At a May 29th conclave held at the Hudson Institute to call attention to the increasingly brutish world in which we live, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley, Jr., spoke thusly:
“Russia’s development of new warhead designs and overall stockpile management efforts have been enhanced by its approach to nuclear testing. The United States believes that Russia probably is not adhering to its nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the ‘zero-yield’ standard.
“Our understanding of nuclear weapon development leads us to believe Russia’s testing activities would help it to improve its nuclear weapons capabilities. The United States, by contrast, has forgone such benefits by upholding a ‘zero-yield’ standard.”
Think of this as the first volley to extricate the United States from the strictures of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Tim Morrison, musket always at the ready, was on hand to reinforce the point. Tim’s professional life on Capitol Hill and now with John Bolton in the White House has been devoted to tearing down treaties that constrain U.S. freedom of action.
Imagine what the world would be like if Russia, the United States, China, India and Pakistan were testing nuclear weapons. They are not because of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which is responsible for shutting down nuclear testing by major and regional powers for more than two decades. Walking away from the CTBT would be extraordinarily dumb and dangerous, but now there’s the whiff of grapeshot in the air.
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Michael Krepon is Co-Founder of the Stimson Center.