Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review Is a Dangerous Step Backward

The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) released today at the Pentagon ignores international legal obligations of the United States and increases the risks of nuclear war. Prepared by the Department of Defense in consultation with other agencies, the review was approved by the White House.

Aside from a vague reference to “goals” of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the NPR does not acknowledge the obligation under that treaty “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.” That obligation was reinforced by an NPT Review Conference “unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination” of nuclear arsenals, a commitment approved by the United States. According to a unanimous conclusion of the International Court of Justice, the obligation requires states “to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects.”

None of this is reflected in the NPR. The most offered is a grudging acceptance of arms control measures for purposes of stability and predictability. The Trump NPR thus stands in marked contrast to the 2010 review conducted by the Obama administration, which committed the United States to seek the eventual achievement of a world free of nuclear weapons and addressed how to succeed in that endeavor in some detail.

The Trump NPR asserts in passing that the “conduct of nuclear operations would adhere to the law of armed conflict.” A 2013 Pentagon Report on Nuclear Employment Strategy had stated that all plans for use of nuclear weapons must “for instance, apply the principles of distinction and proportionality and seek to minimize the collateral damage to civilian populations and civilian objects.” In public appearances last fall, the present and preceding commanders of Strategic Command stated that orders to use nuclear weapons in violation of the law of armed conflict would be refused. The truth is that nuclear weapons cannot be used in compliance with that law, above all because their massive indiscriminate effects make it impossible to distinguish between military targets and civilian populations and infrastructure.

The NPR expands the role of nuclear weapons by identifying new circumstances in which they could be used, namely in response to “strategic non-nuclear attacks” including cyber attacks. This change runs directly counter to an NPT commitment to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in security policies in order to facilitate disarmament. It is contrary to the requirement of good faith in pursuing disarmament. And it raises the risks of nuclear war. For example, hard-to-attribute apparent cyber attacks will be considered a possible reason to resort to nuclear weapons, a change that will be all the more risky if other nuclear powers emulate the US policy.

A plan announced by the NPR for the acquisition of low-yield warheads to be mounted on submarine-based missiles is also contrary to the NPT commitment to reduce the role of nuclear weapons. It is especially disturbing because it comes in the context of the NPR’s theme that an era of great-power rivalry has returned. The proposed low-yield warheads are a return to a mode of nuclear war-fighting; supposedly Russia would not be deterred from initiating use of nuclear weapons to “deescalate” a conflict unless the United States has such a capability. Such scenarios rest on the dangerous assumption that nuclear escalation can be controlled. Further, the United States already has deployed low-yield nuclear weapons.

Finally, the Trump NPR carries forward existing plans for the replacement and upgrading of submarine-based, land-based, and air-based (bomber and cruise missile) nuclear forces, while adding a new element, a sea-based cruise missile. From any point of view, this is an extravagant and unaffordable plan. In the budgetary process, Congress must reject the NPR recommendations and inject some sanity into US nuclear planning.

 

Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, February 3, 2018

Contact: Executive Director John Burroughs

johnburroughs@lcnp.org, (212) 818-1861

 

Letter of Protest against the US Nuclear Posture Review

To President Donald Trump
United States of America
February 6, 2018

Letter of Protest against the US Nuclear Posture Review

We, of the people of Japan, the A-bombed country strongly protest against your nuclear policy formulated in the newly released “Nuclear Posture Review”, which brings the US much closer to the actual use of nuclear weapons by modernizing your nuclear arsenals and developing new nuclear weapons.

Trying to justify that nuclear weapons are necessary for the security, the NPR sets out sustaining and modernizing the nuclear triad (SSBNs, ICBMs and strategic nuclear bombers), as well as the development of law-yield nuclear warheads and sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs). Besides it does not even exclude the first nuclear strike.

As the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused by the A-bombings of the USA showed, any use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences. The world opinion determined not to allow this calamity to be ever repeated led to the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in the United Nations last year. The policies laid down by the NPR run counter to this worldwide development in favor of a world without nuclear weapons.

The redeployment of SLBMs will increase the danger of nuclear weapons being brought into the territory of this A-bombed country.  We resolutely oppose the bringing of nuclear weapons into Japan in any form.

We call on you and your Administration to cancel all nuclear build-up plans and nuclear strike policies formulated in the NPR.  We urge you to sincerely endeavor to achieve a “world without nuclear weapons”, which the United States once vowed to pursue, beginning with joining in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The 90th General Assembly of the National Board of Directors

Japan Council against A and H Bombs (Gensuikyo)

IALANA Statement Regarding the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on the Occasion of its Opening for Signature on 20 September 2017

IALANA – the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms – welcomes the adoption on 7 July 2017 of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The nuclear weapons ban treaty is a powerful and eloquent statement, grounded in an understanding of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear explosions, of the political, moral, and legal standards enjoining non-use and elimination of nuclear arms and of the need to redress the damage wrought by the nuclear age to people and the environment. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that trends in the wider world are negative, as threats of use of nuclear weapons are made in the Korean context and elsewhere, and as all nine nuclear-armed states proceed with long-term programs for the maintenance and modernization of their nuclear arsenals. It is imperative that the nuclear-armed states and their allies be persuaded of both the humanitarian values and the disarmament logic underlying the treaty.

IALANA is particularly pleased that the treaty – as we strongly advocated – robustly recognizes and reinforces existing treaty- and custom-based international law requiring the non-use and elimination of nuclear weapons. That law applies to states whether or not they join the treaty. That includes the nuclear-armed states, which did not participate in the negotiations, as well as states in nuclear alliances, most of which likewise did not participate.

Considerations relevant to all states are set out in the treaty’s preamble, whose legal elements:

  • Reaffirm the need for all states at all times to comply with international humanitarian law and international human rights law;
  • Identify key principles and rules of international humanitarian law, including the rule of distinction between civilians and combatants and civilian objects and military objectives; the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks; the rule of proportionality; the rule of precaution; the prohibition of infliction of unnecessary suffering; and the rules for the protection of the environment;
  • Consider that any use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, in particular the principles and rules of international humanitarian law;
  • Recall the UN Charter prohibition of the threat or use of force;
  • Reaffirm the obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control. That obligation was set forth in a unanimous conclusion of the International Court of Justice in its 1996 Advisory Opinion, based on Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and UN practice going back to the very first General Assembly resolution, in 1946.

The treaty’s core prohibitions, set out in Article I, bar states parties from developing, testing, producing, and possessing nuclear weapons, and from using and threatening to use such weapons. At least the latter prohibitions, of using and threatening to use nuclear weapons, apply to all states whether or not they are party to the treaty, as a matter of universal law rooted in international humanitarian law, the UN Charter, and principles of humanity and dictates of public conscience.

We emphasize that the use and threatened use of nuclear weapons is presently incompatible with international humanitarian law regulating the conduct of warfare. Above all, due to their uncontrollable blast, heat, fire, and long-lasting radiation effects, nuclear weapons cannot meet the requirement of distinguishing between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives. Indeed, the catastrophic consequences of use of nuclear weapons vastly exceed the ordinary boundaries of armed conflict and adversely impact populations in third-party states, the natural environment necessary to sustain human life, and future generations. The use and threatened use of nuclear weapons accordingly also violates international human rights law, most centrally the right to life. It is therefore appropriate that the preamble to the nuclear weapons ban treaty invokes international human rights law as well as international humanitarian law.

In view of the centrality of threat to now decades-old reliance on nuclear weapons in military and security postures, IALANA also emphasizes the importance of the explicit inclusion of the prohibition of threatened use in the treaty. It will be an important tool in the ongoing campaign to delegitimize ‘nuclear deterrence’ as contrary to international law as well as common sense in view of the immense risks involved. Delegitimization of nuclear deterrence is essential to success in achieving the global abolition of nuclear arms.

The treaty’s preamble refers to the “unacceptable suffering of and harm caused to the victims of the use of nuclear weapons (hibakusha), as well as of those affected by the testing of nuclear weapons.” IALANA welcomes the human-rights based obligation on all states parties in a position to do so to assist affected states parties with victim assistance and environmental remediation. There is still much to do to help victims of the use and testing of nuclear weapons, and clean-up or other appropriate management of contaminated areas remains a daunting task. IALANA urges all states to take seriously the obligation of assistance to affected states, with special emphasis on the responsibility of states having used or tested nuclear weapons.

IALANA hopes that the several pathways created by the treaty for nuclear-armed states to verifiably and irreversibly dismantle their arsenals will serve as a framework for global nuclear disarmament. If the treaty is not itself used as such a framework, at least it points the way toward a convention – a comprehensive agreement on the permanent global elimination of nuclear arms.

Finally, the nuclear weapons ban treaty is the product of a participatory, conscience-driven and non-discriminatory movement of states taking responsibility for the future of humanity working together with civil society. It is a harbinger of the democratization of disarmament and of the United Nations, and of a paradigm shift toward human security, placing the individual at the centre rather than considerations guided only by states’ interests.

We accordingly call on all states to sign the treaty and then soon to ratify it in order to bring it into legal force at the earliest possible date. We urge states in nuclear alliances to modify their national policies appropriately so that they can sign the treaty and act consistently with its object and purpose as required of signatories by international law, and to ratify the treaty when they are in a position fully to comply with it. We call on nuclear-armed states to, now, adopt policies and to, now, effectively engage in disarmament negotiations, which are required by international law, so that they too are able to join the treaty or to engage in a parallel process for ending the spectre of use of nuclear arms and achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. In this regard, the treaty provides confirmatory evidence of the utmost importance of existing international law in requiring that nuclear weapons be banned from the face of the earth; it is a powerful call to the nuclear-armed states, and to the world, to effectively honor the obligations of nuclear disarmament.

Find the statement as pdf here:

IALANA Statement_20170919

Statement: JALANA welcomes the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

JALANA welcomes the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

On July 7th, the United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by a vote of 122 to 1 (Netherlands), with one abstention (Singapore). As many as 63 percent of the 193 UN member states voted for the Treaty. We heartily welcome the adoption of this Treaty that should be a landmark step toward a “world free of nuclear weapons.” Continue reading “Statement: JALANA welcomes the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”