Right now there are nine countries who would need to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty for it to go into effect, Indonesia, the United States, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, and North Korea. Yesterday, during an event at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hasan Wirajuda said Indonesia is prepared to sign the CTBT if the United States is. Obviously, some of those other countries are going to be tough gets. Nevertheless, any forward motion to this goal is welcome, and I think this underscores the importance of the United States showing leadership on this topic.
The larger issue, however, is the context of Barack Obama’s pledge to commit the United States to work toward the eventual global abolition of nuclear weapons. That’s an important goal, and I think it actually is an achievable one, but it’s clearly not a goal that’s achievable in the short term. So the idea has to be to combine clear articulation of the goal with solid commitment to incremental steps that the non-nuclear weapons states of the world can see as gestures of our good faith. Working toward serious bilateral arsenal reductions with Russia is one important piece of this puzzle, and the CTBT is probably the other most important piece. After all, if we seriously intend to be moving beyond nuclear weapons then clearly moving beyond nuclear weapons tests is going to be an important intermediary phase.