Matt Yglesias points out that, at a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace event yesterday, the Foreign Minister of Indonesia essentially said that if the United States walks through the door of ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, his country will follow.
This is a shrewd political maneuver, particularly because a statement at a venue halfway across the world likely won’t generate as much attention at home than would one made in Jakarta. Such a commitment would also require a greater lift on the part of the United States, which actually possesses nuclear weapons, than of Indonesia, which does not. Indonesia does, however, have the potential to research and possibly test nuclear material, so it would unquestionably be in U.S. interests to make sure another country did not start along the road of nuclear progression.
For all the reasons Matt lays out — that ratifying CTBT is relatively low-hanging fruit, a short-term good gesture that would advance the goal of non-proliferation — convincing the eight other countries who would need to ratify CTBT for it to take effect should be an Obama Administration priority (Vice President Biden is reportedly leading the effort to shepherd the treaty through the Senate). Ratifying this ourselves should be a diplomatic and policy no-brainer, so much more clearly so if Indonesia is ready to follow by example. Granted, China and Russia (let alone Iran and North Korea), also CTBT non-ratifiers, probably wouldn’t exactly fall like dominoes from this diplomatic reciprocity, but it would at least remove the hypocrisy from the U.S. stance.
Plus, a move by Indonesia would give commentators another positive development in a Muslim country (the world’s largest, in fact) to ascribe to the “Obama Effect” of the Cairo speech.
(image of Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda, under a Creative Commons license)