Progressive Lawmakers Call on Biden
To Clarify ‘No-First-Use Nuclear Policy’
Andrea Germanos / Common Dreams & Jake Johnson / Common Dreams
(April 2, 2022) — Dozens of progressive lawmakers in the United States and Japan are urging President Joe Biden to make a “sensible” shift and commit the US to a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons “at any time or under any circumstances.”
The demand, which is also directed at Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, came in a letter dated Friday.
The effort was led by lawmakers including Congressional Progressive Caucus chair US Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as well as Progressive Caucus of Japan chair and Diet House of Representatives member Masaharu Nakagawa.
The group’s call comes as Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine has escalated fears of atomic warfare, especially as Russian President Vladimir Putin has waved a “nuclear saber” with recent declarations.
Biden last month signed off on his administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, a policy which, to the disappointment of nonproliferation advocates, walks back his 2020 campaign promise of no-first-use. The NPR, according to US officials, instead leaves open the possible use of nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear warfare.
But, the lawmakers stressed in their letter, “it is never too late to commit to a no-first-use policy.”
Addressing the “nuclear umbrella” security alliance between the two nations, the letter states: “A no-first-use policy would not weaken the US ability to protect Japan and itself from a nuclear attack. That protection is based on the promise of US nuclear retaliation, not on the ability to strike first. In fact, a no-first-use policy would increase protection against a nuclear attack by reducing doubt, miscalculation, and the possibility of an accidental nuclear launch.”
Additionally, “a US declaration stating that it would never start a nuclear war, supported by Japan, would breathe new life into international efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate the danger of nuclear war,” the lawmakers assert. “This is especially important at a time when tensions between the nuclear-weapons-possessing states, especially between the United States and China, are increasing.”
As The Associated Press reported Saturday, Russia’s attack on Ukraine has added new fears of a nuclear exchange.
“For US officials and world leaders, discussions of how to respond to a limited nuclear attack are no longer theoretical,” AP reported.
A US declaration that it would never start a nuclear war
would breathe new life into efforts to eliminate
the danger of Atomic annihilation
“One overarching concern is that by casting some nuclear weapons as tactical weapons to be used in battle, Russia could break the nearly eight-decade global taboo against using a nuclear weapon against another country.” Yet, APadded, “even comparatively small tactical nuclear weapons approach the strength of the atomic bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in World War II.”
The demand to the US and Japanese leaders came a week after 16 Nobel Peace Prize winners released an open letter calling for an immediate end to the assault of Ukraine and the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
“The time to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons is now. It is the only way to guarantee that the inhabitants of the planet will be safe from this existential threat,” they wrote.
“It is either the end of nuclear weapons,” they said, “or the end of us.”
Any Use of Tactical Nukes Denounced as
‘Bat-Sh*t F**king Insane’
If escalation led to an exchange of nuclear weapons,
the world would experience a catastrophe
of immeasurable proportions.
(March 22, 2022) — As the war in Ukraine continues to escalate, disarmament advocates and other observers expressed horror Tuesday over growing concerns that Russian or NATO forces would go so far as to deploy so-called “tactical” nuclear weapons—smaller warheads that are supposedly less destructive than the bombs the US dropped on Japan in World War II.
The new flurry of reaction was prompted by a New York Times story examining the potentially catastrophic implications of an exchange of smaller nuclear weapons, which both the US and Russia possess in terrifying quantities.
“The case against these arms is that they undermine the nuclear taboo and make crisis situations even more dangerous,” the Times notes. “Their less destructive nature, critics say, can feed the illusion of atomic control when in fact their use can suddenly flare into a full-blown nuclear war.”
“A simulation devised by experts at Princeton University,” the Times added, “starts with Moscow firing a nuclear warning shot; NATO responds with a small strike, and the ensuing war yields more than 90 million casualties in its first few hours.”
In January, the US, Russia, China, and other nuclear-armed countries signed a joint statement declaring that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
But Russia’s deadly assault on Ukraine—launched just a few weeks after the statement was released—quickly revived and intensified fears of an all-out nuclear war.
Particularly alarming to non-proliferation campaigners was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent reference to his country’s nuclear arsenal and threat to inflict consequences “never seen” in history on any nation that attempts to impede Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.
On February 27, Putin placed Russia’s nuclear forces on “special alert,” a move that peace advocates characterized as a dangerous escalation.
Francesca Giovannini, director of the Project on Managing the Atom, said in response to the Times story that “only three months ago, discussions over nuclear weapons use in Europe would have been unimaginable.”
“Nuclear weapons are back on the top of the policy agenda,” Giovannini added. “Let’s make this moment count to design a new generation of sensible nuclear risk-reduction strategies.”
Warren Gunnels, staff director for US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), offered a decidedly more blunt reaction to the Times‘ reporting:
Speculation over whether Putin could decide to use nuclear weapons if conventional Russian forces and arms fail to break Ukrainian resistance has been rife since the invasion began last month.
“If Putin chose to use such weapons, they would not materialize out of thin air,” journalist Jordan Michael Smith wrote in The New Republic earlier this month. “Russia is estimated to have somewhere between 1,600 and 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons, which have a shorter range and smaller impact and are designed to be used on battlefields.”
“If Putin decided to use nuclear weapons, they would almost surely be tactical weapons, wielded as part of an at least theoretically limited nuclear deployment,” Smith added. “Perhaps Russia might detonate a nuclear weapon over the Black Sea, a kind of intermediary step that doesn’t kill lots of people but would shock the world.”
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