Such a statement could also be construed to mean the United States should not retaliate with nuclear weapons even if we are attacked with nuclear weapons, as Global Zero’s Bruce Blair advocated in his HASC testimony in 2019. Something much more helpful might be a statement that any use of nuclear weapons for the purpose of intimidation or coercion or blackmail in the service of armed aggression must never be policy.
That would go to the core of the “escalate to win” nuclear strategy of Putin and Xi Jinping. And reinforce that nuclear weapons as a deterrent against aggression are very much legitimate tools of statecraft. Would the Russians and Chinese abide by such a statement? There would be no way of knowing but at least discussions in this area might yield interesting points about the strategy of both nations.
However, in the final analysis, while arms control can be useful if fully verified, the forces of deterrence are far more critical. “The only way to prevent nations from continuing to break treaties is to abrogate existing ones and to stop making new ones,” wrote Lawrence Beilenson in 1969 in “The Treaty Trap.” He explained: “Suppose two nations have nuclear arsenals sufficient to destroy each other and also a treaty to keep the peace. Remove the treaty, and the mutual arsenals are still a deterrent. Remove the arsenal of one of the nations and not the other, but leave the treaty, and the deterrent is gone. Temporarily remove both arsenals pursuant to a disarmament treaty, retain the treaty to keep the peace, and then suppose one nation recreates the arsenal and the other does not. The deterrent is gone. It follows that the nuclear-armed might of both parties is the deterrent and not the treaty for peace.”
Peter Huessy is President of Geo-Strategic Analysis, a national security consulting company he founded in 1981. He has been for nearly a decade a lecturer on nuclear deterrent policy at the US Naval Academy and was a senior defense consultant for the National Defense University Foundation for twenty-two years. He is also a regular guest on the John Batchelor radio show discussing nuclear matters. And has a nuclear blog on the Maven Warrior website that is updated every week. On July 7 and September 23 Huessy will host his twentieth and twenty-first-day-long nuclear Triad symposiums in Crane, Indiana and Washington, D.C., respectively.