Ten years ago last month, the U.S. Senate failed to approve the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. A decade later, the dangers posed by the potential spread of nuclear weapons and materials to additional states and terrorists have increased dramatically. Stopping proliferation will require a global effort -- and an early, essential step in that effort must be U.S. ratification of the test ban.
The test ban is clearly consistent with U.S. security interests. Because the United States does not conduct nuclear tests and has no plans or the need to do so, the United States should take advantage of the security and political benefits that would come with ratification. A permanent test ban would close off the one reliable avenue -- nuclear testing -- by which other states might develop new, sophisticated weapons and/or increase the lethality of already existing arsenals.
In his April 2009 Prague speech envisioning a world free of nuclear weapons, President Barack Obama promised to "immediately and aggressively" pursue approval of the test ban. Given that the Treaty fell well short in 1999 of winning the two-thirds majority necessary for ratification, the Obama administration must wage a more aggressive campaign to build support for the treaty this time around. Such a campaign ought to include several elements.