Manual The Tradition of Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons (Stanford Security Studies)

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The states within the region are tied together by several overlapping platforms of foreign and security policy cooperation and partnership structures. Russia has significant geoeconomic and strategic ambitions in the High North. Although we have only started to witness the first commercial cargo and tanker ships moving between Europe and Asia via the Northern Sea Route without an icebreaker escort, the military buildup in the region is already well underway.

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Russia is estimated to have almost 2, non-strategic nuclear warheads that can be deployed by planes, ships and ground forces — delivery options that Russia is continuously modernizing and improving. The focus on these capabilities conceals the fact that the navy actually has the biggest non-strategic nuclear weapon inventory in the Russian military. Indeed, unlike the US, France and the UK, Russia has several development projects that aim to introduce new sea-based non-strategic capabilities into its arsenal in the near future. These development programmes, such as the new high-precision Kalibr-M land-attack cruise missile, point towards increasing concern over the stability of sea-based deterrence.

This would mean increasing tensions and a further buildup of conventional forces near the borders of the Baltic states, Finland, and Norway.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS AS THE CURRENCY OF POWER: Deconstructing the Fetishism of Force - Semantic Scholar

This, in turn, will also probably lead to an increase in permanent protective ground forces within the region. The increasing significance of non-strategic nuclear weapons is also visible in the development of nuclear doctrinal thinking. One of the most worrisome recent developments in this regard has been the revival of strategic conceptions emphasizing theatre-level escalation control capabilities. Moreover, the increasing accuracy of nuclear delivery systems and rapid developments in remote sensing systems are making nuclear forces more vulnerable to decapitating first strikes, especially in the case of regional nuclear powers with moderate-sized nuclear forces.

These are concerns and dynamics that the Nordic and Baltic countries should also take into consideration. The second interpretation is the most alarmist or offensive. It assumes that Russia is ready to conduct a limited surprise nuclear attack at an early stage of a larger military campaign against the West in order to demoralize and paralyze the opponent.

The Tradition of Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons

Here Russia is merely understood as reinforcing its nuclear options so that it can deter large-scale Western aggression that could jeopardize the existence of the current political regime. That said, this does not alter the fact that Russia is already in the second half of a decades-long process of modernizing its strategic and non-strategic nuclear forces.

When it comes to the allies and key partners of the Nordic countries, one of the main concerns is the visibly unambitious approach to arms control shown by the Donald Trump administration. Moreover, in addition to acting as arms control advocates, the Nordic countries should not shy away from discussing the possible effects of the recent changes in US nuclear doctrine and posture.

The decision to develop a new low-yield nuclear warhead has initiated a lively debate on the future of the US nuclear strategy and posture. Critics of the decision have challenged the W project as potentially destabilizing and redundant. They have pointed out that the US already possesses tactical nuclear capabilities and highly sophisticated conventional forces for the task. The idea here is that the adversary — namely Russia — would not be able to distinguish what kind of warhead the launched SLBM would carry.

Although a very unlikely scenario as such, the launch of a W trident missile would increase the risk of unintended escalation and miscalculated launch-on-warning responses. Moreover, in addition to US extended deterrence commitments within NATO, the alliance has also recently stated that its nuclear deterrence posture relies on US forward-deployed nuclear weapons in Europe.

That said, the combination of new weapon systems and the perceived need to lower the threshold of nuclear first use in order to enhance deterrence makes even moderate changes in the strategic balance more worrying. Although the tradition of nuclear non-use will most likely not falter overnight, 26 together with the intensifying great power rivalry the aforementioned trends might further erode the psychological and military separation of nuclear and conventional weapons.

Moreover, the rhetoric on the use of nuclear weapons has toughened.

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Although recent empirical studies indicate that nuclear weapons are relatively inefficient tools for coercive diplomacy, 27 coercive language and loose talk on the use of nuclear weapons is also on the rise. All of these trends can also have indirect negative consequences in Northern Europe. Although some of the potential regional repercussions stemming from the present arms control crisis and the concomitant reinforcement of nuclear deterrence might be unintentional in nature, the consequences remain real.

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It is well known that the security-political orientations of the Nordic countries are not symmetrical and that they are tightly networked with their allies and partners in the West. In relation to nuclear weapons and arms control, however, the states share some key common denominators. The tradition of peacetime nuclear restraint exercised by NATO members Norway and Denmark aligns with the historical interest in nuclear nonproliferation and arms control diplomacy exercised by Finland and Sweden. As already implied above, the Nordic countries have a shared interest in including all categories of non-strategic nuclear weapons on the arms control agenda.

The idea of limiting the presence of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe is by no means new. To give just one example, in Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski suggested that Russia and the US should commit to substantial reductions and geographical deployment limitations on their tactical nuclear weapon systems in and around Europe.

Soini suggested that a clearer division between nuclear and conventional weapons should be pursued both at the level of military doctrines and exercises through increasing confidence-building measures between the nuclear weapon states.


When it comes to the INF debacle, one possible way forward for the Nordic countries and European states more generally could be to further elaborate the proposals to limit the geographical scope of the INF treaty to Europe only. Vasquez, Thomas B. Paul offers a useful contribution to the debate over why nuclear weapons have remained unused since Paul's work is an accessible, sensible, and useful contribution o what has become an ongoing dialogue on the factors behind nuclear non-use.

Future students of the topic would be well-advised to take Paul's work seriously. Paul's book joins the same political science debate, focusing instead on the 'tradition' of non-use of nuclear weapons, which sometimes is described by other analysts as a taboo or a norm. Paul presents a valuable survey of the history of why such weapons have not been used since Nagasaki, arguing that the constructivist political scientists may be exaggerating the role simply of ideas, with the practical considerations of national interest playing a major part in keeping these weapons from being used.

One could indeed find a logical parallel in terms of national interests between the continuing mutual-deterrence pattern of 'no first use,' in which one side's weapons are held in check as long as the other side does similarly, and a pattern of no first proliferation, where inherent capabilities to produce nuclear weapons are not employed, as long as the other side does not acquire such weapons.

The author presents an interesting analysis of conflicts where one side had nuclear weapons and the other did not, for example, in the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina. Political scientists may welcome Paul's book as example of how one can apply alternative theories to concrete policy issues, but someone else will find this book all the more valuable, for the meticulous and nuanced coverage of the nuclear issue, presented in clearly written form.

It is well written and accessible, and appropriate for course use for advanced undergraduates and graduate students. Scholars studying deterrence, the military role of nuclear weapons, and proliferation would all find the author's analysis of use. Finally, policymakers concerned with defense policy and nuclear proliferation would be well advised to take heed of the interaction between the tradition of non-use, nuclear deterrence, and proliferation incentives.

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  5. He highlights the continuing and perhaps increasing dangers of nuclear use and the importance of maintaining the tradition of non-use. This is a debate that has been neglected and Paul puts it firmly back on the agenda both for students of strategic studies and practitioners involved in maintaining internationals security in a dangerous world. Here is the first thorough history of the evolution of that powerful, completely unpredicted, tradition, with analysis of how to maintain and strengthen it.

    This books deserves to be taken seriously by both policy makers and academics as it is one of the most original and significant contributions to our understanding of nuclear weapons to have come out in recent times. He highlights the continuing, and perhaps increasing, dangers of nuclear use and the importance of maintaining the tradition of non-use. The central argument that a tradition of non-use has restrained the use of nuclear weapons is well-developed and largely convincing. Although the extent of this influence is, of course, debatable, Paul succeeds in exploring the historical influence and broader implications of the tradition.

    This book therefore makes an important contribution to the growing body of literature considering the non-use of nuclear weapons. On these dimensions, T. Paul has written a very good book indeed. Iran has a powerful military—with , known personnel—and both the size and terrain of Iran heavily favor them in a defensive conflict. The purpose of this article is not to advocate for a first-use nuclear weapons policy for the United States. However, nuclear weapons retain offensive utility within certain parameters.

    North Korea and Iran have developed into uncompromising adversaries against whom a conventional campaign would prove long and bloody. Unlike Russia and China, neither country yet possesses the ability to threaten the United States with a comparable nuclear stockpile or to deter the US with substantial missile defense systems. There are certainly risks to using nuclear weapons, and the international security environment after their use would fundamentally change—maybe unrecognizably so. But key conditions of nuclear weapon use in are present today, and to not consider the use of nuclear weapons in the North Korean and Iranian cases does a disservice to the American people.

    Congressional Research Service, 6 Nov. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Skip to content Search for: search Search.