On Tuesday, Oct. 25, a wave of concern rippled through the nuclear arms control community. Russia’s parliament passed legislation to de-ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which prohibits all nuclear explosive tests by its parties. Its aim is to hinder the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons and to promote global disarmament. The bill is now on Russian President Vladamir Putin’s Desk.
This development marks a dire setback to sustained efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and reduce the risks associated with them.
A tit-for-tat approach is not the answer. Instead, this is a moment to reaffirm our commitment to diplomacy.
The Russian parliament’s decision, influenced by an intent to mirror the United States’ stance on the treaty, threatens to erode a longstanding taboo against nuclear testing. The United States signed the agreement, but Congress has never ratified it. This means that while the U.S. cannot take actions contrary to the treaty’s object and purpose, it is not bound to comply with all its provisions.
Reacting to Russia’s move impulsively with a tit-for-tat approach is not the answer. U.S. policymakers must resist the temptation to reciprocate by also moving away from existing arms control measures. Instead, this is a moment to reaffirm our commitment to diplomacy to strengthen existing arms control agreements and advance global nuclear disarmament.
The CTBT stands as a testament to the global aversion to nuclear testing. It forms a critical part of the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament framework that has garnered the support of 187 nations. Russia’s move to withdraw ratification not only undermines the CTBT regime but risks triggering a chain reaction, tempting other nations to follow suit.
There is a moral imperative to uphold common-sense arms control agreements like the CTBT. These treaties represent a collective pledge to prevent the horrors of nuclear warfare, the scars of which are still borne by communities affected by nuclear testing and nuclear weapons use. The moral irresponsibility of moving away from such agreements cannot be stressed enough. Doing so shrugs off the vital lessons learned from a previous era of nuclear weapons testing and disregards the welfare of future generations.
We must strive for a world free of the threat of nuclear weapons. Our shared security and humanity depend on it.
FCNL remains staunch in its commitment to promoting and advancing the CTBT, among other arms control agreements like the New START treaty. Additionally, FCNL is actively pursuing justice for victims of U.S. nuclear weapons testing through our advocacy to extend and expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).
This program, which is due to expire in 2024, provides financial compensation and other lifesaving benefits to individuals who have suffered life-threatening illnesses due to radiation exposure from U.S. nuclear testing and manufacturing.
The Senate’s recent support for expanding RECA in the annual military policy bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, highlights a bipartisan resolve to provide restitution to the victims of U.S. nuclear testing. This step is a part of FCNL’s broader mission to address past injustices and ensure a safer, more secure world for all.
In light of Russia’s move to withdraw ratification of the CTBT, FCNL calls for more vigorous, high-level diplomacy to uphold and advance this critical international agreement and other arms control treaties. As Quakers, we must rally against actions that undermine global nuclear disarmament efforts and continually strive for a world free of the threat of nuclear weapons. Our shared security and humanity depend on it.