The CTBT: Prospects for Entry into Force

VERTIC has now released the fourth and penultimate paper in its series on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and its verification regime. This paper, on ‘Prospects for Entry Into Force’, is written by Jeffrey Lewis, director of the Nuclear Strategy and Non-Proliferation Initiative at the New America Foundation and founder of the highly-regarded Arms Control Wonk online blog.

The paper takes each of the nine remaining ‘Annex II’ hold-outs—whose ratifications are essential for the CTBT to come into force—in turn, assessing the likelihood of their full assent to the treaty in the coming months and years. Overall, the paper strikes a hopeful tone, noting that even the ‘hard cases’ of India, Pakistan and North Korea are not lost causes. On the latter, and arguably the hardest case of all, Mr Lewis notes that a breakthrough in US-North Korean relations could ‘rapidly result’ in North Korean ratification.

With regard to the three Middle Eastern Annex II states whose ratifications remain outstanding (Egypt, Iran and Israel), prospects for ratification are ‘inexorably entwined with the complexities and nuances of their regional security situations,’ says Mr Lewis. But, he suggests, movement forward on the long-proposed Middle Eastern Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone at the recent review conference of parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty sets an ‘encouraging precedent.’

To finish his paper, Mr Lewis argues that, pending full entry into force, CTBT parties might look to begin to apply the treaty on a provisional basis. ‘States parties could agree to an operational protocol that outlines the treaty’s provisional application,’ he proposes. ‘And while it would be no substitute for actual entry into force of the treaty, such a protocol would enable the CTBTO to function more fully in the intervening period and help bolster the steadily growing norm against the detonation of nuclear devices.’

The paper is available to download here (PDF 180kb)