By John LaForge
Winter Quarterly 2018-19
President Vladimir Putin said Oct. 18, 2018 that Russia would only use nuclear weapons in response to an incoming missile attack, the equivalent of a “no first use” pledge, the AP reported. Putin reportedly said Moscow would resort to launching nuclear weapons only in retaliation “if early warning systems spotted missiles heading toward Russia.”
“Only when we become convinced that there is an incoming attack on the territory of Russia, and that happens within seconds, only after that, we would launch a retaliatory strike,” Putin said during an international policy forum in Sochi, the Black Sea resort.
Neither the United States nor its NATO allies have ever made a “no-first-use” pledge, a promise not to use nuclear weapons in war or to launch a pre-emptive “first strike” with them.“NATO has always opposed a US ‘no-first-use” declaration and has never ruled out US first-use under its ‘flexible response’ posture since 1967,” wrote Ankit Panda in the July 2018 issue of Council on Foreign Relations online.
In 1964, China made the unequivocal pledge “not to be the first to use nuclear weapons at any time or under any circumstances,” and has reiterated the promise many times. China has also called on nuclear weapon states to establish an international no-first-use treaty.
India made a no-first-use promise in 2003, and North Korea declared the same on May 7, 2016.
—Associated Press; KIRO-7 News, Seattle, Wash.; “Putin: Russia would only use its nuclear arms in retaliation,” Oct. 18, 2018; The Independent, “North Korea will not use its nuclear weapons first, Kim Jong-un tells Congress,” May 8, 2016.