Time for a No-First-Use Policy It Will Reduce the Political Value of Nuclear Weapons

Article excerpt

With regard to controlling the spread of nuclear weapons, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has been the cornerstone of US and world security for 30 years.

The treaty is a multilateral bargain. The nonnuclear weapon states agreed not to acquire nuclear weapons if the weapon states existing in 1968 - the US, USSR, UK, France, and China - pursued nuclear disarmament negotiations and shared the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology. Reaffirmed in 1995 when the treaty became permanent, the NPT bargain explains why today countless states are not armed with nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert.

But the NPT agreement is in jeopardy. Many believe the nuclear weapon states didn't keep their bargain and will not do so in the future. The political value of nuclear weapons, encouraged by cold- war defense policies, remains high. Indeed, after last spring's nuclear weapons tests, the Indian prime minister said, "India is a big country now because it has demonstrated that it has nuclear weapons." We face a dilemma. If the political value of nuclear weapons is not reduced, many nations will find them hard to resist. Moreover, obtaining these weapons is no longer difficult, thanks to simple and widely available 1945-era nuclear-weapon technology. Nuclear weapons could easily spread around the world and the NPT would fail. The proliferation nightmare predicted in the 1960s - before the NPT - would become reality. Reducing the political value of nuclear weapons is the solution. Nuclear-weapon states must seek deep cuts in their nuclear weapon stockpiles as promised in 1995. Also, remaining nuclear weapons must only be used for "core deterrence" - deterring the use of nuclear weapons, not other weapons, like chemical or biological weapons - and the nuclear-weapon states should declare that they will not introduce nuclear weapons into future conflicts, which is to say, a no-first- use policy. Shortly there will be an opportunity to implement these principles. In December, NATO began its first strategic review since the cold war's end. This exercise, set for completion by the April NATO summit, offers the chance to reassure the world that the major Western powers are committed to the NPT goals. Archaic cold- war language and defense doctrine in the 1991 strategic review document must be revised. …