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Home Articles Flashpoints Memo on No First Use to Integrated Strategic Security Dialogue

Memo on No First Use to Integrated Strategic Security Dialogue

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Russia-USA Strategic Stability Dialogue




July 19, 2021

Mr Joseph Biden
President of the United States of America


Mr Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation


Delegates to Strategic Stability Dialogue



Dear President Biden and President Putin,

Dear Delegates to the Strategic Stability Dialogue


We commend you for adopting  the U.S.-Russia Presidential Joint Statement on Strategic Stability, in which you affirmed that 'a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought', and by which you established an integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue  to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures


We welcome the commencement of the Integrated Bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue, the first meeting of which we understand may take place this week.  


We recall and draw your attention to the Open Letter sent to you prior to  the June 16 Summit endorsed by over 1200 highly distinguished persons including legislators, religious leaders, civil society leaders and former government leaders (prime ministers, ministers of foreign affairs and defence, diplomats and senior military personnel). The Open Letter expresses the same understanding as in your Joint Statement, that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought, and it calls for the implementation of this understanding through the adoption and implementation of nuclear-risk-reduction measures, the most important of these being the adoption of No-First-Use policies. 


In strict logic, if no one 'fires first' with a nuclear weapon, as No-First-Use implies, then the war that 'cannot be won and must never be fought' cannot take place.  Whatever caveats might be added to that (accidental launch, miscalculation, malware, etc), it is clear that a commitment to No-First-Use, does at least make escalation to nuclear war much much less likely. 


To date, India and China have adopted unilateral No-First-Use policies. Russia and China have adopted a mutual No-First-Use agreement. It is notable that when Indian and Chinese troops fought over parts of Tibet/Ladakh, escalation to nuclear war was not threatened or implied by either side. In contrast, when Russian and US/NATO forces face each other across Baltic  or Ukrainian or Black Sea borders, escalation to a nuclear crisis or even nuclear war is not ruled out and remains a frightening possibility.  


Regardless of whether or not the various conflicts between USA and Russia can be suitably managed or resolved in the short to medium term, the risks of nuclear confrontation need to be reduced, strategic stability restored and progress on arms control and disarmament achieved. This is the fundamental purpose of your Strategic Dialogue, which is of benefit not only to the Russian Federation and the USA, but to the entire world. 



No-First-Use, and the closely related 'sole purpose' policy option, (that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons use is to prevent other nuclear weapons use), are not of course, the only measures that can be taken to lower the risk of nuclear war, whether started by conflict escalation or accident. A range of measures can be taken that include de-alerting, data-sharing, and avoidance of provocative exercises near each other’s borders with nuclear-capable forces.  All of these measures will be facilitated by a posture of No-First-Use.


full menu of nuclear risk reduction measures may be found on the website of the Abolition 2000 nuclear risk reduction working group:


Of particular relevance is a Letter to President Biden from Dec 2020, canvassing risk reduction measures including No-First-Use (and urging strategic dialogue), that could be profitably discussed in a strategic stability dialogue. 


However, out of all these worthy measures, No-First-Use is, hopefully, something that the Russian Federation and the United States of America can find or create the political space and the will upon which to agree.


The world has been a little too close to the brink recently. Anything that a Strategic Stability Dialogue can do to take us back from that brink is most welcome and we therefore wish the very best for this very important process.




(Affiliations for identification purposes only)


John Hallam

People for Nuclear Disarmament

Human Survival Project

Co-Convenor, Abolition 2000 Nuclear Risk Reduction Working Group  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Alyn Ware,

World Future Council,

Lond, Basel, Prague,


Aaron Tovish,

Zona Libre,

Mexico City, 



Prof. Frank Hutchinson,

Human Survival Project,


NSW Australia