U.S. Nuclear Declaratory Policy

The Question of Nuclear First Use

by David C. Gompert, Ken Watman, Dean A. Wilkening


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Current American declaratory policy regarding the use of nuclear weapons, formulated during the midst of the Cold War, is now obsolete. While the Soviet threat has receded, the threat posed by the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, frequently to states hostile to the United States, has become quite serious. Deterrence will be a central element in the U.S. strategy for coping with these threats. This raises the question about the circumstances under which the United States would be willing to threaten to use nuclear weapons. In view of these two major developments — the end of the Cold War and the spread of weapons of mass destruction — this report argues for a change in U.S. declaratory policy from one that reserves the right to use nuclear weapons first to one that promises not to use any weapon of mass destruction first.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    U.S. Declaratory Policy Alternatives

  • Chapter Three

    Proposed U.S. Declaratory Policy

This research in the public interest was supported by RAND, using discretionary funds made possible by the generosity of RAND's donors and the fees earned on client-funded research.

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