U.S. Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller visited WSU Tuesday in her trek across the nation, speaking about the future of nuclear arms in U.S. policy.
Gottemoeller, on assignment from President Barak Obama, has been on a speaking tour to raise awareness of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
“It’s been off the public agenda for so long,” Gottemoeller said. “I want people to listen and learn about it.”
The treaty, signed by the U.S. in 1996, would ban all nuclear tests in all environments. The U.S. Senate failed to ratify the treaty in 1999, leaving it unenforced. The treaty has been signed by 183 countries and 163 of those have ratified it.
The U.S. Senate requires 67 votes to ratify the treaty. Gottemoeller said this may seem impossible in today’s political climate but it’s been done before.
More than 100 students, faculty and community members attended the event, put on by the Olene S. Walker Institute for Politics and Public Service. This the last big event hosted by the Walker Institute this semester.
Communication Major India Nielsen said going in she didn’t know much about the topic but found the speech to be informative.
Gottemoeller pointed to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, signed between the U.S. and Russia and ratified by the Senate, as an example of getting arms control treaties through the Senate.
In the 1990s the Nevada test site detonated about 2,000 nuclear explosives. The after-effects are still being measured Gottemoeller said, speaking of the people who got cancer from the fallout.
Since then there has been a moratorium on testing even though the treaty hasn’t been ratified.
Gottemoeller said the treaty would be enforceable if ratified, since countries would have to face the weight of the international community if they violated the treaty.
Gottemoeller said the U.S. has taken steps to reduce their stockpile since the cold war ended. She said 31,000 nuclear weapons had been eliminated since the Cold War, bringing the current total down to around 4,800.
A student asked Gottemoeller what they could do to help bring up the treaty and other arms control issues. Gottemoeller said the best thing students can do is educate themselves on the issue, talk to others about it and then contact their state and federal representatives about bringing the treaty up in Senate.
Gottemoeller said the treaty isn’t really on the Senate radar. She thinks it’s an important issue and the public deserves a debate on it.
Rob Reynolds, associate professor of sociology at WSU, said a lot of the younger generation talks about nuclear weapons.
Reynolds added they don’t have the context of growing up in a world where there was daily fear of a nuclear attack or seeing their kids get cancer from nuclear tests in Nevada.