Andrea Germanos Biden Admin Ukraine

Progressive Lawmakers in U.S. and Japan Call on Biden to Clarify ‘No-First-Use Nuclear Policy’

A week after 16 Nobel Peace Prize winners released an open letter calling for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, progressive lawmakers are calling on Biden to commit to a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons "at any time or under any circumstances."
Peace activists wearing masks of Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and U.S. President Joe Biden pose with mock nuclear missiles in front of Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate on January 29, 2021 in an action to call for more progress in nuclear disarmament. (Photo: John Macdougall/AFP via Getty Images)

By Andrea Germanos / Common Dreams

Dozens of progressive lawmakers in the United States and Japan are urging President Joe Biden to make a “sensible” shift and commit the U.S. 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 U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. ability to protect Japan and itself from a nuclear attack. That protection is based on the promise of U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. officials and world leaders, discussions of how to respond to a limited nuclear attack are no longer theoretical,” AP reported.

“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 U.S. 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.”

Andrea Germanos

Andrea Germanos is a senior editor and staff writer at Common Dreams.

5 comments

  1. Vladimir Putin’s apparent fear of NATO expansion, though especially the deployment of additional U.S. anti-nuclear-missile defense-system batteries, further into eastern Europe is typically perceived by the West as unmerited paranoia. Surely he must realise that the West, including NATO, would never initiate a nuclear-weapons exchange.

    But how can he — or we, for that matter — know for sure, particularly with the U.S.?

    For example, while Ronald Reagan postulated that “Of the four wars in my lifetime none came about because the U.S. was too strong,” who can know what may have historically come to fruition had the U.S. remained the sole possessor of atomic weaponry. There’s a presumptive, and perhaps even arrogant, concept of American governance as somehow, unless physically provoked, being morally/ethically above using nuclear weapons internationally. Cannot absolute power corrupt absolutely?

    After President Harry S. Truman relieved General Douglas MacArthur as commander of the forces warring with North Korea — for the latter’s remarks about using many atomic bombs to promptly end the war — Americans’ approval-rating of the president dropped to 23 percent. It was still a record-breaking low, even lower than the worst approval-rating points of the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson.

    Had it not been for the formidable international pressure on Truman (and perhaps his personal morality) to relieve MacArthur as commander, could/would Truman eventually have succumbed to domestic political pressure to allow MacArthur’s command to continue?

  2. A long game of cat and mouse is now comming to its conclusion. G W Bush & Trumps walk back on treaties with Russia’s Gorbachev,Yeltsin & Putin, undermined any goodwill and revealed its long term policy.Obama tried to restore trust but the Hawks won.Biden seems keen to get the Treaties back on track but it appears just a political ploy to cover the reality that Washington believes a first strike is a winnable outcome due to weaknesses in Russia’s defence systems.”Defence” systems recently installed in Poland and Chech Rep only caused conformation in Moscow of a major nuclear threat.
    The great optimism of the Gorbachev / Regan,HW Bush years are now just dim memory as we move to the end game.Human history being what it is,maybe it was always destined to end this way. Sad.

  3. Thanks, Germanos. I cannot underscore enough the current administration heinous, in effect–more or less mirroring Hillary’s poison –“everything’s on the table. “

  4. The only rational way forward would be to scrap nuclear weapons,, which of course will not happen.

    In addition to the possibility that one or another majorpower might see itself vulnerable against a stronger conventional force, the US has relentlessly undermined non-proliferation by unilateral withdrawals from agreements and its own reckless, rogue actions.

    Most recent and egregious was hopey-changey Obama’s destruction of Libya and the use of NATO as an aggressive warmaking force against a nation that had not attacked either the US or any other NATO nation.

    It was attacked after renouncing nuclear weapons, its leader was killed, screaming, with a rammed-up water pipe in a drainage ditch.

    For sure, Kim saw that and said YES! THAT’s how I want to go!

    Russia’s annexation of Crimea was merely a cherry on top of this drastic termination of non-proliferation.

  5. WTF? … ask Biden for clarification on first-strike policy? …
    Biden’s IS NOT in charge … why not ask JCS Chairman Mark Milly and Victoria Nuland? …
    Do a Google search for their photos – take a good look at these barbarians …
    Do these people look like people who are concerned OUR welfare?

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