Statement by the President Urging Ratification by the Senate of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
We have been trying, for a number of years, to reduce the threat that someday, somewhere, a limited nuclear war would break out--one that would grow to involve the major powers in a worldwide catastrophe.
For years our negotiators worked with those of many other nations, trying to hammer out language acceptable to the nuclear and nonnuclear powers alike. Finally, we reached agreement on a treaty to halt the spread of nuclear weapons.
When I went before the United Nations last June, just prior to its vote on the treaty, I described it as "a triumph of sanity and of man's will to survive." The treaty was overwhelmingly approved in the United Nations by a vote of 95 to 4.
Now it is before our Senate for ratification. We worked for this treaty for so many years for one basic reason: to make the world safer for ourselves and for every other nation that lives daily with the threat of nuclear disaster.
Every American President who has borne responsibility in the nuclear age has known that the danger to the United States would multiply as additional nations built or secured nuclear weapons--as additional fingers were placed on nuclear triggers.
We negotiated with the Soviet Union on the language of this treaty--not as a gift to the Soviet Union, nor as a matter of bridgebuilding between us, but because we were seeking a result in our own interest which they happened to share for their own reasons.
If we had permitted our views of totalitarian communism to control every aspect of our relations with Communist states, we would not have joined them in a treaty forbidding the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. And the air today would be filled with poisonous radiation.
The test of whether we make any international agreement should be whether it serves our interest and the interest of world peace. The Nonproliferation Treaty, like the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, clearly and obviously meets that test.
If we do not proceed to ratify this treaty promptly, the forces at work against it in other countries will quickly gain strength.
If the treaty does not go into effect soon, an increasing number of countries will see it in their national interest to go nuclear. Some may be about to do so. This is perhaps understandable on narrow nationalist grounds; but in every case it is our judgment that their security would be diminished-not increased--by developing small national nuclear capabilities.
So far as the United States is concerned, the advent of new nuclear powers could force upon us this dilemma:
--either withdrawing our influence and commitment from areas of the world which are vital to our interests; or
--having other nations trigger a nuclear conflict which could involve us. Those who now argue for postponing ratification of the treaty must assume the grave responsibility for its failure and for presenting our country with that dilemma.
I cannot guarantee that our early action will bring a particular nation or group of nations along with us. But I can tell you that our chance of doing so will be greatly reduced, and the world our children will inhabit made far more perilous, if we fail to act soon.
As President, I cannot see this happen without calling to the attention of the leaders of the Senate the consequences of postponement. I know that the pressures of the election are upon us. But so are the responsibilities we were elected to fulfill. I hope the Senate will act now, with the highest interests of the Nation in mind.
But if the Members of the Senate find it impossible to remain and act now, I shall, after consulting with other world leaders and leaders of the Senate, seriously consider calling the Senate into special session. I consider the adoption of this treaty that important to the security of our Nation and world peace.
Note: The President also read the statement for radio and television broadcast.
The treaty was favorably considered by the Senate on March 13, 1969. The text is printed in Senate Executive H (90th Cong., 2d sess.) and in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 59, p. 85).
APP Note: This document is classified as Presidential "Remarks" because the president read this statement.
Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Urging Ratification by the Senate of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/237197