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Nuclear Weapons: Support Demands for No First Use and Complete Prohibition

Written by: Nick G. on 24 June 2023


The Russian imperialists have confirmed the movement of tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus.

Tactical nuclear weapons can range in size from the equivalent of one kiloton (one thousand tonnes) of explosive TNT to 200 kilotons, the latter dwarfing the 15 kiloton bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Russian President Putin has declared that the nuclear weapons would only be used if Russia's territory or state was threatened. 

Putin cannot be trusted. He strenuously denied that the Russian troops massed along the Russia-Ukraine and Belarus-Ukraine borders were not there for the purpose of invading Ukraine, a denial repeated right up until the day of the invasion.

The invasion was then justified on three grounds: it was needed to de-Nazify Ukraine, to protect ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians in eastern Ukraine, and because NATO expansion posed a threat to Russia’s territory and state.

Putin has threatened to use tactical nuclear weapons before, earning a rebuke from his Chinese friends who, in their February 23 Twelve-Point Peace Plan for Ukraine, stated: “Nuclear weapons must not be used and nuclear wars must not be fought. The threat or use of nuclear weapons should be opposed. Nuclear proliferation must be prevented and nuclear crisis avoided”.

Russia and the United States each have up to 2000 tactical nuclear weapons. Russia justifies basing some of its weapons in Belarus because the US imperialists have at least 150 spread across Europe with 50 in Turkiye and others in Italy, Belgium, Germany and Holland. 

Just over a week ago, on June 12, the Stockholm International Peace Institute released its 2023 Year Book, with the following table of major, non-tactical nuclear weapons distribution in the world:

Russia and the US are the standout leaders of the nuclear weapons club. They each have over 5000 nuclear warheads, with a sizeable proportion of those already attached to missiles and in readiness for immediate attack.

All nine nuclear weapons states have consistently voted against an annual UN General Assembly resolution since 2018 that welcomes the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and calls upon all states to sign, ratify, or accede to it “at the earliest possible date”.

The Treaty prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory. It also prohibits them from assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone to engage in any of these activities.

For the first five years of the Treaty, Australia – which is to the US imperialists what Belarus is to the Russian imperialists – voted against the Treaty in the UN General Assembly. Last year, it timidly took a step outside the US shadow and abstained on the vote.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese pledged in 2018 to sign the TPNW, and must be held to his word. We support the campaign led by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) to demand Australia sign the TPNW as a step towards the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons.

We also support the demand for all nuclear weapons states to pledge not to be the first to use nuclear weapons.  The No First Use (NFU) demand is aimed at the immediate relaxation of international tensions prior to the agreement by nuclear weapons states to destroy their stockpiles. It commits a nuclear-armed state to never use nuclear weapons first under any circumstances, whether as a pre-emptive attack or first strike, or in response to non-nuclear attack of any kind.

To date, China is the only country to have made an unconditional No First Use pledge. It made it when it was still a socialist country under Mao Zedong’s leadership in 1964, following its first nuclear test explosion. The Soviet Union also had such a policy, but abandoned it in 1994 in the wake of the Soviet Union’s demise. India maintains a policy of NFU with exceptions for a response to chemical or biological attacks.

Neither China, India, Pakistan, North Korea nor Israel have nuclear weapons currently attached to missiles. 

It is important that pressure be placed on the Albanese-Wong-Marles group within the Labor government leadership to demand that US imperialism make an NFU commitment. A US refusal to join China, its main adversary, in a NFU policy exposes it as a country prepared to use nuclear weapons aggression.

Refusal by the US to commit to NFU strengthens our case for withdrawal from the AUKUS arrangements which could involve Australia being complicit in any such US nuclear aggression.

The demand is more likely to be achieved than an agreement to destroy and prohibit all nuclear weapons in the near future. Both Obama and Biden have given support to NFU, although they have not enacted it as a policy.

The demand should also be made on all nuclear-armed states, especially Russia. 

At the present time, the main danger of the use of nuclear weapons, tactical or otherwise, comes from the pushing and shoving between the US-NATO on one hand, and the Russian imperialists on the other.

While revolutionaries must never be afraid of nuclear weapons, their capacity for massive destruction is very real. That includes Australian territory where US bases would be attacked in the event of a US war with China. The most important of those bases, including Pine Gap, North West Cape, the marine rotational base outside Darwin, and the Tindal Air Bae outside Katherine, are on unceded First Peoples’ lands, endangering their communities and nearby non-Indigenous Australians in the event of an attack.

Whatever contributes to the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons must be supported.


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