Nuclear Policy in Disarray
Keeny, Spurgeon M., Jr., Arms Control Today
The growing conviction that nuclear weapons serve no military purpose except to deter their use by others suffered a major setback recently when senior Clinton administration officials sought to establish nuclear weapons as a deterrent to the use of chemical weapons (CW). Such an expansion of the role of nuclear weapons would violate existing U.S. "negative security assurances" which strictly limit the use of nuclear weapons. Unless this broader role is promptly repudiated, the United States will be seen as moving toward greater, rather than less, reliance on nuclear weapons-a development that will compromise U.S. leadership in strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime.
To build support for the indefinite extension of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), President Clinton formally declared on the eve of the NPT review and extension conference: "The United States reaffirms that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons except in the case of an invasion or any other attack on the United States, its territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies, or on a State towards which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear-weapon State in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State."
This declaration restates U.S. policy originally proclaimed by President Carter in 1978 and continued by Presidents Reagan and Bush. This is an unequivocal pledge not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that have forsworn nuclear weapons by adhering to the NPT unless they attack the United States or its interests in association with another nuclear-weapon state, a most unlikely event in the post-Cold War world. At present this policy covers 176 non-nuclear-weapon members of the NPT, including all of the so-called "rogue" states (Iran, Iraq, Libya and North Korea).
In connection with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (ANWFZ) Treaty several high-level administration officials have made policy statements that undercut or even repudiate the president's declaration by threatening the use of nuclear weapons in response to chemical weapons. Whether these statements, which were associated with the reported construction of an underground CW plant in Libya, were a carefully orchestrated exercise to change U.S. nuclear policy or simply a sign of disarray over nuclear policy is not clear. …