New Legislation Would Prevent the United States from Initiating Nuclear War

Statement by Stephen Young, Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Apr 15, 2021

WASHINGTON (April 15, 2021)—Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today reintroduced their No First Use Act that would prohibit any U.S. president from launching nuclear weapons in a first strike.

Adopting a "no first use" (NFU) policy that commits the United States to never being the first nation to use nuclear weapons will strengthen U.S. security by reducing the risk of nuclear war, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). As highlighted in a new UCS video, President Biden has said he supports an NFU policy and his administration should consider it a priority when conducting its nuclear policy and defense reviews.

Below is a statement by Stephen Young, senior Washington representative and acting co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“As President Biden said in 2017: ‘It is hard to imagine a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary or make sense.’ Indeed, initiating a nuclear strike would be an enormous strategic and humanitarian disaster, most likely leading to a counterattack against the United States.

“The resulting mass death and destruction is why a U.S. president should never choose or be allowed to start a nuclear war.

“The legislation introduced today by Sen. Warren and Rep. Smith is strikingly short and simple. In 14 words, it commits the United States to never launching nuclear weapons first. These lawmakers deserve huge thanks for continuing to push for this sensible policy change.

“A no first use policy will reduce the likelihood of nuclear war in two ways. First, no president will be able to start a nuclear war based on faulty information, like the false warnings of incoming nuclear attacks that have happened too many times in the past. Also, adversaries will be less pressured to use their nuclear weapons first during a crisis if they are confident that the United States won't attack them first and wipe out their nuclear arsenals.

“I encourage every member of Congress to cosponsor this important legislation and call on the Biden administration to adopt a no first use policy as quickly as possible.”