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John F. Kennedy: Special Message to the Senate on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
John F. Kennedy
324 - Special Message to the Senate on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
August 8, 1963
Public Papers of the Presidents
John F. Kennedy<br>1963
John F. Kennedy
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To the Senate of the United States:

With a view to receiving the advice and consent of the Senate to ratification, I transmit herewith a certified copy of the Treaty banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and underwater, signed at Moscow on August 5, 1963, on behalf of the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

This Treaty is the first concrete result of eighteen years of effort by the United States to impose limits on the nuclear arms race. There is hope that it may lead to further measures to arrest and control the dangerous competition for increasingly destructive weapons.

The provisions of the Treaty are explained in the report of the Acting Secretary of State, transmitted herewith. Essentially it prohibits only those nuclear tests that we ourselves can police. It permits nuclear tests and explosions underground so long as all fallout is contained within the country where the test or explosion is conducted.

In the weeks before and after the Test Ban Negotiations, the hopes of the world have been focused on this Treaty. Especially in America, where nuclear energy was first unlocked, where the danger of nuclear war and the meaning of radioactive fallout are so clearly recognized, there has been understanding and support for this effort. Now the Treaty comes before the Senate, for that careful study which is the constitutional obligation of the members of that body. As that study begins I wish to urge that the following considerations be kept clearly in mind:

First: This Treaty is the whole agreement. United States negotiators in Moscow were instructed not to make this agreement conditioned upon any other understanding; and they made none. The Treaty speaks for itself.

Second: This Treaty advances, though it does not assure, world peace; and it will inhibit, though it does not prohibit, the nuclear arms race.

--While it does not prohibit the United States and the Soviet Union from engaging in all nuclear tests, it will radically limit the testing in which both nations would otherwise engage.

--While it will not halt the production or reduce the existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons, it is a first step toward limiting the nuclear arms race.

--While it will not end the threat of nuclear war or outlaw the use of nuclear weapons, it can reduce world tensions, open a way to further agreements and thereby help to ease the threat of war.

--While it cannot wholly prevent the spread of nuclear arms to nations not now possessing them, it prohibits assistance to testing in these environments by others; it will be signed by many other potential testers; and it is thus an important opening wedge in our effort to "get the genie back in the bottle."

Third: The Treaty will curb the pollution of our atmosphere. While it does not assure the world that it will be forever free from the fears and dangers of radioactive fallout from atmospheric tests, it will greatly reduce the numbers and dangers of such tests.

Fourth: This Treaty protects our rights in the future. It cannot be amended without the consent of the United States, including the consent of the Senate; and any party to the Treaty has the right to withdraw, upon three months' notice, if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of the Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests.

Fifth: This Treaty does not alter the status of unrecognized regimes. The provisions relating to ratification by others, and the precedents of international law, make it clear that our adherence to this Treaty, and the adherence of any other party, can in no way accord or even imply recognition by the United States or any other nation of any regime which is not now accorded such recognition.

Sixth: This Treaty does not halt American nuclear progress. The United States has more experience in underground testing than any other nation; and we intend to use this capacity to maintain the adequacy of our arsenal. Our atomic laboratories will maintain an active development program, including underground testing, and we will be ready to resume testing in the atmosphere if necessary. Continued research on developing the peaceful uses of atomic energy will be possible through underground testing.

Seventh: This Treaty is not a substitute for, and does not diminish the need for, continued Western and American military strength to meet all contingencies. It will not prevent us from building all the strength that we need; and it is not a justification for unilaterally cutting our defensive strength at this time. Our choice is not between a limited Treaty and effective strategic strength-we need and can have both. The continuous build-up in the power and invulnerability of our nuclear arsenal in recent years has been an important factor in persuading others that the time for a limitation has arrived.

Eighth: This Treaty will assure the security of the United States better than continued unlimited testing on both sides. According to a comprehensive report prepared by the responsible agencies of government for the National Security Council, the tests conducted by both the Soviet Union and the United States since President Eisenhower first proposed this kind of treaty in 1959 have not resulted in any substantial alteration in the strategic balance. In 1959 our relative nuclear position was strong enough to make a limited test ban desirable, and it remains so today. Under this Treaty any gains in nuclear strength and knowledge which could be made by the tests of any other power-including not only underground tests but even any illegal tests which might escape detection--could not be sufficient to offset the ability of our strategic forces to deter or survive a nuclear attack and to penetrate and destroy an aggressor's homeland. We have, and under this Treaty we will continue to have, the nuclear strength that we need. On the other hand, unrestricted testing--by which other powers could develop all kinds of weapons through atmospheric tests more cheaply and quickly than they could underground--might well lead to a weakening of our security. It is true that the United States would be able to make further progress if atmospheric tests were continued-but so would the Soviet Union and, indeed, so could other nations. It should be remembered that only one atomic test was required to complete the development of the Hiroshima bomb. Clearly the security of the United States--the security of all mankind-is increased if such tests are prohibited.

Ninth: The risks in clandestine violations under this Treaty are far smaller than the risks in unlimited testing. Underground tests will still be available for weapons development; and other tests, to be significant, must run substantial risks of detection. No nation tempted to violate the Treaty can be certain that an attempted violation will go undetected, given the many means of detecting nuclear explosions. The risks of detection outweigh the potential gains from violation, and the risk to the United States from such violation is outweighed by the risk of a continued unlimited nuclear arms race. There is further assurance against clandestine testing in our ability to develop and deploy additional means of detection, in our determination to maintain our own arsenal through underground tests, and in our readiness to resume atmospheric testing if the actions of others so require.

Tenth: This Treaty is the product of the steady effort of the United States Government in two Administrations, and its principles have had the explicit support of both great political parties. It grows out of the proposal made by President Eisenhower in 1959 and the Resolution passed by the Senate in that same year; and it carries out the explicit pledges contained in the Platforms of both parties in 1960. Nothing has happened since then to alter its importance to our security. It is also consistent with the proposals this Administration put forward in 1961 and 1962--and with the Resolution introduced in the Senate, with wide bipartisan support, in May of 1963.

This Treaty is in our national interest. While experience teaches us to be cautious in our expectations and ever-vigilant in our preparations, there is no reason to oppose this hopeful step. It is rarely possible to recapture missed opportunities to achieve a more secure and peaceful world. To govern is to choose; and it is my judgment that the United States should move swiftly to make the most of the present opportunity and approve the pending Treaty. I strongly recommend that the Senate of the United States advise and consent to its ratification.

John F. Kennedy

Note: The treaty was favorably considered by the Senate on September 24, 1963. It was signed by the President on October 7 (see Item 403) and formally proclaimed on October 10. The text is printed above at Item 314.

The report of the Acting Secretary of State, transmitted with the President's message, is published in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 49, P. 318).

Citation: John F. Kennedy: "Special Message to the Senate on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty," August 8, 1963. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=9370.
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