, where China and rivals India and Pakistan have nuclear weaponry.

Arms Control Under Secretary Ellen Tauscher says, “Nowhere would these constraints be more relevant than in Asia, where you see states building up and modernizing their forces. A legally binding prohibition on all nuclear explosive testing would help reduce the chances of a potential regional arms race in the years and decades to come.”

But without a commitment to end nuclear weapons testing, it is far less likely such agreements will ever take place. Unity among the nuclear states is also needed to implement diplomatic pressure to get North Korea and Iran to abandon their nuclear ambitions.

One way Kennedy gained support for the limited test ban treaty was to ensure that the U.S. would commit to extensive research into technologies needed to ensure the reliability of the nuclear arsenal.

Today, there are opportunities to quell fears that the CTBT is not verifiable, and that nations could cheat the treaty. As Jonathan Medalia writes in a Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. could add additional planes for its nuclear detection system operated by the U.S. Air Force. This Atomic Energy Detection System has been place since the start of the Cold War, even detecting the Soviet Union’s first tests in 1949 and 1951.


The Air Force’s WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft collects air samples from areas around the world where nuclear explosions have occurred. (U.S. Air Force photo)Enhancing our own technical means would complement the treaty’s existing monitoring system which, even though not fully operational, detected North Korea’s 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.

In ratifying the CTBT, the U.S. can join Russia and urge other nations to follow their lead and take further measures to reduce nuclear weapons. As diplomat Gerard Smith once wrote, “In urging others not to acquire this awesome capacity, the United States and Russia may persuasively say that they have found it expensive, dangerous and, ultimately, useless.”

Nuclear weapons in the world is a shared risk among all nations, for the cost of the armaments, the danger of terrorist theft, and the international tensions are a burden all countries feel. It is in the interest of all nations to end nuclear testing once and for all, and work toward further agreements reducing the nuclear menace.

Article first published as Starting a Peace Race with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty on Blogcritics.

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Petition Calls on Senate to Ratify Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

Nuclear Weapons Test during the 1950s. (National Archives photo)

A new petition at CARE2 calls on the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The treaty bans all nuclear weapons test explosions.

The Senate has to ratify the treaty for the U.S to join. Nine countries, including the United States, still need to ratify the treaty for it to enter into force. The other eight countries include China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan. Russia has already ratified the CTBT.

Ellen Tauscher, Undersecretary for Arms Control, says, “The CTBT is central to leading nuclear weapons states toward a world of diminished reliance on nuclear weapons and reduced nuclear competition.”

The petition reads:

We the undersigned ask you to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). A global ban of nuclear test explosions benefits U.S. national security.

The CTBT is a step toward nuclear disarmament. The treaty is a step away from a costly arms race which new nuclear test explosions would certainly invoke.

Nuclear weapons spending drains our society of resources better spent on domestic and international priorities. Ratification of the CTBT will be vital for moving forward on further agreements related to worldwide nuclear disarmament.

Our Stockpile Stewardship Program can maintain our current nuclear arsenal. The CTBT international monitoring system will ensure there is compliance with the treaty globally.

The threat of nuclear war, nuclear terrorism and the massive cost of nuclear arsenals make the CTBT very much in our interest. We ask that you support ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Thank you for reading this petition.

You can sign the petition at CARE2

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Open Skies for Peace in the Age of Nuclear Weapons


Contributing to the development of peace worldwide by the creation of an Open Skies regime for aerial observation.

As the Cold War and the nuclear arms race escalated President Dwight Eisenhower offered the “open skies” peace initiative to the Soviet Union at the Geneva Conference in July, 1955. The idea was to allow peace planes from each country to fly over the territory of the other to inspect military forces and make sure no surprise attack preparations were taking place.  Watch the news video of the Geneva Conference followed by President Eisenhower explaining the purpose of open skies. You will also see a sample flight.

The Open Skies Plan was not accepted in 1955 but it was revived by President George H. Bush in 1989.

This led to the Open Skies Treaty of 1992 which included the United States, Canada, Russia and a number of nations in Europe. Watch this video about the treaty.

Video Celebrating Open Skies 20th Anniversary

Hillary Clinton on the Open Skies Treaty

Can Open Skies Be Expanded to More Nations?

Expanding Open Skies (New York Times)

How an Idea of Ike’s Could Help Settle India/Pakistan Nuclear Tensions–And Help Us Win the War on Terrorism (History News Network)

What Open Skies Can Do For Chinese-American Relations (History News Service)

Article in the Cincinnati Post titled “Open Skies to Build Trust.”

article about the Open Skies Treaty and its 500th flight

The Obama Administration moving forward with Open Skies Treaty

Open Skies Policy Should be Used by the Koreas (Cincinnati Enquirer)

“Open Skies” can play a role in the Korean peace and disarmament process. Click here to read the article in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Historical Documents About Open Skies

Over a month before the Open Skies proposal this article appeared in the Cincinnat Post (June 14, 1955) about Operation Alert, a civil defense drill against nuclear attack.

Read a memorandum of a meeting of President Eisenhower and his advisors discussing “Open Skies” at the Geneva Conference. (Courtesy Eisenhower Library)

Read excerpts from a memorandum of a conversation at the President’s luncheon for the Russian delegation at the Geneva Conference on July 20, 1955. (courtesy Eisenhower Library)

Article in July 22nd, 1955 Cincinnati Post about Ike’s “Open Skies” proposal.

Read excerpts from an “Open Skies for Peace” pamphlet published during the Eisenhower administration. (courtesy of The National Archives of the UK (PRO): ref. FO371/123712)

Read disarmament advisor Harold Stassen’s speech at the UN on October 7, 1955 about Open Skies and arms control. (courtesy Eisenhower Library)

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Read a 1956 memorandum prepared by one of President Eisenhower’s assistants, Andrew Goodpaster, on the topic of confidence building measures and disarmament. (courtesy Eisenhower Library)

Click here to read a 1956 document which discusses the application of open skies in the Middle East. (courtesy Eisenhower Library)

Read here some responses to the Open Skies Middle East proposal

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1992 Open Skies Treaty Fact Sheet

Read pages from 1992 Senate hearings on the Open Skies Treaty. These are answers from the Bush adminstration about Open Skies and how it can relate to the START Treaty and also potential expansion. (courtesy Cincinnati Public Library)

Open Skies Treaty Review Conference

Russian “Open Skies” mission over the United States.

Report by Tony D. Holmes, Major, USAF titled “Relevance of the Open Skies Treaty Program In the Twenty-First Century.”

Available at Amazon.com and Google Ebookstore

Nuclear Weapons

Open Skies for Peace

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The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

At a press conference President Eisenhower stated, “the concept of atomic war is too horrible for man to endure and to practice, and he must find some way out of it.” In “The Road to Peace” read about President Eisenhower and President Kennedy’s pursuit of a nuclear test ban treaty, a first step in nuclear arms control with the Soviet Union. The attempt to control nuclear weaponry came at a time when the Soviet Union and the United States were engaged in the Cold War. Tensions were running high.

A lesser-known arms control measure is also discussed in the book, how the Soviet Union and the United States actually agreed to ban nuclear weapons from at least one part of the globe in 1959. Also read how a diplomat from Mexico led the struggle to create a nuclear weapons free zone in Latin America in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

“The Road to Peace” includes the struggles between America and Britain over the Great Lakes and the Oregon territory. The now peaceful border of the United States and Canada did not come about easily. Read about diplomatic initiatives after World War I when the great hope of mankind was an end to warfare. Also, there is a concluding section on the INF and Open Skies treaties. Featured in “The Road to Peace” are notable peace efforts by extraordinary statesmen who served in government here and abroad from 1812 to the 20th century. Lessons of diplomacy and cooperation between countries are applicable to today’s conflicts.

Table of Contents
Introduction
1. War and Peace on the Great Lakes
2. The Oregon Treaty
3. Peace After the Great War?
4. Eisenhower, Kennedy and the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
5. The First Nuclear Weapon Free Zones
Epilogue- The INF and Open Skies Treaties
Notes
Index

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Nuclear Weapons

This concise book traces the history of nuclear weapons from World War II through the Cold War to the present day. You will also read about issues such as the proliferation of nuclear weapons, nuclear testing, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and nuclear terrorism. This book also examines efforts to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes as proposed by President Dwight Eisenhower in his “Atoms for Peace” speech. This edition includes a report prepared by the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey titled “The Effects of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Table of Contents
Chapter One: The Atomic Bomb
Chapter Two: Nuclear Weapons and the Cold War
Chapter Three: Atoms For Peace and Open Skies
Chapter Four: Nuclear Weapons and the Public
Chapter Five: The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Limited Test Ban Treaty
Chapter Six: Nuclear Proliferation
Chapter Seven: The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
Chapter Eight: Nuclear Terrorism
Chapter Nine: Conclusion
Appendix -The Effects of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Memorandum by the Chief of Staff, U.S.
Air Force to the Secretary of Defense on
Long Range Detection of Atomic Explosions
Memorandum of Conference with the President
Documents on Nuclear Test Ban Negotiations
Facts About Fallout
Worldwide Reaction to Communist China’s Third Nuclear Explosion
Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six Party Talks Beijing, September 19, 2005
An Antarctic Solution for the Koreas
Index

Nuclear Weapons is available from

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Nuclear Weapons, the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain

Imagine living along Lake Ontario in the British colony of Canada. The year is 1813 and Great Britain and the United States are at war. It is a cool April morning. You peer out across the Lake to watch the sunrise. The waters are calm, the surrounding countryside quiet. You gaze up and down the Lake for American warships. There are none in sight…..but where are they?

Little do you know that a fleet of American warships is readying for battle. At Sackets Harbor in the eastern end of Lake Ontario, American soldiers are boarding warships. Crewmen prepare the rows of cannons that will be unleashing fury on Canadian forts and towns. Within hours, the American fleet will set out, heading west on Lake Ontario. Word reaches quickly up the Lake that the warships are coming. You notice a figure upon a distant hilltop, giving signals that warn of the impending attack. Soldiers prepare themselves for the coming fight and everyone else wisely heads for cover. Your heart pounding, you run to warn your family.

During the War of 1812, the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were the scene of such terror with fierce naval battles and coastal assaults. The war ended in 1814 and if you lived upon the Lakes you probably would hope never to see a warship again. You would soon be granted your wish.

Sackets Harbor, NY during the War of 1812 (U.S. Naval Historical Center)

View from the top of Mount Defiance overlooking Fort Ticonderoga and Lake Champlain. (National Archives)

When President James Monroe prepared his first annual message to Congress in 1817, he had some good news. He announced an agreement between the U.S. and Great Britain that disarmed the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. Now, with the Rush-Bagot agreement, naval warships would virtually disappear from the Lakes.

Monroe stated, “By this arrangement useless expense on both sides and, what is of still greater importance, the danger of collision between armed vessels in those inland waters, which was great, is prevented.”

President Monroe knew the Rush-Bagot agreement would spare the U.S. and Britain from a dangerous naval arms race. That objective was accomplished and went a long way toward improving British-American relations. But the story does not end there. The lessons of the Rush-Bagot agreement would also be applied during the nuclear arms race of the Cold War.

It was 1963, just one year removed from the Cuban Missile Crisis which brought the Soviet Union and the United States to the brink of nuclear war. The near holocaust placed an increased urgency on controlling the nuclear arms race. Focus shifted to achieving a treaty which would ban nuclear weapons testing, an effort started during the Eisenhower administration and carried over to his successor, John F. Kennedy. Such a treaty could improve relations between the two adversaries and place some restriction on armaments development. In July 1963, the Soviet and American negotiations produced the Limited Test Ban Treaty, which banned nuclear tests in the atmosphere, underwater and in outer space. President Kennedy viewed it as”a step towards peace- a step towards reason- a step away from war.”

Nuclear Weapons Test during the 1950s. (National Archives photo)

Yet, although the Limited Test Ban Treaty was signed, it still needed to be ratified by the U.S. Senate to take effect. Not everyone agreed the treaty was a step in the right direction. Some believed it would weaken America’s national security by limiting development of nuclear armaments. Back in 1817, the same argument could have been made against the Rush-Bagot agreement since it did deprive the U.S. of naval forces on the Lakes, which proved so vital to its successes during the War of 1812.

Before the Senate would vote on the Limited Test Ban, it held hearings to listen to testimony from key experts. Among those called to testify was Harold Stassen, former disarmament advisor to President Eisenhower. Stassen would invoke the lessons of the Rush-Bagot agreement to support ratification of the Limited Test Ban. Why? Stassen did so because of the Rush-Bagot agreement’s effectiveness as an arms control measure makes its lessons timeless.

Harold Stassen (far left) being sworn in to represent the U.S. in disarmament negotiations in 1955. (Eisenhower Library)

The Rush-Bagot agreement also set a precedent for including a termination clause in an arms control treaty. This would allow either nation to legally withdraw from the treaty should its national security become threatened. A termination clause was seen as vital in the case of the Limited Test Ban Treaty due to the unpredictability of the nuclear arms race.

When asked by Senator Frank Carlson about the termination clause of the Limited Test Ban Treaty Stassen replied,”I don’t think it is generally recalled that we have the right in relation to the old Rush-Bagot Treaty over the arms limitation of the Great Lakes with Canada which was in 1817, still in force, and it is the forerunner of the peaceful border with Canada. It came after the War of 1812 and there was great difficulty and fighting. President Monroe took the leadership and the military of that day, many of them sincerely had misgivings and said, how can we defend the United States if we can’t arm the Great Lakes, and President Monroe said, let’s do it but let’s put on a 6-month termination clause…it is a right within a treaty, in other words, within the terms of the contract, under which you can bring the contract to a close, and I think the Joint Chiefs are right in this kind of a world situation to have a safeguard of that kind…”

The Rush-Bagot Treaty at Fort Niagara overlooking Lake Ontario (author's collection)

The example of the Rush-Bagot agreement supported arguments for a limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Stassen was among those whose testimony helped achieve the treaty’s passage in the Senate, thereby providing a respite from the Cold War and a dramatic turnaround from the Cuban Missile Crisis.

President Kennedy Signs the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in October, 1963 (National Archives)

Reporters Gather Around the Limited Test Ban Treaty (National Archives)

President Reagan’s arms control director, Eugene Rostow, speaking before the Senate in 1981, used the example of Rush-Bagot as inspiration that arms control could be achieved with the Soviet Union.

Rostow stated that the Rush-Bagot Treaty was”rather dull.” But he was actually praising the agreement saying the very fact it was dull”is the most convincing evidence of its success.” Rostow added”it was by no means self-evident in 1817 that the Agreement would work. The passions of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 survived and rankled. There was great tension between the United States and Great Britain over Canada on several occasions during the nineteenth century. In these periods, the Rush-Bagot agreement was a genuine influence for restraint….where there is a general political understanding about the limits of rivalry, arms control agreements can help to prevent friction and conflict from degenerating into war.” The Reagan administration achieved the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with the Soviet Union in 1987. The INF Treaty eliminated both countries’ medium and shorter-range nuclear missiles which had been dangerously deployed in Europe.

Today, the Rush-Bagot concept of avoiding a dangerous and expensive arms competition will be very appealing for President Obama as he forges his foreign policy. The staggering costs of nuclear weaponry, as much as 52 billion annually according to a 2008 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report, make disarmament even more desirable. Obama is likely to start by trying to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which would ban all test explosions including underground.

When one visits Rush-Bagot memorials such as the one at Fort Niagara, NY they will learn about a key turning point in British-American relations. But it goes even deeper than that. The Rush-Bagot agreement is a pillar in the history of arms control and its lessons can be applied to the international crises of today.

Arms control and disarmament can play a role in establishing peace among nations. As John Quincy Adams said about the idea of an arms race on the Great Lakes,”the moral and political tendency of such a system must be to war and not to peace.” The Rush-Bagot agreement and its timeless lessons can help in the never-ending struggle to achieve peace among nations.

Rush-Bagot Memorial at Fort Niagara in New York (author's collection)


article published at History News Network.

Original version of article published at Fortress Niagara in June, 2004. View the article below.

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Read more of the the testimony of Eugene Rostow where he talks about the Rush-Bagot agreement. (courtesy Cincinnati Public Library)

The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

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Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Negotiations

The Road to a Treaty Ending Nuclear Weapons Testing

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)  bans all nuclear weapons test explosions.  The treaty has not yet entered into force as eight countries: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States, have yet to ratify the CTBT.

Efforts to achieve a treaty ending nuclear weapons testing go back to the Cold War. Here is video footage and documents of test ban treaty efforts leading up to the present day.

President Dwight Eisenhower’s Statement on the Suspension of Nuclear Testing on August 22nd, 1958

Read an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer about the power of the hydrogen bomb (March 18, 1957)

Read a memorandum of a meeting in which President Eisenhower and British Prime Minister Macmillan discuss the importance of a nuclear test ban treaty. (courtesy Eisenhower Library)

Short Video of President Eisenhower Talking About a Letter He Wrote to Nikita Khrushchev in Which He Proposed a Limited Nuclear Test Ban.

Books on the history of nuclear weapons and the test ban treaty

The Road to Peace

Nuclear Weapons

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