Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
No first use

No first use

Discussion
Ask a question about 'No first use'
Start a new discussion about 'No first use'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
No first use refers to a pledge or a policy by a nuclear power not to use nuclear weapons as a means of war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

fare unless first attacked by an adversary using nuclear weapons. The concept can also be applied to chemical
Chemical warfare
Chemical warfare involves using the toxic properties of chemical substances as weapons. This type of warfare is distinct from Nuclear warfare and Biological warfare, which together make up NBC, the military acronym for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical...

 or biological warfare
Biological warfare
Biological warfare is the use of biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi with intent to kill or incapacitate humans, animals or plants as an act of war...

.

, China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

 have publicly declared their commitment to no first use of nuclear weapons.

NATO has repeatedly rejected calls for adopting NFU policy, arguing that preemptive
Preemptive war
A preemptive war is a war that is commenced in an attempt to repel or defeat a perceived inevitable offensive or invasion, or to gain a strategic advantage in an impending war before that threat materializes. It is a war which preemptively 'breaks the peace'. The term: 'preemptive war' is...

 nuclear strike is a key option. In 1993, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 dropped a pledge given by the former Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 not to use nuclear weapons first. In 2000, a Russian military doctrine stated that Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons "in response to a large-scale conventional aggression".

Countries pledging no-first-use


China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

, India, and North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

, have pledged not to be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict.

China


China is the first to propose and pledge NFU policy when it first gained nuclear capabilities in 1964, stating "not to be the first to use nuclear weapons at any time or under any circumstances". Nonetheless, some scholars and observers have questioned the credibility of China's NFU policy. For instance, China had reportedly considered nuclear strikes against the Soviet Union in the event of a conventional Soviet attack. However, China has repeatedly re-affirmed its no-first-use policy in recent years, doing so in 2005, 2008, 2009 and again in 2011. In 2010, the Pentagon concluded that although there is "some ambiguity over the conditions under which China's [no-first-use] policy would or would not apply...there has been no indication that national leaders are willing to attach such nuances and caveats to China's 'no first use' doctrine"

India


India adopted a "no first use policy" after its nuclear tests in 1998. India's nuclear policy currently states that even though there will be no first-use of nuclear weapons by India, "nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage".

Indian National Security Advisor
National Security Advisor (India)
The National Security Advisor of India is a member of the National Security Council , and the primary advisor to the Prime Minister, the Indian Cabinet and the NSC on internal and international security issues.-Overview:...

 Shri Shiv Shankar Menon
Shiv Shankar Menon
Shivshankar Menon or Sivasankara Menon is the present National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of India. He previously served as the Foreign Secretary, the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan and in China and Israel as ambassador and diplomat...

 signaled a significant shift from "no first use" to "no first use against non-nuclear weapon states" in a speech on the occasion of Golden Jubilee celebrations of the National Defence College
National Defence College, India
The National Defence College of India, located in New Delhi, is an institution of higher learning of the defence forces of India. The institution was inaugurated on 27 April 1960 and is the only military institution in the country that imparts knowledge on all aspects of national security and...

 in New Delhi on October 21, 2010, a doctrine Menon said reflected India's "strategic culture, with its emphasis on minimal deterrence."

Countries pledging only to use nuclear weapons defensively



Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, and France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 say they will use nuclear weapons against either nuclear or non-nuclear states only in the case of invasion or other attack against their territory or against one of their allies. Historically, NATO military strategy, taking into account the numerical superiority of Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 conventional forces, assumed that the use of tactical nuclear weapon
Tactical nuclear weapon
A tactical nuclear weapon refers to a nuclear weapon which is designed to be used on a battlefield in military situations. This is as opposed to strategic nuclear weapons which are designed to menace large populations, to damage the enemy's ability to wage war, or for general deterrence...

s would have been required in defeating a Soviet invasion.

At a NATO summit in April 1999, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 proposed that NATO adopt a no-first-use policy, but the proposal was rejected.

United Kingdom


In March 2002, British defence secretary
Secretary of State for Defence
The Secretary of State for Defence, popularly known as the Defence Secretary, is the senior Government of the United Kingdom minister in charge of the Ministry of Defence, chairing the Defence Council. It is a Cabinet position...

 Geoff Hoon
Geoff Hoon
Geoffrey "Geoff" William Hoon is a British politician who served as the Member of Parliament for Ashfield from 1992 to 2010...

 stated that the UK was prepared to use nuclear weapons against rogue states such as Iraq if they ever used "weapons of mass destruction" against British troops in the field. This policy was restated in February 2003.

United States


The U.S. doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons was revised most recently in the Nuclear Posture Review
Nuclear posture review
The Nuclear Posture Review is a process “to determine what the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security strategy should be.”The first NPR of 2002 was the second of these quadrennial reviews of United States nuclear forces undertaken by the United States Department of Defense. The first took place...

, released April 6, 2010. The 2010 Nuclear Posture review reduces the role of U.S. nuclear weapons, stating that
"The fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons, which will continue as long as nuclear weapons exist, is to deter nuclear attack on the United States, our allies, and partners."

The U.S. doctrine also includes the following assurance to other states:
"The United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to...

 and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations."

For states eligible for this assurance, the United States would not use nuclear weapons in response to a chemical or biological attack, but states that those responsible for such an attack would be held accountable and would face the prospect of a devastating conventional military response. Even for states not eligible for this assurance, the United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners. The Nuclear Posture Review also notes that:
"It is in the U.S. interest and that of all other nations that the nearly 65-year record of nuclear non-use be extended forever."


This supersedes the doctrine of the Bush Administration
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 set forth in "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations
Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations
The Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations was a U.S. Department of Defense document publicly discovered in 2005 on the circumstances under which commanders of U.S. forces could request the use of nuclear weapons...

" and written under the direction of Air Force General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Joint Chiefs of Staff
The Joint Chiefs of Staff is a body of senior uniformed leaders in the United States Department of Defense who advise the Secretary of Defense, the Homeland Security Council, the National Security Council and the President on military matters...

. The new doctrine envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use nuclear weapons to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear weapons to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

, biological, or chemical weapons.

Israel


Although Israel does not officially confirm or deny
Policy of deliberate ambiguity
A policy of deliberate ambiguity is the practice by a country of being intentionally ambiguous on certain aspects of its foreign policy or whether it possesses certain weapons of mass destruction...

 having nuclear weapons, the country is widely believed to be in possession of them
Nuclear weapons and Israel
Israel is widely believed to be the sixth country in the world to have developed nuclear weapons and to be one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty , the others being India, Pakistan and North Korea...

. Its continued ambiguity stance puts it in a difficult position, since to issue a statement pledging 'no first use' would confirm their possession of nuclear weapons, which would make its support for a WMD-free Middle East untenable. Instead Israel has said that it "would not be the first country in the Middle East to formally introduce nuclear weapons into the region." If Israel's very existence is threatened, the "Samson Option
Samson Option
The Samson Option is a term used to describe Israel’s alleged deterrence strategy of massive retaliation with nuclear weapons as a “last resort” against nations whose military attacks threaten its existence, and possibly against other targets as well....

", a "last resort" deterrence strategy of massive retaliation
Massive retaliation
Massive retaliation, also known as a massive response or massive deterrence, is a military doctrine and nuclear strategy in which a state commits itself to retaliate in much greater force in the event of an attack.-Strategy:...

 with nuclear weapons, may be initiated should the state of Israel be substantially damaged and/or near destruction.

Pakistan


Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari
Asif Ali Zardari
Asif Ali Zardari is the 11th and current President of Pakistan and the Co-Chairman of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party . He is also the widower of Benazir Bhutto, who served two nonconsecutive terms as Prime Minister....

said on November 22, 2008 that his country was ready to commit to no first use of nuclear weapons against India. This promise took the establishment in Pakistan by surprise, with analysts and politicians saying the "uninformed" President may have spoken "off the cuff". Pakistan has not formally subscribed to No First Use.

Further reading

  • Rhona MacDonald: Nuclear Weapons 60 Years On: Still a Global Public Health Threat. In: PLoS Medicine. 2(11)/2005. Public Library of Science, e301,
  • Harold A. Feiveson, Ernst Jan Hogendoorn: No First Use of Nuclear Weapons. In: The Nonproliferation Review. 10(2)/2003. The Center for Nonproliferation Studies,

External links