No first use of nuclear weapons

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Pantelis Ikonomou, former IAEA inspector, writes:

Last week, the No-First-Use Act (NFU) was reintroduced in the US Senate to establish in law that the US policy is NOT to use nuclear weapons first in any conflict. This is a key initiative necessary to advance NFU policy in the US, in its nuclear allied countries (NATO, Japan. South Korea, and Australia), and ultimately in all other nuclear armed states.

President Obama, who had considered ruling out the first use of a nuclear weapon in a conflict, eventually abandoned the idea. Allied countries maintained the option of first use of US nuclear weapons was needed for their protection. There was conern in the US that NFU would embolden Russia and China.

President Biden could now run into these same problems. Armed conflicts in the NATO vicinity have grown stronger. Strategic tensions between the US and the two nuclear powers, Russia and China, are escalating. There is no clarity about their policy on first use of nuclear weapons.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated “Our nuclear weapons doctrine does not provide for a pre-emptive strike…” however, “… we are prepared and will use nuclear weapons only when we know for certain that some potential aggressor is attacking Russia, our territory.

Beijing in its White Defence Charter 2011 underlines the posture of maintaining a “minimum nuclear deterrent,” with the commitment of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, but without a detailed analysis of the term “minimum.”

The need for NFU nuclear doctrine is becoming more important than ever. Continuously modernized nuclear arsenals are getting more capable. They can wipe out humanity and civilization on the planet (more than once). The probability of nuclear Armageddon due to accident or miscalculation is dangerously increasing.

Unfortunately, global peace and mankind’s existence depend currently upon an irrational equilibrium, that of Mutually Assured Destruction. The deadlock of of nuclear deterrence ought now be obvious to all: sensible superpower leaders, their expert advisors, and the terrified world public.

There is no better moment for a great world power, such as the US, to take the leadership and steer the world towards the adoption of global NFU.  Doing so would challenge the Russians and Chinese to clarify their doctrines, lower the risk of nuclear war, and pave the way for nuclear disarmament. Nuclear weapons, the most dangerous invention the world has ever seen, must be prevented from ever being used again. May the US Senate open the door to this way.


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