Study Guide

Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) or Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) Analysis

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  • Rhetoric


    The PTBT evolved out of a series of diplomatic negotiations between the governments of the U.S., the U.K., and the USSR. These talks went on for years.

    Given all the talking, it's entirely likely that the conversations between people like Eisenhower and Khrushchev became heated. You might think that each invested party would have engaged a whole spectrum of rhetorical devices, from emotional appeal to ethical conjecture, during the lengthy negotiation process so as to get what they wanted out of the deal. If one tactic doesn't work, you try another, right?

    While that might work when you're trying to talk your way out of trouble, you'll be hard-pressed to find anything beyond stone-cold reason here.

    That's because the PTBT is an international treaty about preventing catastrophic warfare, not a holiday newsletter from those cousins you only see at family reunions. Considering the intensity of the situation and the strains caused by the capitalist/communist disagreement, emotive content would have been not just inappropriate but volatile.

    Furthermore, using something like ethos to drive the decision-making process while writing the PTBT would have been pointless, if not damaging, because—philosophically speaking—the U.S. and the U.K. had a different sense of what defined moral character and ethics compared to the USSR. If anything, ethos could have been seen as one party staking claim to a moral high ground and passing judgment on another party.

    Not a great scenario for a nuclear crisis.

    It's just as well. Pathos and ethos would have opened a whole can of subjective worms and possibly halted negotiations altogether. It was extremely important that the PTBT presents its content as neutrally and logically as possible so as to be agreeable to all parties involved. This accounts for its tedious language and detailed procedures, which you might have noticed in Articles I, II, and particularly III. They are describing the rules laid out by the treaty—rules for which there is no room for interpretation or error.

    There is one exception, however, that is a blend of pathos and logos, and that's line 3:

    Seeking to achieve the discontinuance of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time, determined to continue negotiations to this end, and desiring to put an end to the contamination of man's environment by radioactive substances [...]. (3)

    The idea here is that the original parties are dedicated to eventually ending the use of nuclear weapons because they poison the planet and threaten to kill every living being on it. That's pretty basic logic, but with a strong emotional element to it. The thought of everyone and everything dying because of a nuclear bomb is terrible.

    To put it simply, it's a thought that makes us feel bad, and there you have your pathos. Sometimes the most straightforward arguments are successful because they carry with them the strongest emotional appeal.

  • Structure

    No Bones About It

    Well, people, this is one straightforward treaty. It's certainly not written with any sort of entertainment quality in mind, and it's equally unlikely that it was ever intended to be read aloud to an audience beyond government officials.

    If you weren't already familiar with the title, one of the dead giveaways that the PTBT is a treaty is its very clear format. Notice how it's divided into articles and then subdivided into numbered paragraphs. On one occasion, there is even a further subdivision  indicated by letters.

    At first, this can seem intimidating and potentially difficult to read, mostly because it looks so official, but if you stick with it for a moment, you notice that those numbers and letters are meant to help clarify the document. Each section is a part of the treaty and contains its own point. This also helps when referencing the treaty later in casual conversation at a party or during the drafting of other, related treaties.

    So let those letters and numbers be a guide because they're there to help us all follow along. It also couldn't hurt to know how to interpret a treaty in general. Treaties might be the work of government officials, but they deal with worldwide concerns and are written for and about people. If you know how to read them, then you know exactly what they do and whom they impact. Not a bad skill to have.

    How It Breaks Down

    Section 1 (Sentences 1-4): It's Party Time

    The introduction identifies the authors of the treaty as the U.S., the U.K., and the USSR, collectively called the "Original Parties." It also describes their intentions to create the partial test ban treaty as part of a larger project for eventually ending the arms race and the development of nuclear weapons entirely. This is something they will do along with the United Nations.

    Section 2 (Sentences 5-10): Rules of the Game

    The first article describes, in detail, what the original parties and any other signing parties are agreeing to when joining the treaty. This agreement includes two major parts.

    The first is that they promise not to conduct nuclear weapons testing or detonate any other type of nuclear explosive in the air, in outer space, or underwater. By signing, they also promise not to conduct nuclear weapons testing or detonate any other type of nuclear explosive in any area where radioactive fallout might reach territories beyond their borders.

    In this section it's also stated that the rules set up by the PTBT will not be an obstacle for the creation and application of future treaties that might ban nuclear testing of all kinds—including those underground.

    Article I ends with a final reminder that the signing nations can't dabble in nuclear testing conducted by other nations nor encourage it.

    Section 3 (Sentences 11-16): More Rules

    Article II gives the signing parties the opportunity to make changes to the treaty if they so desire. To do this, a party must submit an amendment, which will then be reviewed by all parties that are part of the treaty. If one-third or more of the parties want a conference to discuss the amendment, then they'll have a conference—complete with crustless white-bread finger sandwiches and gut-rotting coffee.

    For the proposed amendment to pass, all of the original parties and a majority of the signing parties have to vote in favor of it. If it passes the vote, then the amendment will go into effect once the official documents have been processed.

    Section 4 (Sentences 17-25): C'mon, Everybody

    Article III is basically an open invitation to any nation that wants to jump on the PTBT bandwagon whenever it feels like. It also confirms the original parties—the U.S., the U.K., and the USSR—hold the most responsibility regarding the terms of the treaty.

    It's in the second paragraph of this section that they are referred to and become the "Depositary Governments," or governing bodies through which nations that are not universally recognized can become part of the treaty.

    The remainder of Article III describes the procedure for how the treaty goes into full effect with the processing of the official documents submitted by the original parties and how, from that point on, they are in charge of dealing with the organization and administration related to matters of the treaty, such as the accession of new parties, the scheduling of conferences, etc. Fun stuff. Lastly, it is confirmed that the treaty is written in accordance with the rules established by the Charter of the United Nations.

    Section 5 (Sentences 26-29): What If We Change Our Minds?

    Article IV very directly states that the PTBT doesn't have an expiration date, but in the event of a nuclear incident, all parties have the right and ability to leave the treaty with three-months' notice.

    Section 6 (Sentences 30-34): The PTBT: Bilingual Edition

    Article V functions as the conclusion to the treaty. It explains that original copies of the treaty will be housed in the archives of the American, British, and Soviet governments. Other parties will get their own certified copies of the document to enjoy.

    The treaty concludes with the signature of the original parties' representatives: U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk, British Foreign Secretary Alec Douglas-Home, and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. The date of signing is August 5th, 1963.

  • Writing Style

    Treaty Talk (That Is to Say, Super Official)

    The PTBT is primarily made up of the legalese of international law...something we're calling "treaty talk." (Check out the "Tough-o-Meter" section for more on this.) Treaties are meant to create a bond among different nations on various issues—a promise to and by humanity to act humanely and treat each other right. That's a solemn job, for sure, so it makes sense that the writing style of a treaty, the PTBT included, would be extremely official.

    Which it is.

    Here's the thing about the official language of the PTBT—it's extremely specific yet sufficiently vague. Sufficiently vague for what, you ask? Well, for anything that isn't explicitly mentioned.

    To explain: the PTBT was written in such a way that all of the original signatories—that is, the U.S., the U.K., and the USSR—were in agreement with its terms. That means a lot of compromise occurred, and sometimes a solution just couldn't be found.

    For example, the treaty bans nuclear testing in the atmosphere, space, and underwater, but not testing underground.This was a huge issue during the drafting process that no one could agree upon. So instead, they simply set it aside to deal with later (meaning, of course, underground testing could occur). The only caveat made in this regard is the hopeful statement that the PTBT—a partial test ban—would pave the way for a total test ban in the future.

    If we read between the lines, we can interpret this statement as a reference to the eventual banning of underground testing, as well. We don't usually think of treaties as being nuanced, but the truth is they are some of the most carefully and logically written documents out there. In a way, the welfare of the planet depends on it.

  • What's Up With the Title?

    The title doesn't really jump out and snag your attention, does it? What you see is what you get: Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water. It's often referred to as the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) or the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT), but the official title is explicit and long for instrumental reasons.

    As international law, it's important that the purpose of the treaty is clearly stated for the following reasons:

    • Much clearer and more serious than something like the Boom-Boom Treaty, the title tells the reader immediately what the treaty is about. It informs us—without even having to read the body text—that nuclear weapons testing is widely banned.
    • This might sound obvious, but the title makes clear exactly which treaty it is—that way, no one government representative has any questions about what they are reading, signing, or, in some cases, violating (boo).
    • Since the copies of the treaty live in governmental archives from the United Nations to the Pentagon to the Kremlin and beyond, having a clear and obvious title makes it easy to find among all the other dusty documents.

    Imagine being the poor clerk who is asked to find a treaty with a name that no one is able to remember. According to the United Nations Treaty Collection website:

    There are currently over 560 multilateral conventions deposited with the Secretary-General, and their number keeps growing steadily as new conventions open for signature almost every year. (Source)

    That's not a small number, so all the more reason to keep the title clear and simple.

  • What's Up With the Opening Lines?

    The Governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, hereinafter referred to as the "Original Parties" [...]. (1)

    The length of the opening sentence doesn't exactly give Charles Dickens a run for his money when it comes to being captivating.

    The first sentence is technically lines 1-9, with a period making its first appearance just after "[...] as the Parties have stated in the Preamble to this Treaty, they seek to achieve" (9). Since this is almost a third of the document, it might be, oh, a little excessive to analyze all of it, so we're going to make an executive decision and focus on the very first part of the document, which is line 1.

    The opening line does two important things here: it lists the three nations that have worked together in the creation of the PTBT, and it identifies them front and center. As we already know, they are the U.S., the U.K., and the USSR.

    The second thing is that it establishes a shorthand nickname for referring to the authoring governments. They are collectively called the "Original Parties." For three nations to always be referred to as one is a sign of solidarity among them, and it also shows that they bear equal responsibility in enforcing and upholding the conditions of the treaty.

  • What's Up With the Closing Lines?

    IN WITNESS WHEREOF the undersigned, duly authorized, have signed this Treaty. DONE in triplicate at the city of Moscow the fifth day of August, one thousand nine hundred and sixty-three. (33-34)

    Nope, this isn't exactly an attention grabber, either. 

    In a way, the closing sentences of the PTBT recall the opening line. They again bring together the three authoring nations (the U.S., the U.K., and the USSR) and, with the signatures of the authorized government representative for each nation, make the treaty the real deal. Those signatures, by the way, belong to U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk, British Foreign Secretary Alec Douglas-Home, and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, and they made the original parties officially responsible for the treaty—as is implied by the opening statement. 

    The closing lines are perhaps the most jargon-y of any part of the treaty, but "in witness whereof" and "done in triplicate" are standard legal terms. 

    The former just means that the government representatives have signed the treaty in full agreement. The latter means that there are three copies of the original treaty, and each copy was signed by Rusk, Douglas-Home, and Gromyko on August 5th, 1963.

  • Tough-o-Meter

    (5) Tree Line

    The PTBT
    is certainly no haiku
    but come on, it's short

    The authors have a nice habit of repeating long phrases and names, which cuts down on the length in its own way. They also have an annoying habit of sometimes using difficult language that we're going to call "treaty talk." Treaty talk basically means that the document is written in the language of international law, which is itself a form of legalese.

    It's difficult at times to determine exactly who or what the text is referencing because it uses phrases like "entry into force" and "instrument of ratification." If you find yourself getting caught up in these details, take a moment to check out the following resources: the handy-dandy glossary of treaty terms provided by the United Nations along with our very own detailed "Summary" section of the PTBT, which will translate that treaty talk into real talk for you.

  • Shout-Outs

    In-Text References

    International Law References

    • Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water—yeah, there's a lot of self-referencing in this document (6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 18-20, 22-25, 27-33)
    • Charter of the United Nations (25)

    Historical and Political References

    • The government of the United States of America (1, 13-16, 21-22, 24-25, 31-32)
    • The government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (1, 13-16, 21-22, 24-25, 31-32)
    • The government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (1, 13-16, 21-22, 24-25, 31-32)
    • The United Nations (2, 25)
    • A future treaty banning all weapons testing (2, 3, 9)
    • Nuclear weapons (2-3, 6, 10)

    References to This Text

    International Law References

  • Trivia

    Perversely, atomic bombs are often given funny, cute, or catchy names. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was called "Little Boy." The one dropped on Nagasaki? "Fat Man." (Source)

    Greenpeace was founded by the world's broccoli enthusiasts...just joking. Greenpeace is actually incredibly humorless, and for good reason. It was founded in 1971 as a protest response to a scheduled nuclear weapons test in Alaska. The organization has since flourished to become one of the world's leading environmental and peace activism groups. (Source)

    Among the Allied powers of World War II, France and China said non, merci to the PTBT. (Source)

    The U.S. signed and ratified the Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems (ABM Treaty) in 1972, but it withdrew from the treaty in 2002. Uh, who thought that was a good idea? (Source)

    Despite arguments in favor of the "relative safety" of underground nuclear testing, the radiation released from these tests—like iodine-131, plutonium, iodine-129, and caesium-135—still enters into the soil, thus making it toxic. Do you know what comes from the soil? Food. Bon appetit! (Source)

    The Tsar Bomba was so powerful that it contained the blast power of 58 million tons of TNT. This measures out to be about, oh, just all of the explosives used in World War II...times 10. (Source)

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