The British public wants NATO to renounce the first use of nuclear weapons

Posted: 18th November 2021

By Peter Jenkins | November 18, 2021

Nuclear submarine HMS Vanguard arrives back at HM Naval Base Clyde Faslane Scotland following a patrol Photo CPOAPhot Tam McDonaldMOD accessed via Wikimedia Commons Open Government License version 10U

K nuclear submarine HMS Vanguard arrives back at HM Naval Base Clyde, Faslane, Scotland following a patrol. Photo: CPOA Tam McDonald/MOD accessed via Wikimedia Commons. Open Government License version 1.0. 

Mindful that a review of NATO’s “strategic concept” is under way, the British branch of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs recently commissioned a survey of British public opinion in relation to NATO’s nuclear policy. (Pugwash Conferences is a non-governmental organization that was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1995.)

There were 2093 respondents to the survey, representing a broad range of social and economic backgrounds and the four constituent realms of the United Kingdom.

Asked whether they would wish NATO to engage in nuclear retaliation, if Russia were to use nuclear weapons against one or more NATO members, 51 percent of respondents answered “yes.” This suggests a group half-open to the use of nuclear weapons in certain circumstances.

The picture changed when the questions focused on the “first use” of nuclear weapons. Asked to consider the possibility of Russia invading one or more of the Baltic states without using nuclear weapons, 70 percent wished NATO to refrain from using nuclear weapons in any ensuing military operations, and 65 percent wished NATO to rely exclusively on non-nuclear weapons in such operations.

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