"U.S. Drops Pledge On Nukes"
Washington Times - February 22, 2002 - By Nicholas Kralev
The Bush administration is no longer standing by a 24-year-old U.S. pledge not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, a senior administration official said yesterday.
Washington is "not looking for occasions to use" its nuclear arsenal, John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said in an interview. But "we would do whatever is necessary to defend America's innocent civilian population," he said.
In case of an attack on the United States, "we would have to do what is appropriate under the circumstances, and the classic formulation of that is, we are not ruling anything in and we are not ruling anything out," Mr. Bolton said.
"We are just not into theoretical assertions that other administrations have made," he said in reference to a 1978 commitment by the Carter administration not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states unless they attack the United States in alliance with nuclear-armed countries.
On June 12 that year, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance made the following statement on behalf of President Carter, which became known as "negative security assurances":
"The United States will not use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear-weapon state party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty or any comparable internationally binding commitment not to acquire nuclear explosive devices, except in the case of an attack on the United States, its territories or armed forces, or its allies, by such a state allied to a nuclea-rweapon state, or associated with a nuclear-weapon state in carrying out or sustaining the attack."
In 1995, Warren Christopher, the first secretary of state in the Clinton administration, reaffirmed Washington's commitment. Along with the pledges of the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, who are all nuclear powers, it became part of a resolution, which the council adopted April 11, 1995.
But Mr. Bolton said such promises reflect "an unrealistic view of the international situation."
"The idea that fine theories of deterrence work against everybody, which is implicit in the negative security assurances, has just been disproven by September 11," he said. "What we are attempting to do is create a situation where nobody uses weapons of mass destruction of any kind."
Mr. Bolton spoke a day after returning from Moscow, where he led the second round of arms control negotiations that are expected to produce an agreement on nuclear cuts in time for President Bush's visit to Russia in May.
The undersecretary said the "negative security assurances" never "came up" in the discussions with the Russians. Washington has never had a no-first-use nuclear policy but Moscow did until the mid1990s.
Mr. Bolton's remarks displeased some arms control analysts yesterday, who said that such significant U.S. government statements as the "negative security assurances" should not be repudiated.
"These assurances are important in order to maintain the integrity and credibility of the nonproliferation regime. Repudiation can have a negative effect on international security," said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.
The nonprofit organization's publication, Arms Control Today, discussed the issue in an interview with Mr. Bolton earlier this month.
Although Washington's official position on using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states has remained unchanged until now, "both Democratic and Republican administrations have maintained ambiguity to maximize the credibility of the U.S. nuclear force," Mr. Kimball said.
Only a year after the Clinton administration reaffirmed Mr. Carter's pledge, Defense Secretary William Perry said on April 26, 1996:
"If some nation were to attack the United States with chemical weapons, they have to fear the consequences of a response from any weapon in our inventory. ... We could have a devastating response without use of nuclear weapons, but we would not forswear that possibility."
John Holum, Mr. Bolton's predecessor at the State Department under Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, said yesterday that the Bush administration's position to ignore the 1978 commitment would not affect the strategic balance of power but might send a wrong message overseas.
"It doesn't make the use of weapons of mass destruction more or less likely, but it's reflective of the administration's negative view of international treaties," Mr. Holum said.
He noted that there was an "extensive debate" in the Clinton administration on whether it's "responsible" to rely on nuclear weapons to combat potential biological and chemical attacks, but a decision was made to maintain "ambiguity."
Mr. Bolton said there has been "no formal review" of Mr. Vance's statement by the Bush administration, "nor are we going to undertake a review of every official statement made by secretaries of states in the past five administrations."
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