Henry Kissinger is correct to call for an end to name-calling and denunciations in the wake of the Senate vote on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [op-ed, Nov. 23]. The question is where to go from here.

The primary defense against the worldwide spread of nuclear weapons is the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and its associated regime.

The nonproliferation treaty was given a 25-year lifespan, but its members agreed in 1995 to extend it indefinitely, something the United States very much wanted. The principal price for a permanent nonproliferation treaty was a test ban treaty by 1996. With the Senate rejection, the United States has bounced the check it wrote when it signed the test ban treaty in 1996.

The test ban treaty has long been considered by nonnuclear weapon states as the litmus test of the commitment of the five nuclear powers to the nonproliferation treaty and of their willingness to balance the renunciation of nuclear weapons by 181 nations. If the United States does not ratify the test ban, the NPT regime could unravel.

The negotiation of the test ban treaty was long and difficult, but more than 150 nations have signed it, and more than 50 have ratified. It is illusory to believe that amendments to the current treaty or a new test ban treaty could be negotiated and accepted by the other signatories. The only practical course of action is for the Senate to fashion conditions to the resolution of ratification that address concerns raised during the recent Senate debate.

In a world in which almost anyone can build a crude nuclear weapon, the only workable route is multilateral cooperation. The bottom line is that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is essential to preserving the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which is central to our national security.



The writer was special representative of the president for arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament from 1994 to 1997.