Support for nuclear no first use policies

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Parliamentarians within NATO support nuclear No-First-Use policies.

A No First Use Policy is crucial for preventing a nuclear war by accident.

President Joe Biden should give high priority to adopting a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons in the current US nuclear posture review and use the occasion of the 10th Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference in January 2022 to encourage all other countries to follow, according to a group of 34 current and former legislators from NATO countries.

The call by the legislators - made in a joint letter sent to the president and the US Congress this week - goes against recent reports that United States allies want the US government to retain the option of initiating nuclear war - or first-use.

“Let us state clearly that we do not believe that a first-use option is in the security interests of our countries or in the interests of NATO as a whole,” say the signatories. “We encourage you to take leadership on this issue and we pledge our support.”

Destruction

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle, a member of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Future Generations said: “There can be no justification of first use of these hideous weapons of mass destruction,” says  “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

The letter, which is organized by the civil society coalition NoFirstUse Global, highlights the current conflicts and tensions between nuclear armed and allied countries, the risks that these could escalate and the nuclear policies, such as the first-use option, that contribute to this.

Mounir Satouri, a French member of the European Parliament Security and Defense Subcommittee and the EP Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, said: "Rising nuclear weapons risks are a grave danger to humanity. A global no-first use policy can reduce the risks these weapons of mass destruction pose.”

The parliamentary letter notes that no-first-use policies would not only reduce the risk of nuclear war, but would also contribute to diplomacy and multi-lateral nuclear disarmament.

Dangerous

Holger Nielsen, former foreign minister of Denmark, said: “We live in times of increasing tension in which the possession of nuclear weapons can create very dangerous situations. Agreements about no-first-use will be important steps in the disarmament process.”

The letter notes that cross-party delegations from European parliaments, the US Congress and Russian parliament have supported the adoption of no-first-use policies in declarations adopted by consensus by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. These include the Berlin Declaration (July 11, 2018) and the Tbilisi Declaration (July 5, 2016).

A No First Use Policy is crucial for preventing a nuclear war by accident.

Since then, further support has been expressed in various statements and appeals including a June 10, 2021 Open Letter to President Biden and President Putin which was endorsed by over 1,200 political, military and religious leaders, as well as legislators, academics, scientists and other representatives of civil society.

More than 400 of these endorsers were from NATO countries, and nearly 700 from the USA.

The legislators endorsing the letter call on president Biden to "engage with the other recognized nuclear-weapon states in the P5 NPT dialogue - China, France, the UK and Russia - on adoption of no-first-use policies and the operational measures to implement them in order to build transparency, confidence and mutual security."

 Inconceivable

Dr Milan Brglez, member of the European Parliament delegation to the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee and former speaker of the Slovenian National Assembly said: "The NPT sustains an international order and maintains international balance."

“First use leads to disorder and imbalance, exposing one of the greatest civilizational achievements – human rights – to inconceivable threat."

Finally, the letter pledges parliamentary support for the implementation of no-first-use policies and other nuclear risk reduction and disarmament measures.

Bill Kidd MSP, the convenor of the Scottish Parliament Cross-party Group on Nuclear Disarmament and co-president of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, added: "I believe that our world must be able to feel safe in trusting that men and women of good faith are discussing and negotiating national relationships, human rights, trade and defence matters in an open and trusting manner for the benefit of all."

The parliamentarians endorsing the letter come from Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Slovenia, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

Crucial

Heather McPherson MP, the deputy whip of the New Democratic Party in Canada, said: “As we work towards global nuclear disarmament and an ultimate goal of a nuclear-free world, the importance of the United States adopting a no-first-use policy cannot be overstated.

"As a Canadian Parliamentarian, I strongly support all measures that lead to a safer, more secure and peaceful world for all and I encourage president Biden and the United States government to take this important step.”

Dr Ute Finckh-Krämer, the former deputy-chair of the Bundestag Sub-committee on Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-proliferation in Germany, said: “A no first use policy is crucial for preventing a nuclear war by accident.”

This author

Ruby Harbour is the editorial assistant at The Ecologist. This article is based on a press release from NoFirstUse Global. 

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