The German initiators of the International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation (INESAP) demand a No-First-Use pledge for nuclear weapons as an essential step towards a nuclear-weapon-free world. We support the initiative by the German Foreign Minister for a No-First Use in NATO and demand further steps leading to complete nuclear disarmament. The decision of Germany and 11 further NATO member states, not to vote against resolution A/C.1/53/L.48 “Towards a Nuclear Weapon Free World: The Need for a New Agenda” in the UN First Committee on 13. November 1998 is a courageous step and a signal that even within NATO there is opposition against the indefinite reliance on nuclear weapons.

NATO’s nuclear first-use doctrine, stemming from the darkest ages of the Cold War, is completely anachronistic. It is based on the premise of a massive conventional attack of the Warsaw Pact in Central Europe. None of the underlying assumptions, which were already questionable in earlier times, have any justifiable basis, neither in Europe nor elsewhere. Striking first is not defensive, neither against supposed aggressor states nor against terrorists. The threat of striking first is also in complete contradiction to the 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice which declared the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons to be generally illegal. First use would be illegal in any case. The insistence of the US government on the first-use doctrine is an indicator that the last remaining superpower wants to keep the right to use nuclear weapons any time against any point on this planet. No other country should find this acceptable. As long as this threat persists, more developing countries could follow India and Pakistan to seek reliance on nuclear weapons, undermining the whole non-proliferation regime. A No-First-Use would be the bare minimal step, signalling the willingness of the nuclear weapon states to diminish the nuclear threat.

No-First-Use could be a first but should not be the last step. Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty as well as the International Court of Justice demand complete nuclear disarmament. No nuclear weapons state can change this fact. What is required is an on-going international negotiation process on the step-wise transformation of the insufficient non-proliferation regime into a new regime of a nuclear-weapon-free world. How this could be done was examined in an expert study of INESAP “Beyond the NPT – A Nuclear-Weapon-Free World” that was presented in April 1995 in New York, as well as in a number of studies by other organizations and individuals that followed. This study sketches a path towards a nuclear-weapon-free world, combined with a process of negotiating a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC) as a legal framework to ban and eliminate all nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the call for the NWC has been expressed by more than 1000 international non-governmental organizations and citizen groups (Abolition 2000) as well as by more than two thirds of all States in UN resolutions of the years 1996, 1997 and 1998. A model NWC that was drafted by an international Committee of lawyers, scientists and disarmament experts is now an official UN document (UN doc. A/C.1/52/7).

Even though the path towards a nuclear-weapon-free world cannot be planned in all details in advance, the required steps can only be negotiated and realized if the goal is clear. The necessary political initiatives have to be taken now. As a non-nuclear-weapon state and NATO member, Germany has a considerable political weight and a special responsibility.

Therefore, we urge the new German government to insist on its independent path and to take an active role to initiate negotiations on the elimination of all nuclear weapons, aiming at the Nuclear Weapons Convention as a binding framework of international law. It would be consequent and in accordance with the government coalition agreement if the German delegation at the UN would not only abstain on disarmament resolutions in the UN General Assembly but would vote “Yes”. What is most pressing is that Germany makes an end to the first-use doctrine and pushes for the removal of all nuclear weapons from its own territory, a dangerous remainder of past ages.