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President Biden should pledge never to use nuclear weapons first

President Biden should pledge never to use nuclear weapons first, The Hill, BY THOMAS GRAHAM, JR. AND JONATHAN GRANOFF, — 01/03/22
President Biden can make the world a dramatically safer place by declaring that it is now the policy of the United States never to use nuclear weapons first. Such a pledge is consistent with international legal obligations, fulfills campaign promises, and diminishes the risk of using a nuclear weapon. It would make countries subject to the nuclear weapons threats less nervous in a crisis, when irrationality can lead to disaster. It would add to global stability by lowering the political currency of nuclear weapons.

And significantly, it would help strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the world’s most important arms control treaty. Pursuant to Article VI of the treaty, five nuclear weapons states — United Kingdom, United States, Russia, China, and France — have pledged to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

The NPT needs such a boost.  Notwithstanding the commitment to disarmament, the five nuclear weapons states, plus the four others not in the treaty — India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea — are spending enormous amounts of money modernizing or expanding their nuclear arsenals, or both. Because of the omicron surge in New York, an important 50-year review conference for the treaty (the tenth five-year review), which was supposed to take place next week, has been postponed for the second year in a row (the scheduled 2020 conference was also cancelled due to a winter COVID surge). Meanwhile, nuclear tensions continue to rise, making progress toward meeting the NPT’s goals critically important.

Normally the NPT gets reviewed every five years. At these periodic review conferences, every nation in the world (except the four that aren’t NPT parties) analyze the state of the treaty’s nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament obligations, and strike agreements to strengthen proliferation constraints and make tangible progress toward a nuclear weapons-free world…………….

 there is one step the U.S. can take which would help reverse the present  dangerous situation: declaring it will never use nuclear weapons first. That would lend credibility to the sincerity of U.S. commitment to fulfilling its disarmament pledges under the NPT.

When brought into deployment practice, a no-first-use posture could make us all dramatically safer. Today, the nuclear posture of the U.S. and Russia supports continuing to threaten to use nuclear weapons first. In practice this tends to keep the arsenals close to Cold War hair-trigger alert status. Such conduct ignores the most important principle of international civilized order and diplomacy: pacta sunt servanda, solemn promises among nations must be kept. Failure to keep arms control commitments — in the nuclear age — could mean the annihilation of civilization.

A no-first-use pledge is consistent with the platform of the Democratic Party on which President Biden campaigned, which states, “(The) sole purpose of our nuclear arsenals should be to deter — and, if necessary retaliate against — a nuclear attack, and we will work to put that belief into practice, in consultation with our allies and military.” A U.S. pledge would challenge all nuclear weapons states to make similar pledges.

Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev got it right when they agreed that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought.

Reagan and Gorbachev helped reduce the number of nuclear weapons from more than 65,000 in 1985 to fewer than 14,000 today. This process rested on arms control agreements such as the NPT.

Affirming that the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is to deter attack would respect the NPT, diminish the extremity of the status quo, and help move from an environment of irrational threat to a shared recognition of common security interests and the realistic pursuit of human security.

January 4, 2022 - Posted by | politics international, USA

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