Peter Brookes: Pushing test-ban treaty isn’t good policy

Peter Brookes

Peter Brookes

It’s said that nothing focuses the mind like a deadline – including the end of the second term of a presidential administration. For Team Obama, it’s legacy time.

The White House is in a sprint to get all those tough “to-do’s” done before the clock runs out on eight years in office and the chance to check off unfulfilled presidential promises passes for good.

On the national security front, the list likely includes items such as closing the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, a pledge President Obama made on his first day in the White House way back in 2009.

Another item apparently in the “gotta-get-done” file is the president’s longstanding dream of achieving “no nukes,” a goal he’s been struggling to advance for many reasons – including because it runs counter to common sense.

Despite that fact, the White House is now setting its eyes on the United Nations’ Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the commemoration of its 20th anniversary in September in New York, according to recent reporting by The Washington Post.

 As readers will recall, Obama made a promise in Prague in 2009 to “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

The Prague pledge resulted in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty – or New START – a 2010 nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, which saw a significant reduction in the size of the U.S. atomic arsenal.

Team Obama expected that under the (now-failed) “Russian reset” policy there would be a chance for another round of nuclear weapons-reduction talks with Kremlin & Co. That won’t happen anytime soon.

With Russian relations frosty at best, the White House is still looking for ways to advance the football down the field to the no-nukes end zone, if at all possible.

What better way to move into scoring position as the game draws to an end than by calling an atomic audible from the line of scrimmage?

The Post reports that the administration is looking at an end-run around Congress, by seeking a U.N. Security Council resolution that would affirm the goals of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty for all countries. This, despite the fact that the U.S. Senate declined to ratify the treaty in 1999.

The test ban treaty is no better a call today than it was then.

While the treaty bans nuclear testing (something America has observed since 1992), it doesn’t define a nuke test, isn’t fully verifiable, and would prevent the U.S. from testing if it becomes necessary as America’s atomic arsenal ages or if a crisis comes up.

Actual and potential foes such as China, Russia, and North Korea are all actively modernizing or building up their nuclear forces that – oh, by the way – are largely targeted at us. And good luck with the Iran nuclear deal holding up.

Our nuclear deterrent needs to be credible and ready.

Plus, passing a Security Council resolution could subject the U.S. to accusations of violating the test-ban treaty, according to some experts. It might also tie the hands of future American presidents on this issue.

Deadline or no deadline, pushing the once-rejected test-ban treaty isn’t good policy – and it is no way for this White House to rescue its troubled foreign policy legacy in its final days.

This article first appeared in the Boston Herald.  Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a Fort Valley resident. Follow him on Twitter @Brookes_Peter. Email:BrookesOutdoors@gmail.com.

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