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Commentary

The Bush Administration Tables a Draft “Cutoff” Treaty Analysis of Key Elements

in Program

1. Tabling a draft treaty now is a smart idea politically to improve chances that the Congress will approve the Bush administration’s proposed nuclear deal with India.   A treaty could also be a wise and substantive move, depending on its provisions.  The administration’s draft text is weak in a number of areas, most notably in its dismissal of President Ronald Reagan’s dictum of “trust but verify.”
 
2. The draft treaty may not be negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva if the Bush administration continues to refuse to discuss issues related to space security.  These two agenda items have been linked for many years at the 65-nation CD, where procedural decisions are taken by consensus.  Most US friends and allies (including India) object to the Bush administration’s negative stance toward verification.  The CD is also overwhelmingly in favor of initiating discussion on ways to promote the peaceful uses of outer space, and to prevent the flight-testing and deployment of space weapons.
 
3. The Bush administration cleverly derides this linkage as “hostage taking.”  In truth, negotiations on a verifiable “cutoff” treaty and discussions on space security could begin tomorrow, if the administration could “just say yes” to both agenda items.  It is the Bush administration that has been holding the CD hostage, not the other way around.
 
4. Designing effective verification arrangements for a cutoff treaty will be time-consuming and difficult.  But if, as the administration insists, it can put in place mechanisms to monitor the cessation of production of fissile material for weapons in Iran and North Korea, surely it can conceive of verifiable arrangements for less problematic cases. 
 
5. Because verification is so essential, and because it will take time to design monitoring arrangements that are good enough to provide early warning or confidence in compliance but not so intrusive as to reveal essential secrets, interim measures should be pursued that reinforce and broaden the moratorium on fissile material production for weapons currently in place by the United States, Russia, France, Great Britain, and China.

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