Edward Markey just won the special Senate election in Massachusetts. As a member of the House of Representatives he has been a supporter of nuclear arms control, including ending nuclear testing.
Now in the Senate, he will have the chance to help ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). This treaty bans all nuclear test explosions and is backed by an international monitoring system to ensure compliance. It’s also a major step toward establishing the conditions for nuclear disarmament. However, the treaty was defeated in 1999 in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 51-48.
In 2010, Markey urged the Senate to “take up the unfinished business of ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which has been awaiting approval for many years.” Markey, a Democrat, will have the opportunity to work with Senate Republicans on getting enough votes to ratify the treaty.
Historically, ending nuclear testing has received support from both Democrats and Republicans. It was a Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, who started negotiations with the Soviet Union on ending nuclear testing during the Cold War.
President Kennedy followed up on what Ike started by getting the Limited Test Ban Treaty passed in the Senate during 1963. This treaty ended nuclear tests in the atmosphere, underwater and outer space. Underground tests were allowed to continue. Republicans worked with President Kennedy to pass the Limited Test Ban Treaty, only a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis.
President Ronald Reagan repeated this support for ultimately ending nuclear testing. Reagan’s former Secretary of State George Shultz has called for the Senate to ratify the CTBT.
Of North Korea’s recent nuclear testing Markey stated, “While North Korea’s people starve, their leaders continue to feed geopolitical instability by conducting these nuclear tests. By reaching broad agreements to reduce global nuclear stockpiles, America and our allies will finally be able to isolate North Korean and force their leaders to come to the negotiating table.”
Markey has also been outspoken about controlling the costs of nuclear weapons, especially during tough economic times. New nuclear testing would only add to those costs and potentially ignite an arms race with Russia, China and others.
President Obama has stated his support for ratifying the CTBT, although it’s not clear when he will present the treaty to the Senate for a vote. Ratification of the CTBT would continue U.S. arms control efforts, following the most recent START Treaty in 2010 with Russia and the Moscow Treaty of 2002. Both of those treaties recognized the Cold War days were over and time to continue pushing forward on reducing costly and potentially deadly nuclear arms.
Markey will be a powerful voice in the Senate for reducing the nuclear danger.