US Congress and Vets Call for a No-First-Use Nuclear Weapons Policy

January 31st, 2022 - by NoFirstUse Global

US Congressmembers and Veterans Call for NuclearNo-First-Use Policy
NoFirstUse Global

PRAGUE (January 30, 2022) — In this update we report on the Joint Letter from 55 members of the United States Congress to President Biden urging the President to use the current Nuclear Posture Review to reduce US reliance on nuclear weapons, the Alternative Nuclear Posture Review prepared by Veterans for Peace USA, and the blog article by Marc Finaud, NoFirstUse Global Committee member; and General Bernard Norlain (retired), Former Air Defense Commander and Air Combat Commander of the French Air Force, on Why France still Rejects No-First-Use.

We also remind you that Fulfil the NPT: From nuclear threats to human security, the Open Letter which we sent to the nuclear weapon states and other parties to the NPT on January 24, remains open for endorsement until August, just prior to the start of the 10th NPT Review Conference

US Congressmembers Call for No-first-use

On January 26, the US Congress Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group sent a Letter to President Joe Biden urging the United States to take bold steps to reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons, in particular by declaring that ‘the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter a nuclear attack on the United States and its allies, and that the United States will never use nuclear weapons first.’

The letter was drafted by the four chairs of the Working Group — Senator Edward Markey (who also serves as Co-President of the global organization Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament), Senator Jeff Merkley, and Representatives John Garamendi and Donald S. Beyer, and was endorsed by another 51 additional members of Congress.

The letter focuses primarily on the current US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), and reminds President Biden that “the NPR is a defining moment. It is your best chance to take bold steps that reduce our reliance on nuclear weapons, elevate arms control, and retire President Trump’s new, unnecessary warfighting nuclear weapons.

The letter also comes as tensions are mounting with Russia over its military buildup on the borders of Ukraine. It recommends that “the NPR offer the United States’ full support for formal negotiations with Russia, with the express goal of placing mutual limits on the deployment of destabilizing new weapons that only increase the risk of an inadvertent nuclear war.”

Dear Mr President,
“…Changes in the international security environment have not altered your 2017 assessment as Vice President that ‘given our non-nuclear capabilities and the nature of today’s threats — it’s hard to envision a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary. Or make sense.’ Conventional forces bolster U.S. extended deterrence guarantees to our allies, and those forces can inflict unacceptable costs on our adversaries, making them more credible tools than the first use of nuclear weapons.”

Excerpt from the January 26 letter of 55 US Congress Members to President Joseph R. Biden calling on the United States to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, including by declaring that the US would never use nuclear weapons first.

Veterans for Peace Release their Nuclear Posture Review 

On January 19, Veterans For Peace (USA) released its own Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) ahead of the anticipated release of the Biden Administration’s NPR. The Veterans For Peace NPR warns that the danger of nuclear war is greater than ever and that nuclear risk reduction and disarmament must be vigorously pursued. It includes 16 recommended policy actions for the US Administration, the first of which is a call for the adoption of no-first-use.

“Veterans have learned the hard way to be skeptical of our government’s military adventures, which have led us from one disastrous war to another,” said Ken Mayers, a retired Marine Corps major and Santa Fe Chapter Secretary of Veterans for Peace:
“Nuclear weapons are a threat to the very existence of human civilization, so the U.S. nuclear posture is too important to be left to the cold warriors at the Pentagon. Veterans For Peace has developed our own Nuclear Posture Review, one that is consistent with U.S. treaty obligations and reflects the research and work of many arms control experts.”

Veterans for Peace Nuclear Posture Review
Recommendation 1

Announce and implement a No First Use and No Launch on Warning (“Hair Trigger Alert”) policy by separating warheads from delivery vehicles. The No First Use Policy should state clearly that the US renounces the use of nuclear weapons, including in response to a cyber attack, biological weapons, chemical weapons, cluster bombs, land mines, or any other non-nuclear act of aggression from another nation against the US or its allies.

Veterans For Peace plans to deliver their Nuclear Posture Review to the President and Vice President, to every member of Congress and to the Pentagon. Mr. Mayers and many other leaders/members of Veterans for Peace are also endorsers of FulFil the NPT: From nuclear threats to human security.

Why France Still Rejects No-First-Use

In Why France Still Rejects No-First-Use, a blog article published by NoFirstUse Global on January 13, General Bernard Norlain (ret), President of ‘Initiatives pour le Désarmement nucléaire’ (IDN), and Marc Finaud, Vice President of IDN and NoFirstUse Global Committee Member, argue that there are two main reasons why France continues to resist adopting a no-first use policy.

The first reason is because the French government wants to maintain nuclear weapons as a deterrent against any threats to it’s vital interests — and does not want to restrict the role of nuclear weapons merely to deterring a nuclear attack against France.

This is reflected in the most recent formulation of French nuclear policy, which was released by President Emmanuel Macron in February 2020, and affirms that:
“Should the leader of any State underestimate France’s deep-rooted attachment to its freedom and consider threatening our vital interests, whatever they may be, that leader must realize that our nuclear forces are capable of inflicting absolutely unacceptable damages upon that State’s centres of power: its political, economic and military nerve centres.”

Norlain and Finaud argue that this policy is a hang-over from the Cold War when the Soviet Union had a military advantage in conventional forces, and that the policy is no longer relevant or necessary today.

The second reason is that the French military-industrial complex is thriving under a policy of first use of nuclear weapons because such a policy requires, or at least justifies, continual modernisation of nuclear weapons in order to provide both first strike and retaliatory capabilities. These powerful vested interests in the nuclear arms race realise that adoption of a no-first-use policy could spell the end of nuclear modernisation and result in considerable loss of funding to the nuclear weapons industry.

General Norlain and Mr Finaud are endorsers of Fulfil the NPT: From nuclear threats to human security, which calls for the adoption of no-first-use policies, an end to the production (modernisation) of nuclear weapons, and for the nuclear weapons budgets to be shifted to instead support human security needs including public health, climate stabilization and sustainable development.

NoFirstUse Global is a network of organizations, academics, policy makers and civil society advocates working cooperatively for the adoption of no-first-use policies by nuclear-armed States, the support for such policies from nuclear allied countries, and the implementation of such policies to help achieve broader nuclear risk-reduction, non-proliferation and disarmament measures.

NoFirstUse Global; PragueVision Institute for Sustainable Security, Ostrovského 253/3, Prague 150 00, Czech Republic

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