The Threshold Test Ban Treaty

By Edward Ifft

As the likelihood increases that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) will get a new look in the Senate and perhaps advance closer to entry into force in the Obama administration,[1] it is useful to look back at its antecedents. There are three principal ones: the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT), known in most of the world as the Partial Test Ban Treaty; the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT); and the 1974 Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT). The NPT put in place the promise to end nuclear testing forever, and the LTBT repeated this promise and prohibited nuclear explosions in all environments except underground. Meanwhile, the NPT's Article VI disarmament provision was widely understood to include a commitment to enact eventually a comprehensive ban on nuclear testing. Quite properly, constant attention is given to the NPT, and Arms Control Today discussed the LTBT and NPT negotiations recently.[2] The TTBT, however, is sometimes forgotten, which is unfortunate because it was an important step in the 60-year struggle to control nuclear explosions and it has interesting lessons to tell about the art and science of negotiations, as well as verification and compliance issues.

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