Rumors have swirled over the last several months that the Trump administration may be planning to “unsign” the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Washington’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and refusal to commit to extending New START make it all too easy to believe that these rumors may be true.
The CTBT bans nuclear testing anywhere on earth, but it has not been enforced because eight countries—including the United States—have yet to ratify it. Although President Bill Clinton led the world in signing the treaty twenty-three years ago, the Republican-led Senate voted it down by a margin of 51-48 two years later. The Obama administration’s efforts to pursue ratification also proved no match for the entrenched Republican opposition. Their objections largely hinged on the same concerns raised in the Senate a decade prior, ignoring new developments in areas like treaty verification that would have bolstered the case for its entry into force.
While prospects for the CTBT appeared dim at the end of Obama’s term, they are poised to become far more dismal soon if some in Washington get their way.