Thursday, March 19, 2009

CTBT: Chu's mouth to open?

Thanks to the inimitable John Isaacs, Executive Director of the Council for a Livable World, and Ben Smith at the Politico for reporting that Damien LaVera, Deputy Communications Director at the Democratic National Committee will soon become Director of Public Affairs at the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The Nukes on a Blog team congratulates Mr. LaVera, who worked tirelessly and effectively with us a decade ago at the Lawyers Alliance for World Security, before earning a M.A. in Security Policy Studies from GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs and joining the staff of General John M. Shalikashvili (USA, ret.), who was then serving as Special Advisor to the President and the Secretary of State for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

In transmitting his final report on the CTBT to President Bush in January 2001, General Shalikashvili wrote that:
“The nation's nuclear arsenal is safe, reliable, and able to meet all stated military requirements. For as far into the future as we can see, the U.S. nuclear deterrent can remain effective under the Test Ban Treaty, assuming prudent stockpile stewardship -- including the ability to remanufacture aging components. While there are steps that should be taken to better manage the long-term risks associated with stockpile stewardship, I believe that there is no good reason to delay ratification of the Treaty pending further advances in the Stockpile Stewardship Program as long as we have a credible mechanism to leave the Treaty should a serious problem with the deterrent make that necessary. I fear that the longer entry into force is delayed, the more likely it is that other countries will move irrevocably to acquire nuclear weapons or significantly improve their current nuclear arsenal, and the less likely it is that we could mobilize a strong international coalition against such activities.”
One may wonder if some of this carefully developed expert perspective may have rubbed off on Mr. LaVera, and we find in his 2004 retrospective for Arms Control Today on the U.S. Senate’s rejection of the CTBT that he views this vote as:

“one of the most self-defeating moments in the U.S. Senate’s history of involvement in international arms control”
and in response to those who argue we need to keep the option of resumed nuclear explosive testing open:
“the only realistic reason the United States would need to resume nuclear testing would be to confirm a new design."
Mr. LaVera concludes:
"The Senate’s vote against ratification of the CTBT was one of the lowest moments in the history of international arms control. Although the principal arguments presented by critics of the treaty have been shown to be incorrect, entry into force remains out of reach. Nonetheless, considerable progress has been made in implementing and universalizing the treaty. If the international community continues and expands on these efforts, it will be well prepared to bring this crucial treaty into force when the prevailing climate changes."
Perhaps his arrival is a sign of this sort of change in the political climate.

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