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Biden Urges Senate To Ratify Nuclear Test-Ban treaty

February 19, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Vice President Joe Biden spoke yesterday at the National Defense University about the need to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

A major tenet of the administration’s nuclear weapons agenda is to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, which Biden believes is necessary to preserve global security:

The Treaty’s basic bargain – that nuclear powers pursue disarmament and non-nuclear states do not acquire such weapons, while gaining access to civilian nuclear technology – is the cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime.

Before the treaty was negotiated, President Kennedy predicted a world with up to 20 nuclear powers by the mid-1970s. Because of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the consensus it embodied, that didn’t happen.

Now, 40 years later, that consensus is fraying. We must reinforce this consensus, and strengthen the treaty for the future.

While the United States has signed the treaty, the Senate has yet to ratify it – putting this country in the same position as countries like North Korea and Pakistan. In the Senate, 67 votes are needed to ratify a treaty. In 1999, president Clinton could only get 48 senators to vote for it.

Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been tasked with getting the Senate to ratify the treaty. In his speech, the vice president offered a carrot to the Senate in the form of billions of dollars for the budget of the nation’s three weapons laboratories:

[The president’s budget] devotes $7 billion to maintaining our nuclear stockpile and modernizing our nuclear infrastructure. To put that in perspective, that’s $624 million more than Congress approved last year—and an increase of $5 billion over the next five years. Even in these tight fiscal times, we will commit the resources our security requires.

This investment is not only consistent with our nonproliferation agenda; it is essential to it. Guaranteeing our stockpile, coupled with broader research and development efforts, allows us to pursue deep nuclear reductions without compromising our security. As our conventional capabilities improve, we will continue to reduce our reliance on nuclear weapons.

Biden also stressed that nuclear nonproliferation is not a partisan issue, citing Republicans such as Henry Kissinger and Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] who have supported the goal.

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