No first use

No first use

No first use (NFU) refers to a pledge or a policy by a nuclear power not to use nuclear weapons as a means of warfare unless first attacked by an adversary using nuclear weapons. The concept can also be applied to chemical or biological warfare.

As of October 2008, China,[1] India[2] and North Korea[3] have publicly declared their commitment to no first use of nuclear weapons.

NATO has repeatedly rejected calls for adopting NFU policy,[4] arguing that preemptive nuclear strike is a key option.[citation needed] In 1993, Russia dropped a pledge given by the former Soviet Union not to use nuclear weapons first.[5] In 2000, a Russian military doctrine stated that Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons "in response to a large-scale conventional aggression".[6]


Countries pledging no-first-use

China,[7] India, and North Korea,[3] have pledged not to be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict.


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".[8] Nonetheless, some scholars and observers have questioned the credibility of China's NFU policy.[9][10] For instance, China had reportedly considered nuclear strikes against the Soviet Union in the event of a conventional Soviet attack.[8] 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"[11][12][13][14]


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".[15]

Indian National Security Advisor Shri Shiv Shankar Menon 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 in New Delhi on October 21, 2010, a doctrine Menon said reflected India's "strategic culture, with its emphasis on minimal deterrence."[16][17]

Countries pledging only to use nuclear weapons defensively

Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States,[18] and 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 conventional forces, assumed that the use of tactical nuclear weapons would have been required in defeating a Soviet invasion.[19]

At a NATO summit in April 1999, Germany proposed that NATO adopt a no-first-use policy, but the proposal was rejected.[citation needed]

United Kingdom

In March 2002, British defence secretary Geoff Hoon 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.[20] This policy was restated in February 2003.[21]

United States

The U.S. doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons was revised most recently in the Nuclear Posture Review, released April 6, 2010.[22] 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 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 set forth in "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" and written under the direction of Air Force General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 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.[23] The draft also includes the option of using nuclear weapons to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons.


Although Israel does not officially confirm or deny having nuclear weapons, the country is widely believed to be in possession of them. 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."[24] If Israel's very existence is threatened, the "Samson Option", a "last resort" deterrence strategy of massive retaliation with nuclear weapons, may be initiated should the state of Israel be substantially damaged and/or near destruction.[25][26][27]

Countries that have indicated a no-first-use intention


Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari said on November 22, 2008 that his country was ready to commit to no first use of nuclear weapons against India.[28] This promise took the establishment in Pakistan by surprise, with analysts and politicians saying the "uninformed" President may have spoken "off the cuff".[29] Pakistan has not formally subscribed to No First Use.[30]

See also


  1. ^ No First Use of Nuclear Weapons - Richard H. Ullman - From Foreign Affairs, July 1972
  2. ^ Nuclear Weapons - India Nuclear Forces - Strategic Security Project
  3. ^ a b "World warns of 'robust' response". Herald Sun. October 09, 2006.,21985,20548732-663,00.html. Retrieved 2007-09-14. 
  4. ^ NATO's Nuclear Weapons: The Rationale for 'No First Use' | Arms Control Association - July/August 1999 - Jack Mendelsohn
  5. ^ Russia Drops Pledge of No First Use of Atom Arms - By SERGE SCHMEMANN,(Published: November 4, 1993 )New York Times
  6. ^ No First Use of Nuclear Weapons meeting: paper by Yuri Fedorov, 'Russia's Doctrine on the Use of Nuclear Weapons' - Pugwash Meeting no. 279 London, UK, 15–17 November 2002
  7. ^ Key Issues: Nuclear Weapons: Issues: Policies: No First Use Policy
  8. ^ a b [1]
  9. ^ No-First-Use (NFU) - China's nuclear declaratory policy
  10. ^ Jane's Intelligence Review - China Watch
  11. ^ Chinese nuclear forces, 2010. Bulletin of Atomic Scientists
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Pandit, Rajat (October 17, 2009). "India surprised by Chinese fuss over Agni-V". The Times Of India. 
  16. ^ Speech by NSA Shri Shivshankar Menon at NDC on “The Role of Force in Strategic Affairs”: Web-site of Ministry of External Affairs (Govt. of India)
  17. ^ NSA Shivshankar Menon at NDC (Speech) : india Blooms
  18. ^ d'Ancona, Matthew (12:39am BST 26 October 2003). "Pentagon wants 'mini-nukes' to fight terrorists - Telegraph". London: Julian Coman in Washington. Retrieved 2007-09-14. 
  19. ^ The East-West Strategic Balance. 1982. 
  20. ^ "BBC News - UK 'prepared to use nuclear weapons'". 20 March 2002. Archived from the original on 2002-10-20. Retrieved 2007-09-14. 
  21. ^ "BBC NEWS - UK restates nuclear threat". BBC News. 2 February 2003. Retrieved 2007-09-14. 
  22. ^ Nuclear Posture Review Report, U.S. Department of Defense, April 2010.
  23. ^ "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" (PDF). 
  24. ^ "Israel’s Nuclear Program and Middle East Peace". Lionel Beehner. February 10, 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  25. ^ Seymour Hersh, The Samson Option: Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy, Random House, 1991, pp. 42, 136-137, 288-289.
  26. ^ Avner Cohen, Israel and the Bomb, Columbia University Press, 1998, pp. 2, 7, 341.
  27. ^ Avner Cohen, “Israel's Nuclear Opacity: a Political Genealogy,” published in The Dynamics of Middle East Nuclear Proliferation, pp. 187-212, edited by Steven L. Spiegel, Jennifer D. Kibbe and Elizabeth G. Matthews. Symposium Series, Volume 66, The Edwin Mellen Press, 2001.
  28. ^ Pakistan: Now or Never? » Blog Archive » Zardari says ready to commit to no first use of nuclear weapons - November 22, 2008
  29. ^ ExpressIndia: Zardari’s ‘no first use of nukes’ remark takes Pak by surprise
  30. ^ Journal of Defence Studies, vol 3 issue 3, July 2009: Furthering 'No First Use' in India-Pakistan Context

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, ISSN 1549-1277
  • Harold A. Feiveson, Ernst Jan Hogendoorn: No First Use of Nuclear Weapons. In: The Nonproliferation Review. 10(2)/2003. The Center for Nonproliferation Studies, ISSN 1073-6700

External links

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