April 22, 1997
President Clinton wants the Senate to ratify the Chemicals Weapons Treaty, a document that that would ban some of the world's most dreaded killing agents. A group of conservative Senators, though, believe that U.S. participation in the treaty would be a threat to national security. Margaret Warner discusses the treaty with National Security Advisor Sandy Berger then with Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK).
MARGARET WARNER: Now, back to National Security Adviser Samuel Berger. Why should the Senate ratify this treaty?
SAMUEL BERGER, National Security Adviser: Because it's in the national security interest of the United States. And that's true for basically four reasons. No. 1, we have already decided to destroy our chemical weapons. That's was a decision taken in the 1980's by Congress and the previous administration. This is about destroying other nations' stockpiles and making a future battlefield potentially less risky. No. 2, it will make it harder for rogue nations like the Libyas, like the Iraqs, to acquire chemical weapons, whether they're in this treaty or not, because it will prohibit transfer of dangerous chemicals to those countries and provide for inspection of facilities where we think something wrong might be going on. Third, it will help us fight terrorists who might use chemical weapons by drawing down the stockpiles of these chemicals that could find their way into the black market and buy the prohibitions on transfers of dangerous chemicals. It will be more difficult for terrorists to use these weapons. Finally, there's a question--the issue the President raised earlier in the program--and that is the question of American leadership. We have led the fight against weapons of mass destruction, nuclear chemical biological, and if we walk away from this treaty now, the rest of the world will be puzzled at best, Margaret, and I think deeply troubled at worst.
MARGARET WARNER: How will it actually work? How will it actually be enforced?
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, the treaty, it will go into effect at the end of this month. There will be an executive council that will be established. There will be inspection teams that will be created. Of course, if we're not in the treaty, we will have no influence on how that takes shape. But at that point countries that are signatories will be under an obligation to destroy their chemical weapons stockpiles. If we believe that they're not doing that, we can go to this international entity and say we want an inspection of that facility. If they're found in violation, there's a range of sanctions that could take place from our own unilateral sanctions to U.N. sanctions. So there is a range of remedies for countries that violate this treaty.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Now that regime sounds very much like the control that's exercised or tried to be exercised over nuclear--development of nuclear weapons. And the critics all point to the example of Iraq. Iraq had signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. It had been signified as nuclear weapon three by this organization that was the international organization, and we learned during the Gulf War it turned out they had been developing nuclear weapons for years. I mean, what's in this treaty to make it more effective at ferreting out surreptitious programs from the last one?
SAMUEL BERGER: First of all, it is a very, very pervasive inspection regime. Second of all, I think the Persian Gulf War, itself, has changed our attitudes about chemical weapons. It brought this issue really to the forefront because we faced an enemy that had chemical weapons and we had a real legitimate prospect of dealing with them on the battlefield. That's what gave this treaty impetus. That's what strengthened the treaty in terms of the prohibition of transfer of dangerous chemicals, the prohibition of maintaining chemical weapons, and inspection regime; that is very, very rigorous.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, you talked about the non-signing of rogue states--it would be harder for them to get materials from--I assume you mean the countries that do sign.
SAMUEL BERGER: That's correct.
MARGARET WARNER: But what--aren't there enough of the non-signing countries that they can just have their own network of supplying one another? These chemicals aren't terribly hard to get, are they?
SAMUEL BERGER: Let's put this in the right perspective, Margaret. The question here is not whether this solves the chemical weapon problem for all times. It doesn't. We're spending half a billion dollars in our budget on chemical weapons defense because the problem will persist with this treaty or without this treaty. But the question is: Are we better off with this treaty than without it? Are we better off inside this treaty or outside with Libya and Iraq? If we're inside this treaty, it will be more difficult for Iraq and Libya to develop their chemical weapons systems because they will have--we will have controls on transfer of dangerous chemicals and inspection regime to go along with it.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let's turn to this week and these five amendments that are going to be voted on separately in the Senate. Is the administration opposed to all five?
SAMUEL BERGER: Yes. We have--let me put this in context. We have been engaged for about two and a half months with a process under the auspices of Senator Lott where we've tried to address a number of the concerns that have been raised about the treaty. For example, some were concerned about the constitutionality of the treaty, having inspectors go into--international inspectors go into a plant in Toledo. We said, fine, let's require that there be search warrants. If the owner of that plant doesn't want the inspectors to come in, it's required to go to an American judge. So in issue after issue we tried to address the concerns in a way that is not inconsistent with the treaty. Now, these amendments that are left really are inconsistent with the treaty. One, for example, would say we should not become part of this treaty until Russia does. Well, Russia--the Russian duma is considering this treaty. They're watching to see what we do. If we ratify, it will strengthen the hands of those people in the duma who think that we ought to ratify. If we walk away from this treaty, as the originators of it, it will strengthen the hands of the hard-liners who don't want Russia to sign the treaty. So there are a number of these amendments which would be inconsistent with the treaty, itself.
MARGARET WARNER: A couple of them require actual renegotiation--
SAMUEL BERGER: That's correct.
MARGARET WARNER: --of this treaty. Is that possible, or impossible?
SAMUEL BERGER: I think Brent Scowcroft, who was the National Security Adviser under President Bush and President Ford, I think said it best, just it's a non-starter. After all these years to think we're going to go back and renegotiate this treaty is really a fantasy.
MARGARET WARNER: So are you saying that a vote for one of these amendments is a vote to kill the treaty?
SAMUEL BERGER: Most of these amendments are amendments that would be inconsistent with a treaty and would make it impossible for us to deposit the instruments of ratification.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Do you have any predictions? I understand you came here from a meeting with Sen. Lott.
SAMUEL BERGER: No. I think this is a very close vote. I think that--an unusually large number of undecided Senators for an issue that is this close to being debated--obviously, we're very hopeful it will pass. I think it is very much in the national security interest of the United States. And that's why President Ford, President Bush, all the chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the past 20 years, Gen. Powell and others are for this treaty.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, thank you very much.
Continue to Margaret Warner's discussion with Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) regarding his objections to the Chemical weapon's treaty...