CNS Feature Stories

Special articles and reports on timely nonproliferation issues by CNS staff.
Updated: May 13, 2010

Indonesia Takes the Lead on the CTBT

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa announced that Indonesia would ratify the CTBT in the near future, without waiting for the U.S. to ratify first.
Authors: Sean Dunlop and Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova

Posted: May 4, 2010

On May 3, Indonesia gave the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) a much-needed boost when Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa announced that Indonesia would ratify the CTBT in the near future, without waiting for the U.S. to ratify first. According to news reports, addressing the Indonesian parliament on the eve of the NPT Review Conference, Natalegawa said that Indonesia no longer wants its policy "to be steered by the U.S. decisions" on this matter.[1]

Indonesia is one of the nine remaining "Annex 2" states whose ratification is needed for the CTBT to enter into force.[2] Coming on the heels of the release of the new U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, the signing of New START (the first verifiable strategic arms reduction treaty in over a decade), and the successful conclusion of the inaugural summit on nuclear security, a pledge by Indonesia in front of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference to ratify the CTBT in the near future adds further momentum to this global push for nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.[3] This will be of great benefit to both Indonesia and the international community.

Jakarta's ratification announcement demonstrates the commitment of a key Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) country to disarmament and nonproliferation—two of the three pillars of the NPT. Moreover, it will put additional pressure on the Nuclear-Weapon States (NWS) to fulfill their own NPT commitments—particularly China and the United States, as both continue to withhold ratification of the CTBT. Finally, it should contribute significantly to creating and sustaining a positive atmosphere at the NPT RevCon.

In the CTBT context, Indonesia's ratification would add visibility to global efforts to bring the treaty into force. It could also help create positive momentum in the United States and underline the need for public debate in the remaining outlier states, particularly in China and among the NAM.

Finally, Indonesia stands to gain on both the bilateral and multilateral level from moving ahead with ratification. While Jakarta's relationship with Washington has improved over the last several years, CTBT ratification could offer the partnership a new opportunity for engagement. At the multilateral level, Indonesia could use this visibility to boost its leadership credentials within NAM and advance its growing regional agenda.

Indonesia, Disarmament and CTBT

Since the emergence of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in the early 1960s, Indonesia has played a leading role on disarmament issues, coordinating NAM positions and actively shaping the debate. Jakarta was a significant player during the CTBT negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament.[4] Its long-standing policy was and remains that all nonproliferation efforts must be accompanied by a genuine commitment to global disarmament.[5] Thus, Indonesia's diplomats argued that the CTBT must represent a step towards nuclear disarmament rather than an attempt by NWS to simply preserve the status quo. To this end, Jakarta's diplomats demanded in Geneva that a prohibition of simulated testing using super-computers be included in the scope of the CTBT.[6] While Indonesia did not obtain this concession from the NWS, it still regarded the resulting treaty as a positive step towards disarmament.

Indonesia signed the CTBT in 1996. Ever since, its officials have consistently stated that the CTBT is essential for international peace and security.[7] Indonesia voted in favor of all UN General Assembly resolutions calling for the "earliest entry into force" of the test ban. Its own ratification process, however, has not been completed, though at every conference on facilitating CTBT entry into force, Indonesian representatives have reaffirmed the country's commitment to the treaty.

They also have made it clear that holding out was a principled, political—rather than national security—decision.[8] The NAM tends to view CTBT ratification as a litmus test of the nuclear-weapons States' commitment to the disarmament pillar of the NPT. Indonesia rightly points out that in 1995, non-aligned States Parties to the NPT agreed to the treaty's indefinite extension as part of a package of decisions and a resolution that included the completion of CTBT negotiations by 1996.[9] At the 2000 Review Conference, NPT parties agreed on "the early entry into force" of the CTBT as the first of thirteen practical steps to implement Article VI and the promises made in 1995. The U.S. Senate's decision not to ratify the treaty in 1999 and the Bush administration's reneging on the promises made at the 1995 and 2000 Review Conferences created conditions under which Jakarta saw no reason why a leader of the NAM should step forward on the CTBT.

When President Obama outlined a global agenda for nuclear disarmament in Prague in April 2009, the NAM response could generally be characterized as "wait and see." The final document from the Sharm El Sheikh summit contained language that captured this sentiment and was reflected in similar statements made by NAM members at the NPT PrepCom and the UN General Assembly's First Committee. In the summit document, "The Heads of State and Government, while noting the recent statements by NWS of their intention to pursue actions in achieving a world free of nuclear weapons, reaffirmed the need for urgent concrete actions by the NWS to achieve this goal."[10]

Indonesia praised the new U.S. position on the CTBT but made it clear that Washington was expected to act first. During a June 2009 visit in the United States, then-Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said, "We trust that [Obama] will succeed in getting the CTBT ratified, and we promise that when that happens, Indonesia will immediately follow suit."[11] In the run-up to the 2010 NPT Review Conference, Indonesia seems to have decided that the wait was no longer necessary, which could mean that the renewed U.S. commitment to nuclear disarmament is now being taken more seriously by some of the key NAM countries than it was several months ago. The 2010 RevCon represents a real opportunity to make measurable progress on disarmament, but this opportunity may be fleeting. Therefore, it is encouraging that Indonesia has taken the lead among the NAM in breaking the pattern of "wait and see."

Potential Impact on the NPT Review Conference

The 2010 NPT Review Conference comes at a crucial time for nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. After the failure of the previous RevCon in 2005 and a decade characterized by a crisis of multilateralism, hardening stances of both NWS and NNWS, and deepening mistrust between the NAM and the West, there is now a renewed hope for strengthening the nonproliferation regime, advancing disarmament, and improving NPT implementation overall. At the same time, some are concerned that the conference may be a make-or-break event for the NPT, and failure in May 2010 could be even more serious than in 2005.

Obama's "Nuclear Spring" has shown that a number of modest yet meaningful steps towards disarmament taken in sequence can become force multipliers. Nevertheless, consensus is still far from an easy target at the upcoming Review Conference. While the NWS, led by the United States and Russia, will most likely underscore their achievements and recent events, NAM countries will point out the lack of substantive progress on a number of long-promised items, such as the WMD-free zone in the Middle East and implementation of the 13 Practical Steps. Tension may yet increase, with the West pushing for more nonproliferation measures, while NAM continues to oppose the universalization of the IAEA Additional Protocol and proposals on multilateral fuel arrangements.

In this context, a ratification announcement by Indonesia could have a significant effect at the conference: it would demonstrate goodwill and commitment of a leading NAM country to both nonproliferation and disarmament; contribute to sustaining a positive atmosphere; put more pressure on the nuclear-weapon states to take concrete, measurable steps towards the implementation of Article VI; and strengthen the NAM's hand in pressing for more progressive language on disarmament in the final document.

Where Does It Take the CTBT?

Since before his election, U.S. President Obama has pledged to "reach out to the Senate to secure the ratification of the CTBT at the earliest practical date."[12] Numerous statements by the President, government officials, and Democrats in Congress reinforce this commitment. However, protracted START follow-on treaty negotiations, the work on the new Nuclear Posture Review, and competing domestic priorities have likely pushed the CTBT debate in the U.S. Senate to 2011. While few of the remaining outliers have compelling reasons to stay outside the treaty, they all seem to have decided to wait for Washington to fulfill its obligations before having to deal with the CTBT themselves.[13] Indonesia's ratification would give the CTBT additional visibility and emphasize the need for continuous action.

For the United States, other CTBT holdouts—such as Iran and North Korea—are the real cause of concern, and therefore Jakarta's decision will probably have little direct impact on U.S. CTBT calculus. Yet, if Indonesia ratifies the treaty on the heels of, or during, a successful Review Conference, domestic CTBT supporters will be able to point out that Obama administration's policy of engagement on disarmament is generating results on the nonproliferation front and advancing the test ban in other countries. Therefore, even if Indonesia's ratification may not directly affect the U.S. decision to ratify the CTBT, it can positively influence the overall trajectory of U.S. disarmament policy.

The value of Indonesia's ratification comes to the fore in the context of the non-aligned Annex 2 states. As China is expected to reciprocate U.S. ratification, the responsibility for entry into force will shift to Israel, Egypt, Iran, India and Pakistan, four of whom are NAM members. So far, the only country in which a debate on the CTBT has already started is India. Indonesia's ratification could provide the necessary visibility for the test ban to stimulate discussions in other countries, even before the U.S. Senate decision.

The debate on the CTBT among the NAM has stagnated over the past decade, as key members of the movement awaited progress on the U.S. part. Now, Indonesia, as one of the leaders and the group's disarmament coordinator—has a good reason to reinvigorate the debate and highlight the responsibility of fellow Annex 2 states. Previously, Indonesian diplomats showed reluctance in discussing whether Jakarta would be ready to take a lead on promoting CTBT ratification among key NAM states,[14] but it may well want to use an opportunity to bolster its leadership credentials, especially in the context of its evolving relationship with the United States.

A Bilateral Relationship in Search of a Boost

Indonesia is one of the up-and-coming countries in Southeast Asia at a time when the United States is looking for a stable partner in the region. Indonesia's ratification could further improve bilateral relations and offer a new opportunity for engagement at a different level.[15]

Indonesia has made significant democratic gains since President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono first took office in 2004. In July 2009, some 100 million Indonesians, spread across a vast archipelago, went to the polls and reelected president Yudhoyono in a free and fair vote. The world's fourth-largest country by population, with its 240 million people inhabiting thousands of islands between the Indian and the Pacific oceans, Indonesia has become a hub of political stability in a tumultuous region. "If you want to know whether Islam, democracy, modernity and women's rights can coexist, go to Indonesia," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a trip to Southeast Asia in 2009.[16]

During the past years, Jakarta burnished its counter-terrorism and human-rights credentials and the bilateral relations with Washington improved, with U.S. Secretary of State Clinton recently hinting at potential increased military cooperation. The Obama administration is looking for a stable ASEAN partner to counter China's influence in the region. Washington has an interest in maintaining freedom of passage through the shipping lanes in the region. Washington is currently considering increasing cooperation on issues such as security, education, infrastructure development and climate change.

The Importance of Regional Impact

Just a decade ago, few would have envisioned Indonesia as a role model. The country was economically and politically weakened by the longtime dictatorship of Suharto. The mainly export-dependent economy collapsed during the financial crisis of the late 1990s, plunging the country into political chaos. Religious radicalism, terrorism, and ethnic unrest were threatening the substance of the Indonesian state. Today, Indonesia's international reputation is increasingly a product of its economic growth, its moderate brand of Islam, and its proven ability to blend faith with democracy.

CTBT ratification would give Indonesia additional visibility to advance its agenda and priorities within the NAM and international organizations and at a regional level. While it is understandable that a principled NAM country would want to wait for the United States to fulfill its promise and then ratify after Washington (and probably Beijing), this could generate the impression that Indonesia waited for as long as it could and, in the end, was convinced by Washington. However, ratifying before the United States, thus becoming the first of the nine remaining Annex 2 countries to take the initiative and push the Treaty one step further, in what will most probably be viewed in a few years as a set of slowly following and falling dominoes, will give Indonesia the clout it desires and deserves.


U.S. President Obama's approach is already winning over skeptics who doubted that concerted diplomatic engagement on nonproliferation and disarmament would yield tangible benefits for U.S. national security.[17] The "house gifts" that many countries—including NAM members like the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Egypt, and Malaysia—brought to the Nuclear Security Summit help give the U.S. administration the domestic political capital it needs to continue pursuing its disarmament agenda.[18]

The lesson to be drawn out of these small yet coordinated developments is that a key decision at the right moment can make a huge difference. When responding to a question from a journalist, CTBTO Executive Secretary Tibor Tóth recently declared "Indonesia can make a difference. [...] It is worthwhile for Indonesia, and for all of us, to think through what countries can do individually for a wider benefit. Indonesia can show leadership, in accordance with its best traditions [and] the return would be high for both Indonesia and the wider international community."[19]

Jakarta's announcement that it is now ready to lead—rather than follow—other states' decisions on the CTBT is most welcome and should, at the very least, have a positive influence on the negotiations at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. In the best case scenario, ratification by Indonesia, followed by the United States and China, could persuade the remaining non-aligned Annex 2 states to join the treaty they have long supported.

Related Resources

Deepti Choubey, "Don't Wait for the United States," CTBTO Spectrum 12 (April 2009), pp. 10–11, Spectrum/2009/2009_April_Spectrum12_p10-11.pdf.

Kaegan McGrath, Stephanie Bobiak, and Jean du Preez, "The Future of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," CNS Feature Story, March 7, 2008,

Liviu Horovitz and Luis Gain, "One Year of Test Ban Commitment Cannot Erase a Decade of Dismissal: Discussing the Outcome of the CTBT 2009 Article XIV Conference," NTI Issue Brief, November 2, 2009,

Liviu Horovitz and Robert Golan Vilella, "Boosting the CTBT Prospects in the Middle East," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, vol. 66, no. 2 (March/April 2010).

Steve Clemons, "Biden Courts the Non-Aligned on Nukes," Talking Points Memo, April 12, 2010, biden_courts_the_non-aligned_on_nukes/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed& utm_campaign=Feed%3A+tpmcafe-main+%28TPMCafe%29.

Kaegan McGrath, "Entry into Force of the CTBT: All Roads Lead to Washington," NTI Issue Brief, April 2008,

Topics: Treaties | Nuclear | United States

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[1] "Indonesia Prepares to Join Test Ban Treaty," Global Security Newswire, April 30, 2010.
[2] These states are China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States.
[3] The NPT Review Conference started on May 3rd at the United Nations in New York and will continue until May 28.
[4] Rebecca Johnson, Unfinished Business (New York and Geneva: UNIDIR, 2009), 225.
[5] For example, Ambassador I Gusta Agung Wesaka Puja's stated in February 2008 that "nuclear disarmament is not an option, it is an obligation." In January 2009, he said that if nuclear weapons states "want to curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons, they must also be prepared to accept the total elimination of those weapons." See Statements by I Gusta Agung Wesaka Puja, ambassador of Indonesia, to the Conference on Disarmament, February 26, 2008, speeches08/1session/Feb26Indonesia.pdf, and January 20, 2009, speeches09/1session/20January_Indonesia.pdf.
[6] Rebecca Johnson, Unfinished Business, pp. 63 and 79.
[7] For example, in 2003 Ambassador Sriwidjaja praised "the important role played by the CTBT regime to contribute effectively to the prevention of proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects." See Statement by H.E. Ambassador T.A. Samodra Sriwidjaja to the Article XIV Conference, September 5, 2003, 2003/statements/0309_pm/0509_am/05_indonesia_e.pdf
[8] Statement by H.E. Dr. R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Indonesia, at the Sixth Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (Article XIV), New York, September 24, 2009, 240909_Afternoon_Session/240909_Indonesia.pdf.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Final Document, XV Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement, Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, July 11-16, 2009, Relevant%20Documents/01FINAL%20DOCUMENT.DOC.
[11] Hassan Wirajuda, Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 8, 2009,
[12] "Arms Control Today Presidential Q&A: President-elect Barack Obama," Arms Control Today, December 2008,
[13] Liviu Horovitz and Robert Golan-Vilella, "Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: An Exploration of How the Dominoes Might Fall after the U.S. Ratification," Nonproliferation Review, vol. 17, no. 2, (July 2010), forthcoming.
[14] Personal communication with Indonesian diplomats, fall 2009.
[15] See, for example, Ann Marie Murphy, "Indonesia Returns to the International Stage: Good News for the United States," Orbis, vol. 53, no.1 (January 2009), pp. 65-79; and Joshua Kurlantzick, "Obama's Missed Opportunity in Indonesia," Council on Foreign Relations, March 20, 2010.
[16] Hillary Rodham Clinton, "The Role of Civil Society in Building a Stronger, More Peaceful World," address at Indonesian Civil Society Dinner, Jakarta, February 18, 2009,
[17] Jim Hoagland, "President Obama's Farsighted Nuclear Strategy," Washington Post, April 18, 2010, article/2010/04/16/AR2010041603992.html.
[18] Thomas Young and Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, "The Nuclear Security Summit: Forging Consensus and Building Momentum," CNS Feature Story, April 20, 2010,
[19] CTBTO, "Australia and the CTBTO to Work Together to Win Support for the Treaty," February 24, 2010, togetherto-win-support-for-the-treaty/24-february-2010-page-2/.

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