February 15, 2022

Biden Can Find Middle Ground in Heated Nuclear Debate

By Dr. Duyeon Kim

U.S. President Joe Biden is faced with competing pressures as his administration prepares to announce the results of the latest Nuclear Posture Review. The administration; the niche, but important, arms control community in Washington; and foreign allies have been hotly debating whether Washington should adopt a policy pledging that the United States will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in a crisis (a preemptive attack or first strike), referred to as a “no first use” policy, and that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter a nuclear attack against America and its allies, referred to as a “sole purpose” policy. Both sides fiercely argue their viewpoint—but a middle way is possible.

Declaring a no-first-use policy would inevitably be accompanied by making changes to U.S. force posture and structure, including increasing the time and steps it takes to launch a nuclear weapon.

In January 2017, then-Vice President Biden articulated his long-held belief that the United States does not need to use nuclear weapons first. It mirrored then-President Barack Obama’s convictions about reducing the role of nuclear weapons and America’s “moral responsibility … to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” It also reflected a reduction in Washington’s perceived need to retain the first-use option against non-nuclear attacks since the end of the Cold War. During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden pledged to push for a no-first-use policy, with his website stating, “As president, he will work to put that belief into practice, in consultation with our allies and military.”

Biden is being pressed to make good on his campaign commitment by Democratic leaders such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Adam Smith, who reintroduced the No First Use Bill in April 2021 and signed on to a letter delivered to the president on Jan. 26, and he is also facing pressure from some experts in the nongovernmental arms control community.

Read the full article from Foreign Policy.

  • Commentary
    • May 25, 2022
    Sharper: The Indo-Pacific Pivot

    Previous presidential administrations have laid much groundwork diplomatically and militarily to ensure a strategic pivot to the Indo-Pacific. The past week has seen the ASEAN...

    By Anna Pederson

  • Commentary
    • May 11, 2022
    Sharper: The Authoritarianism Challenge

    Autocratic leadership is on the rise globally. Even in democratic nations, leaders are eroding checks on their power and weakening institutions. The use of illiberal technolog...

    By Anna Pederson

  • Commentary
    • April 27, 2022
    Sharper: Taiwan

    Taiwan plays a pivotal role in East Asian and global affairs. It has long been a central point of contention in the strategic competition between the United States and China. ...

    By Anna Pederson & Jacob Stokes

  • Video
    • April 27, 2022
    If India won't readjust ties with Russia, questions will be asked about Indo-US ties

    ThePrint's Senior Consulting Editor Jyoti Malhotra speaks to Lisa Curtis about the impact of India's relationship with Russia on ties with Russia. Watch the full interview fr...

    By Lisa Curtis

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia