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Russia may pull out of CTBT: How the treaty tried — and failed — to stop nuclear testing

Context- A day after indicating that Russia might revoke its ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), President Vladimir Putin said on Friday (October 6) that the country would do so to be on level terms with the United States, and not to resume nuclear testing.

The CTBT is a multilateral treaty that bans all nuclear explosions, whether for military or peaceful purposes. Although it was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996, it’s still in the ratification stage — 18 countries are yet to ratify

While Russia ratified the agreement in 2000, the US is still to do so.

How did CTBT come into being?

  • The United States conducted the world’s first successful nuclear weapons test in July 1945. Four years later, the Soviet Union tested their first nuclear weapon. These tests triggered a decades-long arms race between the two superpowers.
  • Between 1945 and 1996, more than 2,000 nuclear tests were carried out — 1,032 of them by the United States and 715 of them by the Soviet Union, according to the UN. Britain carried out 45 tests, France 210 and China 45.
  • The radioactive fallout from those tests drew criticism from around the globe. The international community’s concern about the effects on health and the environment continued to grow
  • The 1963 Limited Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (LTBT) was one of the first such attempts. It prohibited nuclear testing in the atmosphere, outer space, and underwater, but underground tests were still permitted.
  • To tackle the limitations of LTBT, a comprehensive test ban was discussed during the negotiation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1968. However, no agreement was reached on the issue.
  • Six years later, the US and Soviet Union agreed to sign the Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT), which established a nuclear “threshold” by banning the two countries from conducting tests that would produce a yield exceeding 150 kilotons (equivalent to 150,000 tons of TNT).
  • A major breakthrough only came after the Cold War ended around 1990 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. As the geopolitical tensions simmered down, the UN took advantage of the situation and adopted the CTBT, which put a blanket ban on the explosive testing of nuclear weapons, on September 10, 1996, and it opened for signature on September 24, 1996.

Did the CTBT stop nuclear testing?

Since the CTBT, 10 nuclear tests have taken place. India conducted two in 1998, Pakistan also two in 1998, and North Korea conducted tests in 2006, 2009, 2013, 2016 (twice) and 2017, according to the United Nations

Which key countries haven’t ratified CTBT?

Notably, for the treaty to enter into force, it must be signed and ratified by 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries, eight of which have yet to ratify the agreement: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States, according to the UN.

Syllabus- Prelims; Current Affairs

Source- Indian Express

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