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Policy brief | 29 August 2019

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty is in danger: Here’s how to save it

Image of Maximilian Hoell

Maximilian Hoell |Postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Global Security Research

Arms Control CTBT NPT Nuclear Arms Control Global Security

This policy brief examines the Trump administration’s policy on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) without offering judgement on the veracity of US allegations against Russia for violating the treaty. Rather, it assesses how the accusations weaken the CTBT and fuel perceptions of brinkmanship, including speculation of US withdrawal of its signature from the treaty.

Along with urging the US administration to cease undermining the CTBT, the author offers the following recommendations to strengthen the international norm against testing, arguing that adopting these measures could help bring the treaty closer to entry-into-force:

  • Strengthening normative pressure to maintain the moratorium on nuclear testing by making further progress on CTBT universalisation, especially amongst non-Annex II states. Several states in the South Pacific, for example, that have experienced first-hand the adverse effects of atmospheric nuclear testing have yet to sign and/or ratify the CTBT, despite having declared their support for the treaty in various statements.
  • Raising the profile of the CTBT in the 2020 NPT Review Conference by means of a dedicated session in the main plenary to highlight the important link between the CTBT and the NPT.
  • Seeking coordinated unilateral declarations from the remaining non-signatory and non-ratifying states to re-consider signing and/or ratifying the CTBT. The European Union (EU), whose members have all ratified, should lead this process.
  • Encouraging non-signatory states to become accredited observer states to the CTBTO’s plenary body, the Preparatory Commission. Whilst falling short of signing and ratifying the CTBT, becoming an observer is a means of demonstrating support for the treaty.

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The opinions articulated above also do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or any of its members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address pressing foreign, defence, and security challenge