March 4, 2021: Global Video Conference on The Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

March 24th, 2021 - by Back from the Brink

On Building a Diverse and Inclusive MovementLilly Adams

(March 23, 2021) — We were thrilled that so many of you were able to join us on March 4th for Ending Nuclear Weapons Before They End Us: Opportunities Under the Biden Administration to Take Action. In total, more than 600 people from 28 countries tuned in live to learn from our panelists and discuss strategies for how to move forward together toward nuclear weapons abolition.  

We greatly appreciate all of the participation and questions from activists around the world that made the event such a success, and we thank our co-host, the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, as well as the over 40 partner organizations who supported the event.

If you weren’t able to join us live, we have compiled the recordings of each of the presentations, including the workshops, along with supporting resources for each topic — 19 videos in all and all of which can be found here

We apologize for the technical issue that caused the Local Resolutions Workshop to start late, but it was a great discussion, particularly for those who want to take action now, so make sure to check it out!

We also wanted to let you know that our partners in Massachusetts are holding an event on April 7th titled China, the US and the Risk of Nuclear War. If you attended the March 4th event, you’ll see familiar faces (Michael Klare and Zia Mian) along with Rachel Esplin Odell, Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute, and Tong Zhao, Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. To register, click here or here.

Thank you for your support of Back from the Brink. We have a rare and critical opportunity to shape the new Administration’s nuclear policies in the coming months, and we hope you’ll continue to join us in our call for an end to all nuclear weapons.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: A Global Mechanism for Achieving a Nuclear-Weapons-Free WorldBeatrice Fihn

ACTION ALERT: Renounce the Option of Using Nuclear Weapons First

The United States has never renounced the right to use nuclear weapons first. This increases the chance that a conflict could escalate to nuclear war. The United States should instead declare that it will never be the first to use nuclear weapons.

The Obama administration narrowed the role of nuclear weapons by stating that the US would not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any country without nuclear weapons that was in compliance with its nuclear nonproliferation obligations.

But it stopped short of declaring that the sole purpose of US nuclear weapons was to deter the use of nuclear weapons. Instead, it cited “a narrow range of contingencies” in which US nuclear weapons might be used: to deter an attack on the US or its allies using conventional, chemical, or biological weapons by a state that possessed nuclear weapons or was not in compliance with its nonproliferation obligations.

The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review broadens the range of scenarios that might lead to the first use of US nuclear weapons. These, it says, “include, but are not limited to, attacks on the US, allied, or partner civilian population or infrastructure, and attacks on US or allied nuclear forces, their command and control, or warning and attack assessment capabilities.”

Substantially broadening the range of circumstances under which the United States would consider the first use of nuclear weapons is a step in the wrong direction. It makes a nuclear war more likely by reducing the threshold for nuclear use.

Retaining the option to use nuclear weapons as part of a preemptive or preventive strike, or in response to conventional, chemical, biological, or other types of weapons creates a dangerous uncertainty. It makes it more likely that an adversary facing the threat of US nuclear weapons use may decide that it needs to be the first to take this step.

Given the overwhelming strength of its conventional military, the United States has nothing to gain from escalating a conflict to the nuclear level. Indeed, the United States and the world have everything to lose.

The United States should declare that it will never be the first to use nuclear weapons, and would use them only in response to a previous nuclear attack. Of course our goal is the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, but as long as they exist, a “no first use” declaration would reduce the likelihood that tensions or conventional conflict with another nuclear-armed state would escalate to nuclear use.

•   The bicameral No First Use Act (H.R.921 and S.272) introduced by Representative Adam Smith and Senator Elizabeth Warren in January 2020, would establish in law that it is the policy of the United States not to use nuclear weapons first. If this bill were to become law, it would officially accomplish the first policy step of Back from the Brink, so we encourage everyone to contact their members of Congress and encourage them to cosponsor the bill. 

•   Learn more about the bill and see lists of cosponsors: H.R.921 and S.272

•   Read the press release by the cosponsors on the initial introduction of the bill in January of 2019: Chairman Smith, Senator Warren Introduce Bill Establishing “No First Use” Policy for Nuclear Weapons

Michael T. Klare on the Growing Geopolitical Dangers and Emerging Risks